The third major of the season, the British Open, will start on Thursday, and for the first time since 2006, the only major not played in the United States will take place on the challenging course of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Tiger Woods won the Open in epic fashion back in 2006, while Phil Mickelson will be defending his title when the action starts on Thursday. With plenty of dangerous outsiders heating up just in time and the wind always playing tricks at Hoylake, this year's Open should be one for the ages.
The first round of the 2014 British Open will start on Thursday, July 17, with the remaining three rounds played out over consecutive days, ending on Sunday, July 20.
ESPN will have full coverage of the event for U.S. viewers, with mobile coverage available via the WatchESPN app. Thursday's and Friday's coverage will start at 4 a.m. ET, Saturday's at 7 a.m. ET and Sunday's at 6 a.m. ET.
For UK viewers, BBC Two will broadcast the action live on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and the third round on Saturday will be split between BBC One and BBC Two. Mobile coverage is available via the BBC iPlayer. Thursday's and Friday's coverage will start at 9 a.m. BST, Saturday's at 10 p.m. BST and Sunday's at 11 p.m. BST.
All eyes will be on Tiger Woods as he makes his return after missing the first two majors of the season due to a surgical procedure on his back. The last man to win an Open in Liverpool, Woods told ESPN's Bob Harig he is in better physical shape than anyone had expected:
I'm not favoring anything. The little baby steps worked. We were very diligent about what I was doing. Going into it we pushed it pretty hard to get my abs and glutes strong so when I did come back I was able to rebound fast. I can do whatever I want. I'm at that point now. We didn't think we'd get to that point until this tournament or the week after.
Woods won the tournament in 2006 by playing safe, technical golf and not taking unnecessary chances. The course has changed dramatically in the last eight years, however, and the players are expected to make far more use of their driver.
Fans aren't expecting much from Woods, who has only just returned to the game, but don't be surprised if he exceeds expectations at the Open, a tournament he has won three times. There is little pressure on his shoulders, and Woods will be able to play relaxed and without tension for the first time in years.
Via the BBC's Rob Hodgetts, he could even be playing for a Ryder Cup spot:
Woods shouldn't target the Ryder Cup, however. For now, he just needs to focus on regaining his strength and playing pain-free golf.
Adam Scott and Justin Rose are both in excellent form coming into the tournament, and on paper they're about as safe a bet to make the cut as there is. But no player might have a better chance at glory coming into the tournament than Henrik Stenson.
Finishing in the top five in his last three tournaments, the Swede was the runner-up to Mickelson in last year's Open. He'll pair with Woods and Angel Cabrera, so all eyes will be on him, but looking at his form and track record in Europe, he has every chance of doing even better than last year.
Looking at the course, however, one man stands as the favourite ahead of Thursday, and that's Rory McIlroy.
Forget about public breakups and other distractions—via the Daily Mirror's Neil McLeman and Mark Jefferies—the Northern Irishman has played some of his best golf in 2014, and he appears to be finding his groove at just the right time.
Consistency has been an issue for McIlroy, and against a star-studded cast of competitors, he can't afford to drop a round and still expect to contend for the win.
But with the wind giving the golfers with a big swing quite the advantage at Hoylake and McIlroy's incredible ability to turn bad shots into brilliant ones, 2014 presents the perfect opportunity for the 25-year-old to win his first British Open.
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