It’s golf major time once again, as the world’s best players are set to take to Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the 143rd Open Championship.
Hoylake will play host to the return of Tiger Woods to major action after the former world No. 1 faced a lengthy spell away from golf to recover from back surgery.
Woods comes into the Open in an unfamiliar position—not being a red-hot favourite. However, that may play into his hands as he chases major No. 15.
Is the Eye of the Tiger Tuned in?
After such a long spell away from the game, you have to wonder just what kind of condition Woods will be in come the first tee on Thursday.
Major tournaments have passed him by since winning the U.S. Open back in 2008, with injuries and scandals in his personal life seemingly at fault.
His latest layoff was a result of a pinched nerve in his back, and Woods fans hardly had cause for optimism on his return to golf in the Quicken Loans National late last month.
The 38-year-old shot a 74 and a 75 in the opening two days, missing the cut by two shots in Maryland.
However, it has to be said that the way that Woods was swinging the club was very encouraging, as he seemed to have slowed his game down to a three-quarter pace—something he’s needed to do for some time.
He’s feeling good ahead of the action at Hoylake, too, and is happy about his return from injury, per Derek Lawrenson of MailOnline:
“Taking baby steps over the past four months has paid off and now I am at that point where I can do what I want.”
Doing what he wants is winning majors, and though the odds are stacked against him, sneaking up on a field is very Tiger-like.
Coach Sean Foley also thinks that Woods is in with an Open chance, insisting to Golfweek’s Jeff Rude that class is permanent:
Asked about Tiger Woods being rusty after inactivity, Woods coach Sean Foley told me: "Rust is absence of feel, not absence of skill."— Jeff Rude (@GolfweekRude) July 15, 2014
Thursday’s round will be a good indication of where Woods’ game is. If he finds himself a long way back from the top of the leaderboard, then it could be the end, but if not, the dream is well and truly on.
Rose Looking for a Hat Trick
Home favourite Justin Rose is playing the golf of his life, winning in his last two starts heading into the Open (the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open).
Rose is looking to follow in the footsteps of reigning champion Phil Mickelson at Royal Liverpool, who won last year’s Scottish Open before landing the Claret Jug.
Winning three starts in a row looks a feat that even the talented Englishman will struggle to accomplish, but he says he’s full of confidence on the quest to do so, per Hank Gola of the New York Daily News:
“I think had I not won in Aberdeen, I think this week would be a realistic opportunity, and I don't feel it any less realistic because I won last week. I think the odds go more in my favour just through confidence and the experience of having done that the last couple of weeks.”
Winning is well within the realm of possibility, too, as the golf that Rose has played in recent tournaments has been absolutely sublime, summed up by the Scottish Open victory.
Heading into the final round at the top of the leaderboard, Rose simply blew away the competition with a flawless six-under 65 to round the tournament off, and Gary Player was among those who congratulated the 33-year-old:
Though he hasn’t challenged for the Open title in recent years, Rose is in a better position than ever to mount a charge, and it will be far from a surprise to see him holding the Claret Jug come Sunday evening.
Woods and Rose will undoubtedly be the people’s champions at Hoylake, but a stunning field means that this Open Championship is more open than ever.
With the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott on the prowl—all very capable winners—it could be an Open to remember at Royal Liverpool.