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The Open Championship stands on a pedestal, sharing it only with The Masters as the Major Championship that professional golfers covet the most.
The 2023 Open Championship takes place in England this year at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, Merseyside, which we last saw in 2014 when Rory McIlroy got his hands on the famous Claret Jug.
The 151st edition of the Open Championship takes place from Thursday 20th July 2023. Now into our 14th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our Open tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2023 coverage with Open Championship tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous free statistical Predictor Model.
The Open Championship winners list here at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, known to most as Hoylake, is astonishing. The course will be hosting its 13th Open – it’s the second oldest of all the English seaside clubs – and has seen the likes of Walter Hagen (1924), Bobby Jones (1930), Tiger Woods (2006) and Rory McIlroy (2014) all lift the Claret Jug.
Open Championship Insight, Stats and Tips Research
It’s worth remembering that the Open Championship (or British Open, if you’re reading this on the other side of the Atlantic) and links golf in general is very niche: it’s a defined golfing specialism which in itself produces opportunities from a betting perspective. Mistakes can be costly, however select the right player or player portfolio and the rewards can be strong.
Golf Betting System’s goal is to provide you with informed Open Championship tips, free tournament research tools, insight and information that will help you make educated decisions about which players to back at the 2023 Open Championship. Better still, we can even help with what players to avoid in a Major where plenty of big names will not feature.
The Open Championship is always a stern test of any golfer, but undoubtedly Royal Liverpool, to this point, has been one of the easier host courses on the Open rota.
We’ve only seen a couple of Open renewals here since 2000, but winning totals of -18/270 (Tiger Woods, 2006) and -17/271 (Rory McIlroy, 2014) highlight a course that the Royal & Ancient could not defend solely via course set-up.
Links golf scoring is dictated by the weather and we will see a slightly different course format this time around, which will include a new par-3 that will play as the 17th hole during The Open. As ever it will be fascinating to see how this relatively short (in modern day golf) Par 71 plays in 2023, with the key likely to be the infamous English summer weather.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, Merseyside, England: Designer: Harry Colt 1895, with Martin Ebert additions 2020; Course Type: Coastal, Links, Medium; Par: 71; Length: 7,383 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 0; Fairways: Fescue; Rough: Bentgrass, Fescue, with tall fescue 2″ First Cut; Greens: 6,458 sq.ft average featuring Browntop Bentgrass with Fescue. Course Scoring Average 2014: 72.77 (+0.77), Difficulty Rank 10 of 48 PGA Tour courses.
What to Expect at Hoylake
Royal Liverpool Golf Club, or Hoylake next to which the course is actually located, is situated on the Wirral, only 6 miles to the west of the famous Liverpool Docks. This will be the 13th time the course has hosted the Open Championship, with the tournament’s last visit here in 2014 being remembered for Rory McIlroy’s demolition of the par-5s as he captured the Claret Jug for his first and to this point only time.
However the course that McIlroy conquered to become Champion Golfer of the Year will look different in 2023 with the addition of a new par-3 17th hole, a change of par from 72 to 71, and other significant alterations on the back nine. For information purposes, the 1st and 2nd holes for The Open actually play as the 17th and 18th for members, with the members’ par-5 16th being the closing hole for the Open week.
The Hoylake Links is an original Harry Colt design and will play as a 7,383 yard, Par 71 as the course has been extended by 71 yards since 2014 via a renovation project managed by eminent course designer Martin Ebert. The par change comes at the 10th Hole named Far, which has changed from a par-5 of 532 yards to a par-4 of 507 yards.
Yardage-wise, the main changes have come on the 2 par-5s on the run for home. Firstly the 15th, named Field, which McIlroy famously eagled on Saturday in 2014. That has a new tee box which has extended the hole to a pretty mighty 620 yards. The severity of this hole will depend on the strength and direction of the wind, but with the prevailing wind players will be able to take a significant portion of length away from the hole by attempting to carry bunkers to the right.
The new 17th hole, named Little Eye, will likely be the new signature hole of Hoylake. At around 140 yards in length, the hole features a raised infinity green with views over the River Dee Estuary to Wales in the distance. A sea of bunkers and huge fall-off areas to all sides, including all the way to the green, provide a striking scene and mean it is absolutely essential to hit the green.
Big changes have also occurred at the closing 18th par-5 hole, named Dun, where the Championship tee has been moved back around 50 yards and significantly further right, while the out of bounds down the right-hand side has ominously been moved 20 yards further left. The fairway now appears just a handful of yards wide from the tee, particularly with a carry of 240 yards to reach the fairway and dangerous bunkers down the left.
A summary of Hoylake in terms of its position within the Open Championship rota would be a fairly straightforward affair, with good play rewarded. It’s a relative flat track with few towering sand dunes. But for what it lacks in topography, Royal Liverpool gains with tall fescue in play on all holes and plenty of Out of Bounds. All par-4s and par-5s feature 2-3 yards of semi-rough. Stray over that and you’re instantly into knee- to waist-high fescue. The transition from fairway to tall fescue is both stark but also amazingly small in terms of miss distance.
Out-of-Bounds is also interesting with 6 holes featuring clear and obvious lines over which if you stray it’s an instant shot penalty. Tie that in with deep, penalising fairway bunkering which has been re-positioned for 2023 golf distances, and it becomes clear that for players to thrive here they need to have control of their golf ball from off the tee. The wayward here simply won’t get away with it enough to contend over 72 holes of golf, that’s fact.
The rest is your typical non-St Andrews links test with small green complexes, many of which are raised. They are surrounded by heavy duty, encroaching, steep-faced bunkers in many circumstances. There are a mixture though, with some greens also being of the flat and gettable variety.
As ever though at an Open Championship, the severity of the test will be dictated by the golfing weather gods. With a firm course – remember Hoylake doesn’t have fairway irrigation systems – and any significant wind, this exposed layout will provide a pretty stern and specialised test for those who don’t respect it.
Below are some revealing comments about Hoylake and how it played at the 2014 Open Championship from the players:
Rory McIlroy: “I think the par-5s. I think the par-5s are a big key this week. If you look back at ’06, I think Tiger played the par-5s in 14-under par. So the majority of his scoring was done on the par-5s. There are four really good opportunities to make birdies out here. Par-5s are going to be crucial. And then there’s a couple of tough holes on the back nine, if you can just sort of make par there you’re going to do well. Yeah, par-5s, I think, there’s a few birdie opportunities on this course, and you want to try to make as many birdies as you can on those holes.”
“I’ll use 2-iron it a bit. I’ll use it on the first two holes, definitely. I think it will be an important club. I might use it like four or five times during the round. I’ll probably use a 2-iron just as much as I’ll use the driver. I’ll hit the driver four or five times and the 2-iron about the same.I usually carry a 5-wood instead of a 2-iron. But I just think for this terrain and the conditions and the wind, the 2-iron just goes that little bit lower, and there’s a bit of a better flight on it, which is obviously better for these conditions.”
Sergio Garcia: “Yeah, whew, it was hard work. The wind was blowing hard and different direction today. So it definitely made it quite challenging. The course, even though it rained a little bit this morning, it dried out very quickly. And a lot of the shots you had to think your way around it a little bit. For example like 17, I had 112 yards and I was just off the fairway and I was chipping a lob wedge trying to hit it 70 yards, and still hit it 8 or 10 feet by. So it was definitely more of the way you expect a British Open to play.”
“I think when Rory plays well and when I’m playing well, I feel like every course suits me. And when he’s playing well, every course suits him because he hits it quite straight. He hits it very long. He putts well. He chips pretty well. So there’s not really a lot of weaknesses on the game. At the end of the day if he’s playing well, every course would suit him.”
Phil Mickelson: “Yeah, the 2-iron. I have two clubs that are specific to this tournament; it’s a 2-iron and a 64 degree wedge that has very little bounce. Those two clubs I basically put away after this event and I bring them back out in July again. But they’ve been very important and instrumental in my success here, 2- or 3-iron. This week it will be a 2-iron. I will carry a driver. I think there will be times when I use a driver, but it will be situational on the wind, pin placement and how I’m feeling at the given moment. I carry 3-wood as well.”
“I think that last time in ’06 we were almost forced to hit the ball longer off the tee and take on more risk because the course was so firm, you couldn’t stop the ball with a mid iron. And we needed to come into some of these greens with an 8, 9-wedge downwind, because it was so firm. I think it’s going to allow us to be a little bit more conservative off the tee and a little bit more aggressive into the greens. That’s my take. And the winning score, I think, will ultimately be fairly low, provided conditions, of course. If we get a strong wind, that all changes. If we get a strong wind and rain, that changes even more. But under light wind or soft wind conditions and the golf course being as green as it is, I think the scores will be fairly low.”
“The reason I really like Royal Liverpool is the same reason that I really like Muirfield, and that is when you have to land a ball 20, 30 yards short of the green, if you hit it at the green, the ball will kick on. There is not these repellent hillsides in the landing area that kick balls off into the trouble. If you hit it off line, it will continue to go off line. It’s not going to hit a mound and kick back to the green. What I’m ultimately saying is well-struck shots are rewarded and poorly struck shots are penalized. And that’s not always the case in links golf. It could be the exact opposite many times. In fact, that happened quite a few times last week at Royal Aberdeen. So the thing I really like about Royal Liverpool is the same thing I liked about Muirfield, those last 20, 30 yards short of the green were often times you have to land a golf ball, it will continue to bounce on to the green if you strike it properly.”
Graeme McDowell: “Certainly it’s soft compared to 2006, there’s no doubt about that. It’s certainly not soft by relatively terms to what we see week in, week out, on the major tours around the world. I wouldn’t call it soft, but it doesn’t have that big bounce, either. It’s got a kind of deadness to the ground, if you like. You’re certainly not going to see balls spinning back. This is The Open Championship, that’s not really going to happen much. But there is a deadness to the turf. The golf course is playing much longer than it was in 2006. There will be a lot more drivers off tees for guys. Does it mean you can attack pins? No.
“I think this golf course still has plenty of protection with the kind of rolls and humps and undulations on these greens. It’s going to be placement off the tee to give you a chance to attack some of the pins. The greens are so shaped with a lot of very good bunkering in and around the greens. You see a lot of the greens with quite narrow entrances with bunkers right and left, with kind of down slopes over the top of those, a lot of greens where you have to be very careful with your approach shot. Yes, it’s soft by Open Championship terms, but it’s far from easy to get balls close to the hole. It’s typical links. If it blows, it’s going to be a real test. If it doesn’t blow, like this afternoon, guys can make a score, depending on pin positions. But as we know links golf, The R&A will hide these pins away behind bunkers and stuff. So it will be hard to get it close to the hole. It’s a great golf course. I think it’s very balanced. I think it’s very fair. It’s one of my favourite Open venues from the point of view of fairness. I think good shots get rewarded here.”
Henrik Stenson: ” Well, I think it’s probably some of the flattest greens that we play on links courses. And the key is going to be to get it. And the rough is a bit patchy. You can get some really decent lies, but you can be complete low wedge, hack you out as well if you get a bad one. So hitting fairways is going to be key, if you do that, you give yourself the best chances to hit the greens. In certain areas if you miss a green, you’re going to have a little trickier up-and-down as well. Some courses are a little bit flatter to the sides and maybe a little bit more undulation. On here they’re here kind of flat on the surface and then it goes away a little bit more in certain areas. So fairways and greens, like any other week, I guess. But it’s going to be pretty crucial here, I think.
And avoiding the bunkers is always more or less costing you a shot every time you hit it in the fairway bunkers. Scoring is going to be down to the wind and the weather. But again on the par 5 the most important thing is to get the ball in play off the tee, so you can at least have a second shot. If you’re hacking out or you’re in a bunker, you know you’re going to scramble for par. So make sure you hit the fairway on par 5s, if you want to have a go at it.”
Hoylake in 2023 guise has seen plenty of significant changes since McIlroy’s 2014 win.
Hoylake - Where Hitting Fairways Is Actually Paramount
Let’s take the final skill statistics from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy across their 2006 and 2014 triumphs at Hoylake:
2006, Tiger Woods (-18). 291 yards (53rd), 85.7% fairways (1st), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), Ball Striking Rank 10th, 50.0% scrambling (13th), 1.62 putts per GIR (12th).
2014, Rory McIlroy (-17). 328 yards (1st), 66.1% fairways (20th), 68.1% greens in regulation (25th), Ball Striking Rank 6th, 69.6% scrambling (4th), 1.65 putts per GIR (6th).
A key angle jumps out from these basic traditional statistics. Firstly, accurate but not necessarily long driving is a must. Woods’ win here in 2006 is the stuff of Major Championship legend, with a Grade A tee-to-green strategy that Tiger hatched in his first practice round. A sun-baked Hoylake had left the course with rock hard fairways and greens, so Woods ditched his 5 wood for a 2 iron, and proceeded to play conservatively off the tee, taking the fairway bunkers out of the equation, in turn maximising the amount of time he was in the fairway. Indeed TW only used his driver once during the whole tournament, hitting 48 of 56 fairways or 85.71% – that was first across the whole field.
McIlroy in 2014 took a typically buccaneering strategy off the tee, where he averaged 328 yards in distance which only Brooks Koepka could match. Less evident but just as important was the fact that Rory hit 37 of 56 fairways or 66.1%, which equated to a rank of 20th for Driving Accuracy. Spray the ball off the tee here at Hoylake and you won’t be lifting the Open Championship come Sunday.
Ball Striking (totalling a player’s total driving and greens in regulation) as a statistic only holds so much water, but Woods ranked 10th and McIlroy 6th when lifting the trophy at Royal Liverpool. Naturally top-level putting was also a feature of their successes, but you’d expect nothing else at a Major Championship.
Open Championship Pedigree - Once Critical, Now Not So
Maybe it’s the modern game, or maybe it’s been recent Open Championship venues, but lifting the Claret Jug was up until recently the preserve of players who had finished in the top 10 of a previous Open at the very least. But that hasn’t been the case of late. Collin Morikawa in 2021 became a member of the ‘no Open Championship experience required club’ when he lifted the Claret Jug in Kent. It was the 24 year-old’s first ever appearance in an Open Championship, which he won at 40/1.
Cameron Smith last year had Open form of MC/78/20/33 when arriving at St Andrews for his fifth British Open. Scratch the surface with the Australian and you would have seen he’d been 5th after 36 holes at Royal Portrush before finishing 20th, plus 9th at Sandwich after 54 holes before slumping to 33rd. From a broad brush perspective, Smith could have been struck off a punters list if a top 10 finish was any form of selection criteria.
2020-2022 certainly breaks the cast-iron rule prior of Open Championship winners requiring at the very least a single top 10 finish prior to lifting the Claret Jug. Indeed from 2011-2019 onwards, all Open Championship winners had shown a level of pedigree at the ultimate links golf test prior to lifting the trophy.
2019 winner Shane Lowry had finished 9th at the 2014 Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) Open that Rory McIlroy won. Francesco Molinari had a top 10 and 2 top 20s to his name before winning at Carnoustie in 2018. Jordan Spieth had a 4th place finish at St Andrews on his CV prior to victory at Birkdale in 2017, which was only his 5th Open appearance. 2016 Champion Henrik Stenson had garnered 3 top 10s and another top 20 from 11 appearances before beating Phil Mickelson in their famous Troon duel.
It’s also fascinating to note that on average across the past 11 winners, they had appeared in 10 Open Championships prior to winning. Collin Morikawa on his Open debut, Jordan Spieth and Cameron Smith with 4 Open appearances, and Ernie Els with 21 are the outliers statistically. And where experience was once all important, in both Spieth and Morikawa across 2 of the past 4 Open renewals we are starting to witness the needle moving towards Major Championship talent overcoming links golf experience, when weather conditions allow.
2019 Champion – Shane Lowry
7 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 9th Hoylake 2014.
2018 Champion – Francesco Molinari
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 9th Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 2, 13th Turnberry 2009, 13th Hoylake 2014.
2017 Champion – Jordan Spieth
4 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 4th St Andrews 2015.
2016 Champion – Henrik Stenson
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 3, 3rd Birkdale 2008, 3rd St Andrews 2010, 2nd Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 1, 13th Turnberry 2013.
2015 Champion – Zach Johnson
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 2, 9th Lytham 2012, 6th Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 2, 20th Carnoustie 20th, 16th St George’s 2011.
2014 Champion – Rory McIlroy
6 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 3rd St Andrews 2010.
2013 Champion – Phil Mickelson
19 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 2, 3rd Troon 2004, 2nd St George’s 2011; Top 20s = 2, 11th St Andrews 2000, 19th Birkdale 2008.
15 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 3, 2nd Carnoustie 1997, 7th St Andrews 2000, 3rd Lytham 2001; Top 20s = 3, 11th Lytham 1996, 11th Troon 2004, 15th St Andrews 2005.
Will World Number 1 Scottie Scheffler win at Royal Liverpool?
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 (at the time of writing) Scottie Scheffler at the Open Championship? Well here’s a word of warning for all those tempted to jump on. No World Number 1 since 2000, apart from Tiger Woods (who else), has won The Open.
Scottie, fresh from a 2023 campaign which has seen him win 2 tournaments and finish runner-up at the PGA Championship, is undoubtedly a well-fancied runner for Hoylake. But, for the record, Cameron Smith was 6th when he won in 2022, Collin Morikawa was 4th, Shane Lowry was 33rd, Francesco Molinari was 15th, Jordan Spieth was 3rd, whilst Henrik Stenson was 6th, Zach Johnson was 25th, McIlroy was 8th and Mickelson was 5th in the OWGR at Muirfield in 2013. The previous 5 winners in Els, Harrington, Cink, Oosthuizen and Clarke were all ranked outside of the World’s top 10 when triumphing.
It would also me remiss of me to not point out that I raised this trend continually before The Masters as well, until that is World Number 1 (at the time) Dustin Johnson captured the 2020 November edition.
Open Championship OWGR Analysis
Open Championship Winner
Recent Form Is Key
Cameron Smith’s first Major Championship win at St Andrews in 2022 adds even more gravitas to the fact that in-form players are the guys to follow at the Open Championship. It makes sense that those who are struggling with their games are unlikely to find them on a links course, and in the last 10 champions, namely Smith, Morikawa, Lowry, Molinari, Spieth, Stenson, Zach Johnson, McIlroy, Stenson, Mickelson and Els, we can see a pattern that’s easy to extrapolate.
Cameron Smith’s 2022 had undoubtedly been the very best year of his career prior to even lifting the Claret Jug on the 18th green on the Old Course. He’d won the first tournament of the year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The Players Championship in Florida in March, prior to going very close to winning The Masters in April. A 36-hole leader and Final Group on Sunday performance at the Memorial Tournament (finished 13th), plus a fast-finishing (2nd for weekend scoring) 10th at the Scottish Open the week before, had many backing the Australian for The Open at 28/1 prior to the off.
Collin Morikawa in 2020, despite being both a Major (2020 PGA Championship) and WGC (2021 WGC Workday Championship) champion, shocked many when he won the Royal St George’s-hosted Open at 40/1. The reason was twofold: 1) It was his Open Championship debut. 2) He had finished 71st at the Scottish Open the week before. Unravel that recency bias though and Collin had finished 4th at the U.S. Open, 2nd at Memorial, 8th at the PGA Championship and 7th at the RBC Heritage all within his past 6 appearances. 40/1 looking back was outrageous!
Shane Lowry in 2019 had won the stellar year-opener, the Abu Dhabi Championship on the DP World Tour and backed that up with his most successful period on the PGA Tour. 3rd at the RBC Heritage (coastal), 8th at the Bethpage Black-hosted PGA Championship and 2nd behind Rory McIlroy at the RBC Canadian Open had preceded top-30 and top-40 outings at the US Open and Irish Open.
Francesco Molinari, like Zach Johnson in 2015, arrived in Scotland directly off the John Deere Classic charter flight from Illinois, and boy his confidence must have been sky high. A huge win (his 5th on the DP World Tour) in May at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth was followed by 2nd at his home Italian Open when defending. But the Italian’s summer got even better when he flew out to Washington in July to player Tiger’s tournament at TPC Potomac which he won, in the process winning his first tournament in the United States. And he arrived in Scotland having just shot a field best -7/64 in the final round to finish T2 in the John Deere Classic.
Jordan Spieth flew into the northwest of England fresh from his 10th PGA Tour victory, which he had racked-up at TPC River Highlands, when clinching the Travelers Championship in a spectacular play-off victory over Daniel Berger. Spieth had never previously played at the Travelers, but made short shrift of the River Highlands course shooting -7/63 in Round 1 to take control of the tournament from the very outset. From there he held off the attentions of Boo Weekley, Troy Merritt and finally fellow ‘Bro Group’ member Berger to win the title at 10/1. In Strokes Gained parlance he was 7th for Approach, 2nd for Around The Green and 1st for Tee to Green, whilst he was not bad with the putter finishing 3rd for Putts per GIR.
Henrik Stenson arrived in Ayrshire fresh from a free-wheeling 13th at the Scottish Open played at Castle Stuart. 76 in Round 1 was then followed by rounds of 69-66-70. However a fortnight prior to the Scottish Open, Stenson had won the BMW International Open at Gut Laerchenoff with a -17/271 total. His performance in Germany, and his 3-shot winning margin, was made even more impressive by the fact that he topped Driving Accuracy, Total Driving, Greens in Regulation and All-Round categories; he was also 2nd for Scrambling. Henrik had also finished 4th at Bro Hoff Slot in June. All of this made him very backable, especially as his Open record contained 2nd (Muirfield 2013), 3rd (Birkdale 2008) and 3rd (St Andrews 2010) place finishes. 30/1 was a cracking price to land.
Zach arrived at Edinburgh airport on the charter flight direct from Silvis, Illinois where he’d just finished a single shot behind Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic. 5th at Las Colinas and 6th at TPC River Highlands in preceding PGA Tour outings highlighted a player at the top of his game, so even now the fact that he was available at 110/1 to win at St Andrews is jaw-dropping!
Rory had won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, a track which had always been his nemesis, until his closing 66 destroyed the field. He then limbered up with a free-rolling 14th at Royal Aberdeen the week before triumphing in Cheshire, where a horrible 78 on Friday was surrounded by rounds of 64, 67 and 68. Rory was 18/1 second favourite prior to the tournament.
Phil Mickelson had already won at TPC Scottsdale and finished 2nd on the tough tests of Merion (US Open) and TPC Southwind before he touched down in Scotland. Arriving at Castle Stuart the week before The Open, Phil was a 20/1 shot to win the Scottish Open, which he duly did, before travelling down the east coast to Muirfield, where he shot an incredible -5/66 on Sunday to win by 3 shots from Henrik Stenson, again at a healthy 20/1.
Ernie Els was available at 45/1 prior to Royal Lytham in 2012 and quite rightly we tipped him up as a great Top 20 bet in my Open Longshots column that year. With 4 top-5 finishes (Fancourt, Copperhead, Bay Hill and New Orleans) plus a 7th at Wentworth and 9th at the US Open just prior to the Open, he had huge momentum and was in the right place at the right time when Adam Scott collapsed over the closing 4 holes. It’s fact that Ernie was the latest in a long line of form players to triumph at the British Open.
16 Champions from the last 22 renewals (73%) had won a tournament in the season prior to triumphing at The Open. Tiger Woods (00, 05, 06), Ernie Els (02), Todd Hamilton (04), Padraig Harrington (07), Louis Oosthuizen (10), Darren Clarke (11), Phil Mickelson (13), Rory McIlroy (14), Henrik Stenson (16), Jordan Spieth (17), Francesco Molinari (18), Shane Lowry (19), Collin Morikawa (21) and Cam Smith (22) had all won in the season prior to lifting the Claret Jug.
This is Steve Bamford’s pre-event preview. Paul Williams will be back with his final Open Championship tips on the Monday before the event.
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