Even though the 2014 Open Championship features an elite field, Tiger Woods' maiden major of the season will see a ton of focus shift to one individual golfer.
No matter how Woods is faring at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake—where he won the 2006 British Open, by the way—there will be a unique element to live-stream coverage for the 143rd Open Championship. Watch ESPN is going to stream Woods' every shot, providing fans with an unfiltered look at his comeback, per ESPNMediaZone.com's Andy Hall.
Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest chimed in with his take on the Tiger-centric sportscast:
I see that ESPN3 is going with all Tiger, all the time at Hoylake. How is that any different from the regular telecast?— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) July 14, 2014
For those interested in other golfers aside from the biggest superstar on the planet, there will be plenty of action to witness. Live at The Open kicks off ESPN's live stream at 3:30 a.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, then moves to the course at 4 a.m. On the weekend, the live stream begins at 7 a.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. for Sunday's final round.
It will be interesting to see the viewership of the tournament overall compared to the Woods solo cam. Perhaps focusing in on just Woods alone may take away from some of the mystique he tends to draw.
In any event, below is a look at tee times, TV listings and an overall preview of what to expect in Merseyside, England, with the Claret Jug on the line.
|Thursday, July 17||4 a.m. - 3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday, July 18||4 a.m. - 3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, July 19||7 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sunday, July 20||6 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
When: Thursday, July 17, through Sunday, July 20
Where: Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake in Merseyside, England
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit TheOpen.com.
Winner's Share: $1,660,000
FedEx Cup Points: 600
*Purse information was obtained from Reuters, via Yahoo Sports.
2014 British Open Preview
Woods alone brings about a considerable amount of hype to Hoylake. The fact that he's won there before makes his return to the majors even more exciting. It's a big win for the entire game of golf that he's in the field.
Swing coach Sean Foley implied that Woods' missed cut at the Quicken Loans National will prove to be an aberration, per Golfweek's Jeff Rude:
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
Interesting logic. We'll see if it rings true.
Rory McIlroy did well on a 2010 Open course in St. Andrews that has tended to concede birdies more easily than other venues. The prodigy's tie for third there was by far his best result, so if scoring is similar to Woods' winning 18 under par from 2006, McIlroy should be in the hunt.
It also helps that McIlroy can capitalize on the four par fives that Hoylake has as part of its par-72 layout. That will be a big focus for McIlroy this week, as he comes off a tie for 14th at the Scottish Open, per The Open.com:
I think the par-5s are a big key this week. The majority of [Tiger’s] scoring was done on the par-5s. There are four really good opportunities to make birdies out there and then there’s a couple of tough holes on the back nine. If you can just make par there you’re going to do well. I don’t think it’s going to be an option to hit iron off every tee box. I think you’re going to have to be slightly aggressive off the tee and take some things on.
So it appears that McIlroy will be using length and his usual precision off the tee to his advantage, something the likes of world No. 1 Adam Scott can do as well.
Scott blew a four-stroke lead with four holes to play at the 2012 Open Championship, but now he's a major champion and in fine form to boot—by his own admission:
Adam Scott: "I'm playing some of the best golf of my life at the moment, so I've got to take advantage of it." pic.twitter.com/1ouwC0FU33— The Open (@The_Open) July 15, 2014
Speaking of which, no one could be in better spirits than Justin Rose. Back-to-back victories at the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open have lifted Rose to third in the world rankings. Getting the job done in his native major would cap off quite the trifecta, and based on how his game is clicking at the moment, there's no reason to discount him.
As long as Rose doesn't press as he has in the past. Rose's best finish (tied fourth) came as a teenager in 1998. Since then, he's failed to crack the top 10. Now seems to be the time Rose could put in a better result at the tournament he so badly wants to add to his excellent resume.
A couple of ball-striking muscle men stand out as potential contenders, too, in Dustin Johnson, ranked fourth in the FedEx Cup standings, and Henrik Stenson.
This may seem trivial, but if you want an indication of how far Johnson can crank it, look no further than this tweet from TaylorMade Golf:
The term "potential energy" also reflects how close Johnson is to being regarded as one of the game's true elite. He has a World Golf Championship victory to his name and has won at least one tournament in seven consecutive seasons. A couple of close calls at majors continue to plague him, but Johnson can put it all together.
Stenson placed second only to Phil Mickelson and his phenomenal final round at Muirfield last year. The Swede went on to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai, so he didn't dwell on it for long. If either Johnson or Stenson have their putters going, look out.
To give some love to the beloved fan favorite Mickelson, he did finish tied 11th in his defense of the Scottish Open. Reclaiming the Claret Jug will be another task entirely, though—if this insight from Golf Channel's Justin Ray is any indication:
Phil facing long odds. The only player age 40 or older to successfully defend a major championship? Old Tom Morris. In 1862.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 14, 2014
And when Old Tom Morris did it, the field had 8 players, they played 12 holes, and par didn't yet exist.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 14, 2014
Who will win the 2014 British Open?
The British Open is, after all, the oldest championship in golf. Links style is often a fresh segue from the modern game, simply because the shots players have to execute can be far different—no matter what the weather is doing.
Hoylake's straightforward layout can be perilous with fairway and greenside bunkers, so finding the short grass will be as vital as ever. If this Open turns out to be a birdie barrage as it was for many in 2006, the playing field could be leveled, and we could see another breakthrough major winner.
Bubba Watson won his second Masters earlier this season, while Martin Kaymer captured career major No. 2 in dominant fashion at the U.S. Open. It's due time for a first-timer—unless Woods is truly back in form and recaptures the magic from approximately eight years ago.
Should Woods win, faith would be restored in his abilities, along with enhancing his chances to catch Jack Nicklaus' all-time major wins record. Perhaps a capable youngster such as Rickie Fowler—a top-five finisher in the year's two previous majors—or Jordan Spieth will see their names etched into the Claret Jug.
Based on how three of the past four Open Championships have featured clear-cut winners, and how Watson and Kaymer took the suspense out of the first two 2014 majors, golf fans are due for a dandy at Hoylake.