A FEW weeks ago I was asked who my tip was for the Open. At the time I thought Graeme McDowell, and the only reason to doubt that prediction now is that he won in France two weeks ago, so you wonder whether he could have peaked too early.
I really fancy a player with McDowell’s game, however: a good battler and skilful wind player. The Northern Irishman is brilliant at using a low ball flight to combat difficult conditions, and also has a sharp brain for strategic golf. Those are the ingredients needed for tackling a well-bunkered links course like Hoylake.
Luke Donald is another with similar attributes, as is fellow Englishman Justin Rose – although the 2013 US Open winner is exemplary in just about every respect.
Regular readers will know that I am a long-term admirer of Rose, and he is currently living up to my lofty expectations. He arrives at the Open following back-to-back wins at the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open, and there is simply nobody in better form than him in the whole golfing world.
Of the other Europeans, Rory McIlroy looks to be suffering a case of Freaky Friday. Incredibly, the Ulsterman is a combined 51 under par for his first rounds this year, yet nine over for his second rounds. He’ll need to instantly eradicate that habit if he’s to challenge here.
Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood all went well last year at Muirfield, but this is a very different course.
Looking across the Atlantic, former Masters champion Zach Johnson looks to be the American with the best game for Hoylake. A very straight driver with a great short game, he loves to play little half-shots. He’s got the lot in his repertoire. Jim Furyk – fourth in 2006, the last time Royal Liverpool staged the Open – and Matt Kuchar also look well equipped.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, looks great value to me at around 20-1. I know the former world No1 has barely played since his back surgery four months ago, but he is still Tiger Woods and the defending champion on this course. I would not discount him at any time and those odds look huge to me. However he fares this week, his participation is another ingredient in what should be a terrific tournament.
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
MY FAVOURITE HOLE AT HOYLAKE
DAVID CANNON, R&A PHOTOGRAPHER
The par three 13th hole, ‘Alps'. It’s probably my favourite hole almost anywhere. Nestling by the seaside, it’s a fantastic challenge to play and a magnificent hole to photograph. From any angle it makes a magical picture when the light is right.
THOUGHTS ON THE COURSE
It’s very well bunkered. Players must pick clever driving lines and length, be positional and patient. If you land in a bunker you’ll mostly drop a shot. It’s also pure links, exposed, so weather will be a factor – perhaps the most interesting factor.