ACCOLADES for British golf courses do not come much higher than a place on the Open Championship rota, so that speaks volumes for the quality of Hoylake, where the year’s third Major begins on Thursday.
Like Royal Aberdeen, which staged the latest instalment of the Scottish Open last week, it is a class act. It is steeped in history – it hosted the first men’s amateur championship in 1885 and has witnessed some famous wins for Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods since then – and is a very popular course with players. You’ll not hear any complaints about this one.
Royal Liverpool, to give it its official title, is a very strategic course with a great layout. The bunkering is penal, but good. You have to plan your way around it very carefully in order to keep out of trouble. You can’t overpower Hoylake; it’s more like a game of chess.
Last time it hosted the Open it was very dry and very fast, and Woods, who won the tournament for a second time, was at his magnificent best. The course was nearly 8,000 yards long and he used a driver only once in 72 holes, mostly hitting a five or six iron off the tee. With a bit of rain around this time it should be softer and play a little differently.
As with any links course, wind can be a huge factor, and the extent to which it helps or hinders your performance can be determined by what time you go out.
This is especially true for the first two rounds, where there is a huge gap between the time of the earliest and the latest tee-times. On the Saturday and Sunday the main challengers are out at the same time so they generally get the same conditions.
Weather can change dramatically between 7am and 4pm. It could be very windy on the first morning and drop down after lunch, then be still on the Friday morning but gusty again in the afternoon. In that scenario, players who started on the Thursday morning would get wind both days, while the other guys enjoyed breeze-free golf.
In that respect it remains unpredictable and to a certain extent players can be at the mercy of luck. I have my strong favourites to do well this week, however, and I’ll be sharing them in another column in Thursday’s newspaper.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer, a European vice-captain for this year’s competition, and a media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam
WHY IS THE OPEN SO SPECIAL?
It’s the championship that started it all, the oldest Major, the first. For a British golfer it’s the greatest of them all. I feel much pride in having won. I’m still the last Englishman to have won in England. I hope that changes this year.
WHO WILL WIN THE 2014 OPEN?
DAVID CANNON, R&A CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
The player who wins Hoylake will have avoided the fairway bunkers for almost all of the four rounds. This alone is no mean feat. This year, even without much golf, Tiger Woods who won in 2006, would probably be amongst my three picks. But leaving Tiger out of my selection I would go with Adam Scott. I think his game is peaking at the moment and if the wind doesn’t blow too hard his all-round ball striking and control will give him a great chance.