‘They should be embarrassed’ – R&A slammed for treatment of defending champion at Open Championship – GolfWRX

The 2023 Open Championship has arrived. The event will be hosted by Royal Liverpool, or “Hoylake”, which has hosted The Open 12 times before. The track will look a little different than it did when we last saw it (2014), but the recipe should remain the same. Players will need to keep it on the fairway to be successful and avoid the penalty areas and thick fescue at all costs.

In the past five editions of the Open Championship, there have been seven first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the seven, five started their rounds in the morning wave, while two started in the afternoon. In the last two Open Championships at Hoylake, five players shot 68 or better, and all five had morning tee times. McIlroy held the solo lead in the first round at -6 and ended up winning the claret jug. First-round leader Graeme McDowell also shot -6 on Thursday in 2006.

Right now the wind doesn’t seem to favor any starting time. Winds will be 10-12 MPH all day with gusts around 18-20 MPH. The pitch is likely to be wet on Thursday, but no rain is expected during play at this time.

2023 Open championship leader election in the first round

Dustin Johnson +4000 (FanDuel)

First round start time: 13:26 BST

In all three majors this season, Dustin Johnson has shot his best round of the week on Thursday. He shot 71 at The Masters in the first round, 67 at the PGA Championship and 64 at the US Open. Now he enters the last major of the year in the best shape he has been in all year.

At the US Open, Johnson had 11.4 strokes from tee to green, which was 5th in the field. That’s a good sign for DJ, who had a slow start to the season. He carried that strong play into the two LIV events that have taken place since. He finished 8th in Valderrama and 5th in London. I believe he peaks at the right time and will be able to score late on Thursday.

Adam Scott +7500 (Bet365)

First round start time: 9:47am BST

The last two Open Championships at Hoylake exemplify how Adam Scott feels about the course. In 2006 Scott finished in a tie for 8th and in 2014 he finished in a tie for 5th. He also shot three rounds in the 60s, including a Sunday 66, which was one stroke short of today’s round.

The course will play a little differently with some changes that were made, but I still think Scott’s course knowledge will come in handy this week. Royal Liverpool is a strategic golf course and the Aussie will know when to play conservatively and when to be aggressive.

Louis Oosthuizen+10000 (BetRivers)

First round start time: 7:52* BST

Louis Oosthuizen has shown some signs of late that he may return to the form that made him a major championship threat in the 2021 season. He finished 4th at LIV London on a course that suits his game and I think Hoylake should also be a strong course to suit Oosthuizen.

Louis is a former Champion Golfer of the Year (2010) and has two top-3 finishes in The Open since then. South Africans Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel have been factors in the rankings in 2006 and 2014. I think it’s Louis’ turn in 2023.

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Branden Grace +11000 (Bet365)

First round start time: 6:35 BST

If Louis Oosthuizen isn’t the South African in the mix this week, then his Stinger GC teammate, Branden Grace, could very well be. The 35-year-old plays in the very first group tee-off, which is always a nice bonus for a first-round lead.

Grace is 6th in the season-long LIV Golf standings, and although his game has dropped a bit of late, he has been one of the best players on LIV since its inception. He is a very accurate driver of the golf ball which I think will be crucial at Royal Liverpool this week. He is also a big wind player and has a 6th place in the Open Championship back in 2017.

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Henrik Stenson +15000 (BetMGM)

First round start time: 8:14am BST

I am extremely high on Henrik Stenson in all formats this week. The 2016 Open Champion is finding form at the right time and will play this week with a chip on his shoulder after being stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy following his decision to join LIV.

In his last start at LIV London, Ice Man finished 2nd in fairways hit and 3rd in greens in regulation, which will be key to taming Hoylake. The course will be incredibly punishing for players who stray both off the tee and on the way to the green, and Henrik’s ability to plot together and play target golf will be a great asset.

LIFE Golf London

Keita Nakajima +20000 (BetRivers)

First round start time: 14:26 BST

Back in 2006, Keiichiro Fukabori of Japan finished one shot off Tiger Woods’ lead in the first round at Hoylake. In 2023, I have my eyes on another Japanese player.

Keita Nakajima was the world’s number one ranked amateur player for a record 87 weeks. The 23-year-old has been tearing it up on the Asian Tour recently. He won the ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament last month to go along with a runner-up finish at the Hana Bank Invitational and also lost in a playoff at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open. As if that wasn’t enough, Nakajima finished in a tie for 3rd at the JAPAN PLAYERS Championship.

Nakajima is blazing hot and has the talent and pedigree to be a factor at Royal Liverpool.

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