The Open 2014: Tiger Woods relies on pedigree to make the difference
Tiger Woods put a peg in the ground just twice today and that was it, holes one and two and he was off, serious practice done. Perhaps he knows his Hoylake history; that Royal Liverpool deals largely in blue-chip winners, wiping out a swathe of contenders at the outset.
This tournament has thrown up its share of random champions over the years, step forward Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton, Stewart Cink and Mark Calcavecchia, but not at this place. Woods won his third Open here in 2006, one of three greats to have brought up their Open hat-trick on the Wirral alongside Bobby Jones and Peter Thompson.
In the case of Jones he was busy making history in 1930, his victory notching the second leg of the fabled grand slam. Jones followed Walter Hagen, champion here in 1924, onto the Hoylake victory board, who in turn came after J H Taylor, another legend of the game, in 1913.
A further quirk of Hoylake is the number of international winners that have taken the Claret Jug here, seven, more than at any other Open venue. The first of those, Arnaud Massy in 1907, remains – thanks to Jean van de Velde’s collapse at Carnoustie in 1999 – the only Frenchman to have won the old pot.
Despite his inactivity Woods retains a prominent spot in the betting. He has been here since Saturday and, after replacing the flag at the second hole, completed his preparations with some chipping and putting by the clubhouse.
He will find this a different course and stronger field. The bleached fairways of 2006 are verdant and lush in 2014. The heavy showers that peppered the course in the early afternoon deepened the hue and ensured the ball will not be rolling as it did eight years ago.
The greens, too, are more receptive, balls leaving uncharacteristic impressions on putting surfaces that organisers had hoped might be quicker. With the forecast looking more settled than earlier predictions suggested, the tea leaves point to another player of pedigree and form taking control.
Thus are Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer attracting the greater share of the betting dollars. The Royal and Ancient chief executive, Peter Dawson, has fingers crossed that the wind might at least give the world’s best reason to blink. “We remember some pretty horrendous scenes. I think it was at Birkdale when the tents blew down all those years ago,” he said.
“I don’t think in this week in July that we’ve seen massive changes in weather compared to before. What we want, I think, is a good links. Breezy, sunny conditions is what we’d like to see. We know we won’t get that every day, but we hope we’d get some of it. Our mind set is just to accept what weather we get, and the players have to adapt to it.”
Moving on to matters within his control, Dawson said he would be happy to sit down with his counterparts at the England and Wales Cricket Board to avoid the kind of high-summer scheduling mess that sees The Open and the Lord’s Test coincide. “I would be very pleased to do that. I know it’s a difficulty for many people. And a very unfortunate clash, in what’s becoming a very crowded summer these days. Part of the reason, I think, and this isn’t a criticism, is that different television companies now cover events that the same television company used to cover. So the chances of clashes are perhaps slightly greater than in the old days. But I accept the point, and I would be more than open to such a discussion.”
* A man was arrested after an apparent attempt was made to drive a golf buggy out of the gates at Royal Liverpool today. Pictures emerged on social media of the buggy, owned by the R & A, on a banking outside the gate. Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, R & A director of championships, said: “Police are now investigating and I cannot say any more at this time.”
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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