Course Spotlight: How Stadium success could unlock betting value at Royal Liverpool
4 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
Royal Liverpool could easily be the setting for a Shakespearean tragedy. From the clubhouse to the course, every element of this championship venue tells a story. That narrative could not be any more different than what it was a year ago at St. Andrews. The 150th Open Championship played at the birthplace of golf was marked by wide fairways and huge double green complexes. Royal Liverpool will play much smaller much like the tiny town of Hoylake it resides in.
Situated alongside the Irish Sea, our links venue for the 151st Open Championship (or British Open to some) is a par 71 affair. Our last major visit to this venue was in 2014 when Rory McIlroy was the Champion Golfer of the Year. Similar soft conditions await us this week much like in 2014. Predicting the weather in an Open can be a difficult task. Wind gauges alongside the water aren’t very accurate and storms can move in and out quickly. Rather than completely focus on the weather game, I am going to dig deeper into the challenges of the course itself.
Hoylake’s links truly represent risk reward golf. In your first look, you might not see it. When you play this major masterpiece, the challenge becomes clear; you must keep the ball in play. Penalty strokes are lurking everywhere and with that level of volatility, it reminds me of an interesting comparison course.
Flyover: Royal Liverpool | 2023
Disaster lurks around every corner at TPC Sawgrass. Most may not see it at first, but to a PGA Professional the similarities are eerily close. To contend at Royal Liverpool, you must avoid the trouble. All 14 fairways are lined with knee-high fescue. Those amber waves of grain sit just three to five yards off the edge of the fairway grass. Inside the fescue fields are 11 holes where fairway bunkers are in play. If you don’t find the fairway, the penalty will be severe. To compound the anxiety, six holes have out of bounds in play off the tee.
TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium Course is an eighteen-hole accuracy contest. It measures the magnitude of your miss in a corresponding penalty. It takes incredible ball striking ability and strategy to win THE PLAYERS Championship. Pete Dye’s design allows for little misses and explicitly shows you where not to hit your ball. Royal Liverpool’s layout defines the same margin for error. Week after week on the PGA TOUR, players can miss by a mile and the penalty (if there is one) is like missing by a little.
Oak Hill is a great example of this analogy. Players pulled driver all day long and if they missed by two yards or twenty it was the same outcome. On the Stadium Course you can survive a small miss and likewise those at Royal Liverpool the same. Miss your target too much, and you’ll be flying out on Friday night.
This uncommon connection wasn’t easy to make. I looked through leaderboards and noticed a significant trend. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods won at Hoylake. Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler were both runner-up to Rory in 2014. Adam Scott is the only player in this 156-man field to have finished in the top 10 in 2006 (eighth) and 2014 (fifth). All of these guys have WON THE PLAYERS.
TPC Sawgrass has an amazing championship finish. A short nervous par 3 and an extremely difficult driving hole for the final test. With the addition of the short new par 3 for number 17 at Hoylake and out of bounds off the tee on the last, you can really see the comparison come to life. I realize both are championship courses with elite fields, but I assure you the penalty for your misses will be measured at Hoylake much more like a PLAYERS than a Masters.
Across the top of the BetMGM odds board, we see Rory McIlroy (+750), Scottie Scheffler (+750), Cam Smith (+1600), Viktor Hovland (+2000), and Tyrell Hatton (+2500). Smith won the PLAYERS in 2022 and Scheffler in 2023. Hatton and Hovland finished in the top three last March. When predicting your weekend wagers don’t be afraid to see past the similar “looking” courses and use this new knowledge. Designs are defined by the skills you need to contend and not aesthetics.
To build a better betting card for the Open Championship remember this, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men merely PLAYERS.”
Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.