HOYLAKE, England — Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which was built in 1869 and is the second oldest seaside course in England, has undergone a makeover since the Open Championship was last played there in 2014.
The par has been adjusted from 72 to 71. There are now four par 3s and three par 5s. The course has also been slightly lengthened from 7,312 yards to 7,383.
The biggest change is the addition of a new 17th hole. The 136-yard par 3 replaces a 458-yard par 4. Part 3, called “The Little Eye”, plays towards the estuary of the Dee and Wales. Players will face tricky headwinds at the top, and those who miss elevated greens will be left with difficult ups and downs.
Not surprisingly, the new 17th hole is getting mixed reviews.
“The old par-3 15 was the complete opposite of the hole,” Spain’s Jon Rahm said. “You’ve got a short downhill hole, most likely downwind, with all the edges sloping toward the center of the green. I thought it was a good hole. You can make a birdie, and if you miss the green, a boge was eavesdropping.
“This time, they made a really tough par-3 turtle shell. If you hit a good shot, put it on the green, you’ve got a clear look at birdie. If you miss the green, you’ve got a clear look at bogey. . one shot lead, this hole could be crucial.”
Brooks Koepka said he likes the new par 3, comparing its length to the iconic 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, the 17th hole “Island Green” at TPC Sawgrass and the eighth hole “Postage Stamp” at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. the site of next year’s Open Championship.
“I think it’s an interesting hole,” Koepka said. “It depends on the wind. If you’ve got a headwind out there, it can be very interesting. I’m a big believer in short par-3s, make it tough, just like that. I’m not a big fan of 260, 250 [yards]. I don’t want to say his excitement, but it’s kind of boring. You already know it’s a 3-iron and everyone is hitting the same spot, where I think all the best par-3s in the world that have ever been designed are 165 yards or shorter.
“There are a lot of them, and you can get away with 5 as easily as you can [birdie] that. I like it.”
Hole 17 – The Little Eye.
Par 3. 136 yards.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2023
Among other notable changes made by Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert International Golf Course Architects: The 10th hole was converted to a 507-yard par-4, making it one of the most difficult holes on the course (previously was a 532-yard par-5); the 15th hole is now a 620-yard par-5 (formerly a 161-yard par-3); and the 16th hole is now a 461-yard par-4 (previously a 577-yard par-5).
In addition, a new fairway bunker was added to the first hole. The front green on the fourth hole, the shortest par-4 on the course, was raised to produce a flatter landing area and the overall size of the green was reduced. The par-4 seven has a new green area and sand in the fairway. The tee boxes on the par-5 18th hole were moved 50 yards back and to the right. The off-limits area on the 18th was widened to make the road narrower.
“As far as the 18th, bringing it out of bounds, I think it’s a lot better,” said DP World Tour player Matthew Jordan, who has been a member of Royal Liverpool for the past 20 years. “I think that makes it a proper risk-reward hole. If you get a good drive, you can go for it. Then also the save to the left makes the fairway a lot harder because it’s a little bit longer now . I think certainly in my opinion, 18 in particular has been a great change.”
Defending champion Cameron Smith, who won the 150th Open at St. Andrews in Scotland, said he played the 1-under-5 and 14-under-18 holes at Royal Liverpool on Sunday and showed that the greens are not as fast or as smooth as those on the Old Course last year.
“The greens here I think are probably a little flatter than maybe some of the other greens we’ve played at The Open,” Smith said, “but the penalty for not having a green here is I think maybe a little worse in some cases.”
Strong LIV Golf contingent
The potential alliance between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has cooled some of the friction between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf League. There are 16 players from the LIV Golf League in the field this week, including past Open champions Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson and Smith.
Other LIV Golfers competing in The Open are Abraham Ancer, Richard Bland, Laurie Canter, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson, Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Thomas Pieters and Patrick Reed.
The field does not include LIV Golf’s Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia, who have combined to compete in 117 Opens in the past.
This will be the last time golf fans will see players from both counties compete in the same tournament this season. It is also the last opportunity for LIV Golf League players to earn Official World Golf Ranking points, barring an announcement from the OWGR governing board that players can earn points at LIV Golf League events.
A handful of LIV Golfers, including Reed, Niemann, Gooch and Ancer, must finish in the top 10 this week to be guaranteed a spot in the 2024 Open Championship. Reed’s five-year exemption for winning the 2018 Masters ends this year, and Niemann had an exemption to qualify for the 2022 Tour Championship. Ancer was ranked in the world’s top 50 at the end of May (he’s now 68th), and Gooch qualified by finishing at the top 30th in FedEx Cup points last year.
Of course, a lot could change if the LIV Golf League and the PGA Tour merge before next year’s Open Championship.
There are two sets of brothers on the field this week: Matt Fitzpatrick and his younger brother, Alex, and twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard from Denmark. Alex Fitzpatrick, who played at Wake Forest, made it through the open field to the final qualifiers. Nicolai Højgaard was among the final three qualifiers, tying for sixth at the Scottish Open last week.
The last brothers to compete in the same open championship were Francesco and Edoardo Molinari in St. Andrews in 2015.
It is believed to be the first time two sets of brothers have competed in the same open championship since 1985, when Spain’s Manuel and Seve Ballesteros and Japan’s Naomichi and Tateo Ozaki competed at Royal St. George’s.
Matt Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open champion, said he has offered his brother plenty of advice.
“He came last week to play 18, which I think was helpful, to see the golf course, no stress, no rush; and then I told him to take it easy these next few days, nine holes each day,” Matt said. “I remember talking to my coach, Mike [Walker]about what I need to do in my first Open in 2013, and that’s what he emphasized, is don’t tire yourself.
“And then the other one isn’t just the media, either, just so he can focus, focus on himself and stay far away from you.”
More than anything, Matt said he’s looking forward to sharing the week with his brother. It will be Alex’s first start in a major. “It’s my little brother,” Matt said. “I almost wanted to call Francesco and Edoardo and ask them: ‘How is it? How is the dynamic between you? Is that weird?” People ask, “What would you do if you were in the last group on Sunday? I said, “Well, that would be my worst nightmare, to be honest.”
Players have been greeted by cooler temperatures and spells of rain at Royal Liverpool Golf Club so far this week. On Tuesday morning it was pouring on the course. According to the Met Office’s weekly weather forecast, the forecast for the rest of the week looks to be much the same.
Thursday’s forecast for the opening rounds calls for cloudy skies with a slight chance of light rain. Temperatures are expected to range from 55 to 61 degrees. West to northwest winds 12 to 16 mph, with gusts 20 to 25 mph.
The weekend forecast, for now, is a little more stark: “Most likely a continuation of mostly dry and moderately windy conditions with some rain; winds mainly from a westerly sector. Lower confidence into the weekend with a potential for a longer spell of rain on Saturday. Feeling quite chilly with below average temperatures during the day, potential to recover a bit into the weekend.”
Tee times for the first two rounds will not be released until Tuesday morning, but the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) has already announced that Jordan will hit the opening shot of the tournament on Thursday. Jordan, 27, grew up here on the Wirral Peninsula. He was 10 when Tiger Woods won the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool; Jordan was 18 when Rory McIlroy lifted the Claret Jar there in 2014.
“[Woods] I walked through the clubhouse in ’14 on Sunday, trying to check in, and I just froze,” Jordan said. “And then again, in ’06, he was on the green, and I don’t think I’ve moved in 20 years. minutes. He was my kind of hero and to be able to see him in the flesh and watch him do what he did, especially on your way home, was huge.”
Jordan qualified for the Open by shooting rounds of 65 and 69 to finish second in a final qualifier in West Lancashire, England, on July 4.
Matthew Jordan became a member of Royal Liverpool when he was 7 years old.
Twenty years later, he will hit the opening ball at The 151st Open. pic.twitter.com/56QJJTQn5u
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2023
“I just want to play the golf course the way I know I can, the way I do in practice, the way I normally would if I’m here preparing for another event,” Jordan said. “And if I feel like I can do that, then I know I can do well here. For me, it’s not about letting the occasion dictate what exactly I do. I’m just playing the golf course.”