Nick Bonfield gives his view on who might do well in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool - a tournament with no clear favourite
In trying to finalise my selections for the Golf Monthly Open Championship betting guide, one thing occurred to me: I have absolutely no idea who is going to win.
That might sound like a strange thing to say, given the inherently unpredictable nature of the game of golf, but I’m usually able to narrow it down to five or six players who, based on form, course form and other factors, I think stand a reasonable chance of success. Not this time.
Why, you might ask? I think the answer lies in both the course and recent goings-on in the golfing universe.
Let’s cover the first point first.
Royal Liverpool looks extremely narrow with some thick rough dotted around the place, so most players will be hitting numerous irons from tees. As such, I’d expect most to be playing from similar positions on every hole. Shorter, straighter hitters will probably opt for more drivers, but, either way, the end result will be comparable.
There might be one or two players who pursue an aggressive strategy, but the general consensus seems to be it’s a layout to approach conservatively – apart from the par 5s, and most of the field will be able to reach all four in two shots.
Conditions have also brought more players into the mix. Those who don’t have an affinity for links golf will be encouraged to see rain forecast over the coming days. Visions of sun-scorched fairways in 2006 are a distant memory.
With fairways-hit percentages likely to be high, it really comes down to approach play and short-game. You might be able to rule out some people based on that criteria, but almost everyone in the field is capable of mounting a challenge.
Much has been made about Tiger Woods return to the venue where he claimed his last Open Championship in 2006. Anything is possible, but I just can’t picture him holding the Claret Jug on Sunday given the magnitude of the surgery he underwent just a couple of months ago.
Rory is still hit and miss, Justin Rose – winner of the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open in his last two starts – has an indifferent Open record, Adam Scott isn’t in the best form and Henrik Stenson is yet to record a victory in a major. In short, you can make a case for our against almost every player in the field.
The conclusion? It promises to be a fascinating contest. Who will win? I can’t remember a tournament where so many journalists – people who aren’t generally shy of an opinion – have taken so long to give an answer to that question.
Note: I settled on Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Marc Warren, after much deliberation!