It seems that no matter how worthy the winner, we're surprised annually by the outcome. Yet, since Tiger Woods cruised to victory for his third Claret Jug the last time the R&A hosted The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, in 2006, a contemporary Who's Who has joined him in the annals. Even when Tom Watson didn't win at Turnberry in 2009, it came with a bit of a jolt. Further consider that the last two champions are Hall of Famers -- Ernie Els (2012) and Phil Mickelson, who defends his first title in the season's third major.
Maybe it's because the elements and the inherent (mis)fortune of links golf caps our expectations. That's fair. For the 143rd edition of The Open Championship -- the 12th at Royal Liverpool -- rain and wind cannot be ruled out, but it wouldn't be an Open without either anyway.
This wasn't the case when Woods authored another chapter of brilliance on what was a sufficiently dry Royal Liverpool. His 270 aggregate remains the lowest since he dusted the field by eight en route to 269 at St. Andrews in 2000. Both sites of those victories are par 72s. (All of the other courses in the rota since 1990 are either par 70s or 71s.) Therefore, what's not surprising is how Woods scored on the quartet of par 5s here in 2006. He went bogey-free 14 under with two eagles and 10 birdies. All seven of his bogeys for the week were on par 4s. He played the par 3s in 3 under.
Up 54 yards from its 2006 measurement to a maximum 7,312 this week, Royal Liverpool boasts three par 5s on the second nine -- Nos. 10, 16 and 18 -- so it plays as a par 35-37. In 2006, it averaged just 0.366 strokes over par and surrendered a par-5 scoring average of 4.52, good for fifth-easiest of any course that season. It showed its teeth in scrambling (47.53; second in 2006), but the field hit a healthy two-thirds of the greens in regulation on average anyway. Par-4 scoring checked in at 4.20, good for fifth-highest of the year.
POWER RANKINGS: THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Henrik Stenson 2 Adam Scott 3 Martin Kaymer 4 Sergio Garcia 5 Zach Johnson 6 Justin Rose 7 Rory McIlroy 8 Matt Kuchar 9 Graeme McDowell 10 Dustin Johnson 11 Jordan Spieth 12 Rickie Fowler 13 Ángel Cabrera 14 Brendon Todd 15 Brandt Snedeker 16 Phil Mickelson 17 Bubba Watson 18 Hideki Matsuyama 19 Charl Schwartzel 20 Keegan Bradley