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Preview: 143rd Open Championship tees off at Hoylake

Preview – Royal & Ancient – 143rd Open Championship – Royal Liverpool – Hoylake, England –

The world of golf crowns the Champion Golfer of the Year this week with the Claret Jug.

The 143rd Open Championship returns to England at Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the season’s third major. This marks the 11th time Hoylake hosts the Open Championship.

This venue – a par 72 stretching to 7,350 yards – is a thinking man’s course. Successful players plot their way around the course. Tiger Woods won here in 2006 hitting just one driver all week. Look for plenty of driving irons this week.

Different conditions will greet players this week thanks to rains and lush green around the layout. Winds are also expected to factor this week. The closing 18th hole could determine the Champion Golfer in the end. The par 5 is reachable in two. Par-5 performance could be the key factor this week as the layout closes with a par 5 at No. 16 and then No. 18.

After an interesting major championship trend (where 18 different players won the last 18 majors) was snapped last year here with Phil Mickelson’s victory, both major winners in 2014 are now multiple-major champions.

Bubba Watson won the Masters for a second time, while Martin Kaymer collected his second major win capturing the U.S. Open. (Kaymer’s other major was the PGA Championship in 2010). If that mini-trend continues, a past major champ will reign again this week.

Recent past Open champions include Els (2012), Darren Clarke (2011), Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Stewart Cink (2009) and Padraig Harrington (2008 and 2007).

2013 Recap:

  • Mickelson (3-under overall) converted for the second straight week on in Europe winning his first Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland. He won the previous week at the Scottish Open as well. Phil’s final-round 66 earned him a three-shot victory over Henrik Stenson and his third-leg of the career Grand Slam. Ian Poulter shot 67 Sunday to finish T-3 with Adam Scott and Lee Westwood, who struggled to 75 in the final round. Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Francesco Molinari logged Top 10s.

ESPN has television coverage all week. Check your local listings in terms of time changes.

FANTASY: Sergio Garcia, who has seven Top 10s at the Open, appears recovered from a knee injury earlier this season. He should factor. Look for World No. 1 Scott to contend after his T-9 effort at the U.S. Open. Henrik Stenson has three Top 3s at the Open so he is comfortable in this spot. Rose comes in with victories on both European Tour and PGA Tour. Nobody is more confident.

BETTORS: Justin Rose (14-to-1) earned the top betting spot, according to Ladbrokes.com, after back-to-back wins. Scott, Stenson and Rory McIlroy are 16-1. Stenson, runner-up in Germany and No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, enters with Top 7s in five of his last six worldwide starts. Take Graeme McDowell (33-1), if conditions become difficult. He is a wonderful grinder and enters after a win in France in early July.

Other Golf News:

  • Mickelson was five shots back heading into the final round last year and won the jug.
  • Lydia Ko slipped ahead of Inbee Park into the No. 2 spot in the Rolex Ranking behind Stacy Lewis.
  • Ten of the last 21 Open champions have been ranked inside the Top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings heading into the event. For a first timer inside the Top 10, look for Jason Day, Stenson or Kuchar to find the trophy.
  • The Big Easy Ernie Els enters with 13 Top 10s in 19 starts at the Open.
  • The LPGA Tour returns to action this week in Ohio at the LPGA Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Club. Beatriz Recari is the defending champion.
  • Former Open champion and World No. 1 David Duval played a practice round at Hoylake with Woods this week.