The Open 2014: Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose ready to save Britain’s poor summer

Duo head strong home challenge hoping for inspiration on the links to redeem recent sporting reverses

royal liverpool

With low cloud framing the Welsh hills beyond the River Dee, the westerly view from Hoylake could pass for the set of Game of Thrones, a threatening, dark landscape upon which the big dogs of the golfing clans are converging to settle once and for all who will rule this land.

McIlroy and McDowell of Ulster, Rose and Donald from the south, and from the east, across the sea in distant Germania, the mighty Teuton Kaymer appears with a game to lay them all to rest. Did we mention Tiger and Phil, oh yes, and Adam, too? Either by reputation or form the biggest names in golf meet at the oldest tournament of them all in what threatens to be a championship for the ages.

The weather cannot make up its mind. If the air is as freakishly still as it was on Tuesday, the soul fears for Royal Liverpool. If it gusts as it did on Monday, it is the players who shall need counselling. But what a peak the season reaches at the year’s third and purest major.

For the British and Irish in particular, reared on a diet of burnished fairways, hillocks and gorse, the Claret Jug is cherished above all. “I remember growing up as a kid watching [Nick] Faldo win. Watching Darren [Clarke] having a chance at Troon. It’s the only one played outside of the States, and it’s played on links. It’s the oldest and probably has the richest history of all of them,” Rory McIlroy said in a moment of wistful reflection.

“If I were to win my third major here, it would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam. Not many golfers have done that. So it would be special. It would be very important. Hopefully by the time I hang up my boots, I’d love to be able to get my name on that trophy.”

Like all these boys, McIlroy knows the value of a major win. How one whets the appetite for another and how reaching three and beyond begins to separate the great from the extra special.

Rory McIlroy waves a £20 note in the air after winning a bet against Darren Clarke, right, during practice (Getty) Rory McIlroy waves a £20 note in the air after winning a bet against Darren Clarke, right, during practice (Getty)
McIlroy threatens to be among the best there has ever been. His victory at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA at Wentworth in May, was an important landmark on a course that he has not always enjoyed.

It was his second victory since the appalling slump of last year and it was achieved without recourse to the turbo button. McIlroy has another gear to find. It’s in there. We saw it in 2012. We have seen it in glimpses this year, when razing PGA National in the first round of the Honda Classic, shooting 63; ditto Muirfield Village, where he opened with another 63; and Royal Aberdeen last week, with that first-round 64.

On a beautiful, still Thursday morning at St Andrews four years ago, they stopped taking bets after McIlroy set fire to the Old Course with a 63. And then he alerted us to the bad Friday syndrome that has scarred so many of his cards this year, shooting 80 in a second-round hooley.

McIlroy knows how to win. Two majors banked at 23, and by big margins, mark him out as a preternatural golfer. The third he talks about is only four good days away.

Justin Rose is a man in total command of his game. He bowls into this tournament a back-to-back winner, the latter in Scotland on the links of Royal Aberdeen. Only the superstitious or those who fear the laws of probability baulk at the idea of Rose notching the hat-trick here. Strip away the hocus-pocus, base judgement on evidence and talent, and none has a stronger case than Rose this week.

And what of Graeme McDowell, who won last time out in Paris a fortnight ago? McDowell took the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach when none spoke his name beforehand. He went out in the final pairing with Adam Scott at Royal Lytham in 2012 and led the first round last year at Muirfield. What’s more, this is a course that sets up beautifully for the “short knockers” as he disparagingly downgrades himself.

“Relatively short is a nicer way of putting it. I’m one of the short knockers. I accept that, no problems,” he said. “But I don’t think there are a lot of opportunities to blow it past trouble here. I don’t walk on to this golf course and kind of sigh and say, here we go again, this is 330 paradise.”


Click HERE to view full-size version of graphic

McDowell took a while to process that Pebble Beach moment, the first win by a Briton at the US Open for 40 years. He has matured considerably since then on and off the course with marriage and his first child due. This newly acquired sense of order has brought contentment to his life and renewed focus in the work place. And this is a pot he is aching to win.

“Augusta has mystique and tradition, as well. But The Open Championship seems to maintain that mystique as it goes around to various golf courses. It maintains that kind of pride, tradition and history, and the Claret Jug is a bit special. I’d give my left arm for the Claret Jug. I would, actually. That would be the end of my career, but it would be a nice way to go.”

He is not alone in expressing that sentiment. McIlroy, Rose and McDowell have their majors. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have none, a poor return for two vast talents who have at their peaks been good enough to reside at the best address in world golf, No 1.

Westwood is in no kind of form. It was much the same a year ago but he led by three after six holes on the final day before finishing third. Donald has two top fives in the past five years. The pedigree is there. Phil Mickelson won at 43, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke both at 42. Donald is a pup at 36. The clock is crowding Westwood but he is not done yet. It’s not just about you, Tiger.

Claret contenders: Three to watch

The obvious choice: Justin Rose (Eng; 14-1)

Playing beautifully, winning and fully adjusted to the demands of links golf after a successful week in Scotland. The Open is where it all began for him as a 17-year-old amateur up the road at Royal Birkdale. To win here completes a journey.

The quiet pick: Jim Furyk (US; 60-1)

Loves this event and this track, finishing fourth behind Woods in 2006. Boasts three more top-five finishes, two at Royal Birkdale and the other at Royal Troon. Must be something to do with the regal connection and the west coast air.

The sideways selection: Robert Karlsson (Swe; 75-1)

Shot 66 on last day in Scotland to secure a top-10 spot. The week before he was fourth in France and in June he finished with a 63 for sixth at the Nordea Masters. He’s racking up a summer of love.

Open details: Selected tee-offs, weather and TV times

Selected tee-off times (US unless stated)

6.25am D Duval, D Howell (Eng), R Karlsson (Swe)

6.47am C Wood (Eng), M Jones (Aus), B Wiesberger (Aut)

7.20am B Koepka, K Aphibarnrat (Thai), E Molinari (It)

7.42am J Leonard, B Curtis, P Lawrie (Scot)

7.53am R Moore, F Molinari (It), T Olesen (Den)

8.04am M Manassero (It), B Neil (Scot), M Ilonen (Fin)

8.15am T Bjorn (Den), P Reed, S Cink

8.26am T Watson, J Furyk, D Clarke (Nl)

8.37am L Donald (Eng), R Fowler, S Garcia (Sp)

8.53am P Casey (Eng), H English, M Every

9.04am T Woods, A Cabrera (Arg), H Stenson (Swe)

9.15am C Schwartzel (SA), P Harrington (Ire), KJ Choi (S Kor)

9.26am H Matsuyama (Japan), R McIlroy (Nl), J Spieth

9.37am I Poulter (Eng), D Johnson, J Walker

9.48am M Kuchar, G McDowell (Nl), L Oosthuizen (SA)

10.10am N Faldo (Eng), T Hamilton, M Calcavecchia

1.27pm M A Jimenez (Sp), B Haas, T Jaidee (Thai)

1.38pm J Day (Aus), M Kaymer (Ger), Z Johnson

2.05pm P Mickelson, E Els (SA), B Watson

2.27pm A Scott (Aus), J Rose (Eng), J Dufner

2.38pm R Ishikawa (Japan), L Westwood (Eng), K Bradley

3.00pm J Daly, T Fleetwood (Eng), R Fisher (Eng)

Weather Mainly warm and sunny. Maximum temperature: 24C

Television coverage BBC2, 9am-8pm

Leading odds 14-1 Rose, Scott; 16-1 Stenson; 18-1 McIlroy; 22-1 Garcia, Kaymer, Mickelson, Woods;  28-1 McDowell; 35-1 D Johnson; 40-1 Day, Fowler, Kuchar, Spieth; 45-1 Donald, Watson; 50-1 Casey, Z Johnson, Snedeker, Westwood; 55-1 Bjorn, Matsuyama.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee