Golfers with Games Ideally Suited to Royal Liverpool

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

Golfers with Games Ideally Suited to Royal Liverpool

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    In its 12th stint hosting the Open Championship, Royal Liverpool will set up a tad longer than the last two open venues of Muirfield and Royal Lytham.

    Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) is a 7,350-yard par 72. Last year, Muirfield played at 7,034 yards and is a par-71 layout. In 2012, Royal Lytham played 7,086 and is a par 70.

    The course has four par fives, in contrast to most of the other tracks in the Open rota. Thus, those who play par fives well will be at an advantage.

    Also, those golfers who manage windy conditions well will be favored at the seaside course. As will those who manage poor/changing weather conditions, since both are generally fixtures of the event. Expert scramblers and those equipped to play the variety of shots the Open Championship demands will also be at an advantage next week.

    Lastly, assuming players take note of Tiger Woods' 2006 winning strategy (in which he only used a driver once), expert long iron players will be well-suited to take on Hoylake, as will those who are accurate off the tee. 

    Golfers in the top 10 in 2006 other than Woods who have played well at points this year: Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott.  

    Let's see which golfers' games are ideally suited for Hoylake. 

     

     

    *consensus odds based on data from Oddschecker. All stats via PGATour.com

Tiger Woods

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: 1

    Last Three Open Championships: T6, T3, T23

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 209

    Odds: 14-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool:

    Well, he won the Open last time it was at Royal Liverpool, for one thing. And although Woods was rusty at Congressional in his return from a three-month layoff following back surgery, he had streaks of quality play with the driver. Everything else was a bit of a mess, as he used 61 putts over two days and seemed incapable of getting up and down. 

    Still, Woods will come to the coast of England rested and relaxed after a family vacation. He'll have had three weeks following his showing at Congressional to practice, and, of course, he knows how to win at Royal Liverpool.

    Assuming his back holds up and his swing is in better shape thanks to the off-weeks of intensive practice, Woods has to be expected to play well this week. 

Martin Kaymer

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    Tony Marshall/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: DNP

    Last Three Open Championships: T32, CUT, T12

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 6

    Odds: 16-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    Winner of the season's second major, Martin Kaymer is a favorite to win the third. He tied for 12th at last year's Open Championship and has a bounty of experience playing links-style golf courses. These are good things.

    Also good: Kaymer is hitting 65.8 percent of fairways and 65.8 percent of greens. 

    While he has had some difficulty with the putter this season (114th in strokes gained-putting), he birdies 42 percent of par fives as well.

     

Jordan Spieth

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: DNP

    Last Three Open Championships: T44

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 5

    Odds: 33-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    Jordan Spieth has only teed it up in one Open Championship as a professional, finishing tied for 44th at Muirfield last year. 

    Why do oddsmakers have the young Texan among the top favorites then? Certainly, the poise he showed at the Masters is a check in the "serious contender" column. Also, Spieth is 24th in strokes gained-putting and eighth in scrambling. He's also 23rd in par-five performance. 

    Most importantly, Spieth, in only his second season on tour, seems to have the mettle to deal with all that the Open Championship brings, from variable weather to the challenge of links-style golf. 

     

Rory McIlroy

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    Paul Thomas/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: DNP

    Last Three Open Championships: CUT, T60, T25

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 40

    Odds: 12-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    Rory McIlroy enters the Open Championship as the favorite at most sportsbooks.

    McIlroy finished tied for 25th at the R&A's annual shindig last year. Although he missed the cut at the Irish Open in his most recent start, the Ulsterman has played his share of golf on links courses. He hits enough greens (67.75 percent) to contend this week and is one of the best golfers with a long iron in hand on tour. 

    McIlroy leads the tour in birdie average, which will be important this week, as Tiger Woods' winning score in 2006 was 18 under. 

    He's also first on tour in putting from beyond 25 feet—a skill he'll need at Hoylake.  

    Thus, long driving, quality long iron shots and his proficiency at putts from distance make McIlroy ideally suited to win next week. 

Graeme McDowell

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    Tony Marshall/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: T61

    Last Three Open Championships: T58, T5, CUT

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 58

    Odds: 25-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool:

    Having just won the Open de France, GMac seems poised for a strong showing at another Open. 

    Although he missed the cut at last year's Open Championship, the native of North Ireland is an experienced links golfer. He's 15th on tour in driving accuracy this year and is hitting 66 percent of greens in regulation. 

    Further, McDowell has been the best putter on tour this season, picking up 1.005 strokes per round on the field thanks to his putting. He's 23rd in scrambling and third in approaches from 150 to 175 yards.

    McDowell enters the Open with his game in prime condition and in possession of the requisite tools to lift the claret jug.  

Sergio Garcia

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: T5

    Last Three Open Championships: T21, CUT, T9

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 21

    Odds: 25-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    The last time the Open was contested at Hoylake, Sergio Garcia tied for fifth. He tied for ninth at last year's Open Championship at Muirfield. In his most recent start, The Travelers Championship, Garcia finished tied for second. 

    Garcia is hitting 64.5 percent of fairways (48th) and 69.4 percent of greens (sixth). He's 10th in scrambling and 27th in strokes gained-putting. In addition, he's one of the best long iron players on tour. 

    On paper, Garcia is ideally suited to win at Hoylake. Between his ears, however, may be another story entirely...

Adam Scott

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: T8

    Last Three Open Championships: T3, 2, T25

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 14

    Odds: 16-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    Adam Scott was the only thing that kept Adam Scott from winning the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's. His back-nine bogey barrage handed the claret jug to Ernie Els, but the showing proved Scott has the ability to win an Open Championship. 

    Scott showed he can close out a major last year with his win at the Masters, so the Australian is clearly in possession of that unique substance (which, say, Garcia is lacking). 

    He's won on tour this season and has improved his putting much since tying for eighth at Hoylake in 2006. Add to this his accuracy off the tee and ability to find greens, and Scotty is one of the best bets at the season's third major. 

Angel Cabrera

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    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    2006 Open Championship: 7

    Last Three Open Championships: T11, CUT, CUT

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 54

    Odds: 66-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    When it comes to Angel Cabrera, looking at season stats or recent performances really won't help you. Indeed, in the event prior to both of his major wins, Cabrera missed the cut. 

    This year, El Pato will head to Royal Liverpool fresh off a convincing victory at the Greenbrier Classic. What will this mean for his performance? Well, if you couple his strong play and the fact that he finished seventh at Royal Liverpool in 2006, it seems Cabrera could contend next week. 

    Few players hit the ball farther than Cabrera, and he is adept with the flatstick (presently 53rd in strokes gained-putting). He's the fourth-best player from 175 to 200 yards and he's 18th in putts from longer than 25 feet, which he'll surely face a bounty of this week. 

    Sure, Cabrera is a wild card and has missed the cut at the last two Open Championships. However, he's hot and played well at the venue in 2006. 

Ernie Els

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    2006 Open Championship: 3

    Last Three Open Championships: T26, 1, CUT

    Current FedEx Cup Standing: 106

    Odds: 50-1

     

    Why He's Well-Suited for Royal Liverpool: 

    Forty-four-year-old Ernie Els isn't having the best season of his PGA Tour career in 2014: He's finished inside the top 10 just once.

    The South African hasn't distinguished himself in any statistical category and has struggled with short putts (188th in putts from three to five feet). However, his numbers aren't all that much different than they were in 2012.

    And as you might remember, he won the Open Championship that year thanks to a brilliant Sunday performance (and some help from Adam Scott). Els will be motivated at Hoylake knowing he won't have many more opportunities to win a major.

    Considering his third-place finish in 2006, he is capable of playing the course well. Don't count the Big Easy out next week.