The First Look: The Open Championship
7 Min Read
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Rory McIlroy was just a kid the last time The Open Championship was at Royal Liverpool.
He was 25 and won the Claret Jug. Then he won the PGA Championship in his next major start, joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win four men’s majors by the age of 25.
McIlroy, however, hasn’t won a major since.
A lot has happened since his 2014 triumph at Hoylake, of course – he’s married with a daughter, and the hair is sprinkled the color of a cloudy Holywood morning – but McIlroy keeps chasing the same goal.
Royal Liverpool will look plenty different, like McIlroy himself, this time around – with a lot of new changes to the course, including a new par-3 17th hole, converted from a former par 4. There’s a whole new generation of challengers, too. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was barely voting age the last time The Open was at Hoylake, while No. 2 Jon Rahm couldn’t legally order a drink in America.
Heading into the final major championship of the season, McIlroy is hitting all the right notes with his game. He has notched a runner-up and a T7 at the last two majors, and he’s riding a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes on TOUR, including a dramatic victory at last week’s Genesis Scottish Open.
“I'm as close as I've ever been, really,” McIlroy said at The Renaissance Club. “My consistency in the performances, especially in the majors over the last couple years is way better than it has been over the last few years.”
Nearly a decade has passed since McIlroy’s last Open Championship triumph, but all signs could be pointing towards a repeat performance this time around – and ending a nine-year major championship drought.
FIELD NOTES: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler is looking to add a second major trophy to his collection. Scheffler has not finished outside the top-12 on the PGA TOUR since October and has two wins this season including THE PLAYERS Championship. Scheffler’s major-championship results this season have been T10-T2-3… Jon Rahm, winner of the Masters in April, is looking to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2005 to win the green jacket and the Claret Jug in the same year. Rahm has four wins on the PGA TOUR this season and will be well rested – he hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship… Players eager to shed the label of best without a major title include Xander Schauffele (11 top-10s in 25 major starts), Tony Finau (two TOUR wins this season), and Rickie Fowler (who recently snapped a four-year winless drought at the Rocket Mortgage Classic). Fowler finished tied for second at Royal Liverpool in 2014… Jordan Spieth, who won at Royal Birkdale in 2017, will compete in his 10th Open Championship. He has never missed the cut. Spieth has six top-10 finishes this season on TOUR… Cameron Smith will look to successfully defend his Open Championship win from last year at St. Andrews. The last player to go back-to-back at The Open was Padraig Harrington in 2007-08… Harrington is one of eight players who have competed at Hoylake in 2006, 2014 and 2023.
Highest-ranked players in the field
|1. Scottie Scheffler
|1. Jon Rahm
|2. Rory McIlroy
|2. Scottie Scheffler
|3. Jon Rahm
|3. Rory McIlroy
|4. Patrick Cantlay
|4. Max Homa
|5. Viktor Hovland
|5. Wyndham Clark
|6. Xander Schauffele
|6. Keegan Bradley
|7. Cameron Smith
|7. Viktor Hovland
|8. Max Homa
|8. Rickie Fowler
|9. Matt Fitzpatrick
|9. Tony Finau
|10. Wyndham Clark
|10. Nick Taylor
NOTABLE QUALIFIERS: There will be no Tiger Woods, but there will be a Tiger, as Tiger Christensen of Germany (a 19-year-old amateur) made it through Final Qualifying. Christensen tied Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of Matt, to get into the field… Mateo Fernandez de Olivera of Argentina – winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship in January – will look to follow in Roberto de Vicenzo’s footsteps as Argentine winners at Royal Liverpool. De Vicenzo won in 1967… The Open Qualifying Series featured four PGA TOUR events this year, with the Genesis Scottish Open being the final opportunity to get in. Players who earned their way in this year via the OQS (or moved in via World Ranking points) include Kurt Kitayama, Harris English, Trey Mullinax, Davis Riley and Ben Griffin (Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard); Wyndham Clark and Brendon Todd (Wells Fargo Championship); Lee Hodges, Andrew Putnam and Adam Schenk (the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday); and David Lingmerth, Byeong Hun An and Nicolai Hojgaard (Genesis Scottish Open)… How’s this for a hometown favorite? Matthew Jordan, who is a member at Royal Liverpool, made it through Final Qualifying in West Lancashire. He finished a shot back of Matt Wallace for medalist honors at the site. Wallace won his first TOUR title earlier this season at the Corales Puntacana Championship.
1) MAJOR FINISH
The Open Championship is the final men’s major championship of the season, with the Masters (Jon Rahm), PGA Championship (Brooks Koepka) and U.S. Open (Wyndham Clark) now in the rear-view mirror. The last time a player won two men’s majors in the same season was Koepka in 2018, while the last time someone won an Open Championship as one of two majors in a year was Rory McIlroy in 2014. With all the game’s top names teeing it up at Hoylake, it’s set to be a thrilling finish to this year’s major-championship season before the FedExCup Playoffs begin in just three weeks.
Of note: While there was a possibility at the Masters (Rory McIlroy), U.S. Open (Phil Mickelson) and PGA Championship (Jordan Spieth), no player in the field can complete the career Grand Slam at The Open Championship.
2) A REALLY DIFFERENT ROYAL LIVERPOOL
For even the most experienced of players at Hoylake, the golf course is going to look completely different than 2014. There have been upwards of 15 significant changes made to the course – mostly on the back nine – and the overall par has changed from 72 to 71. Bunkers have been added or tweaked, fairways have been reoriented, sand areas have been created, and new tees have been added as Martin Ebert – who consults on seven of the 10 Open Championship courses – has added a hearty touch to this storied links venue.
3) ROARING TWENTIES
Where there is certainly something to be said for experience, eight of the last nine major champions in men’s golf have been in their 20s, with Koepka’s PGA Championship triumph the lone exception. Will another young buck lift the Claret Jug on Sunday night, or will a wily veteran take the title? Time will tell.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 FedExCup points.
COURSE: Royal Liverpool (Hoylake), par 71, 7,313 yards. This will be the 13th playing of The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, the last being in 2014. But this will be a totally different layout than any previous Open Championship at Hoylake.
There were more than a dozen significant changes made for the 2023 Open Championship, most notably the creation of a new par-3 17th (which replaced a par 4) and No. 10 now playing as a par 4 in excess of 500 yards, versus a 532-yard par 5.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Henrik Stenson (2016 at Royal Troon)
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Branden Grace (Round 3, 2017 at Royal Birkdale).
LAST TIME: Cameron Smith won his maiden major championship title after a final-round, 8-under 64 at St. Andrews – an 18-hole effort that featured a stretch of five consecutive back-nine birdies and one final circle on the scorecard on the par-4 18th for a closing 30. Smith, who won THE PLAYERS Championship earlier in the season, topped Cameron Young by one after Young made an impressive eagle on the par-4 18th hole. 54-hole co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland couldn’t capitalize on their positions after three rounds, as Hovland shot 2-over 74 to finish at 14 under for the week and tied for fourth with Tommy Fleetwood, while McIlroy was seemingly stuck in neutral, making 16 pars in a 2-under 70 to finish solo third at 18 under.
The last time The Open was contested at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy went wire-to-wire to capture his first Claret Jug by two shots.
HOW TO FOLLOW:
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1:30 a.m.-4 a.m. ET (Peacock), 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (USA), 3 p.m.-4 p.m. (Peacock). Saturday, 5 a.m.-7 a.m. (USA), 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 4 a.m.-7 a.m. (USA), 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC)
Radio: Championship broadcasts will begin on SiriusXM (Channel 92) and on the SXM App on Thursday and Friday at 2 a.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday at 4 a.m. ET and will continue through the conclusion of play each day.
Online: Various feeds available via theopen.com/watch
Editor's note:The R&A, which owns and operates The Open Championship, controls all digital streaming and broadcast rights to this event. PGA TOUR LIVE coverage will resume next week at the 3M Open.