The 151st Open Championship is not too far away, with golf and good and great heading to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in pursuit of the treasured Claret Jug won by Australia’s Cameron Smith last year. But what could be some of the main narratives heading into the historic tournament this July? Let’s break it down below:
LIV still the hot-button topic for golf
Time heals all wounds, and you can sense that there is something of a nervous calm between golf’s major factions. Brooks Koepka, who became the first LIV player to win a Major at the PGA Championship in May, acted as something of a bellwether for golf’s fallout. The world didn’t end for the PGA when he won, but there wasn’t widespread jubilation either. This uneasy peace will arguably continue until something boils over, or the differences are resolved.
Rory returns to the scene of his greatest triumph
Oh, Rory. The legend Jack Nicklaus recently spoke of the mystery behind McIlroy’s Major drought, which now extends to nine years without a big one. Still, McIlroy is returning to Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where he secured his first and only Open Championship. He is currently joint-favourite with golf betting bookmakers (alongside Jon Rahm), who believe it is a question of when, not if, McIlroy gets back on the Major roll of honour. Royal Liverpool suits his game, for obvious reasons, and while McIlroy has had false dawns before, the scene feels set for him to secure another Claret Jug.
Aussie hopes not named Cameron Smith
We all know the defending champion will be among the favourites at Royal Liverpool, but what about other Aussies not named Cameron Smith? The other Aussie Cameron, Davis, had a good showing at the PGA Championship, finishing 4th, and the Players Championship, finishing 6th, so there is every reason to believe he can trouble the top of the leaderboard. Ryan Fox has had a decent couple of years, and his good performances in the Masters and PGA Championship bode well. While The Open hasn’t been a great hunting ground for Fox of late, he did finish in the top 20 in 2019 at Royal Portrush. Lucas Herbert, too, will fancy his chances of playing well across the four days, and don’t forget the wily Adam Scott. Chances abound for another Australian winner.
Which version of Dustin Johnson will come to Liverpool?
It seems like such a long time ago that Dustin Johnson seemed unplayable, but it is less than three years ago that we witnessed him stroll to a record-breaking Masters win with the world seemingly at his feet. He hasn’t fallen off the face of the Earth, of course. He has won a couple of LIV tournaments and was the money leader in 2022. But he seems not to be the DJ of old when it comes to the Majors, barely scraping past the cut in both the Masters and PGA Championship this year. The Open has been kinder to him, though, and if the real DJ comes to Liverpool, we could easily see him go one better than the top 10 finishes he secured in 2022 and 2021.
The Ryder Cup looms on the horizon
Ah yes, the Ryder Cup. We talked of the uneasy peace between rival factions of players amid the LIV fallout. Technically, LIV players are eligible to be picked for the Ryder Cup, which will take place in Rome from 29th September – 1st October. However, the qualifying rules make it more slanted in favour of PGA players. Wild card picks could help LIV players, but direct qualification might require winning a Major, like Brooks Koepka. The likes of Dustin Johnson above, may see the Open as their last chance to join the ranks of his fellow Americans. It could be interesting, but tense.