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Back to Back - Rory Tipped to Win the Open

Rory McIlroy (15/2) is going back to back to win his 5th major this week at Royal Liverpool. He will end an unthinkable 9 year major drought and leave many doubters who believed at 34 he was “done,” “not good enough” and “not at the same level as the top players anymore” with egg on their face.

History will continue to repeat itself with my second selection. In 2014 when Rory lifted the claret jug, Little Rickie (28/1) was two shots back after a final round 67, improving his score every day and he’ll be up there to ask questions of Rory on Sunday like Bob, Tom and Tyrell did at the Scottish Open.

As many longtime readers of this column will remember, sometimes there’s a Rahm at Torrey Pines type major when the winner is so obvious you just need to decide how much you want to win so the bookies are still there next week. This is one of those weeks and Rory at anything above 2/1 is a steal.

That said, what I’m not expecting at Royal Liverpool is for Rory to blow the field away. In 2014 he went 66-66-68-71 and it’s a hallmark of recent times in contention where Sunday is much more of a grind than the spectacular golf on Thursday/Friday. But Rory will have taken a lot from this season so far, with a focus and fearlessness stronger than ever before after calling himself a “sacrificial lamb” with the LIV/PGA merger and openly speaking about his desire to lift another major trophy. The latter point is now where 100% of his energy is targeted.

A win at the Renaissance Club this week will spark a major rebirth in the game’s biggest talent. Two wins this season, 2nd at the US Open in June and T7 at the PGA provided ample reminder, as did the missed cut at a very wet Masters, that he’s close but not there yet. But unlike in 2019 at Royal Portrush where the hype was off the charts and Rory was out of the tournament after the first hole, he knows that status, form, hype, odds and talent mean nothing unless you have the discipline to focus solely on golf, something which recent major winners like Scottie the Kid and Fitzmagic have shown to be true.

Twelve months ago we brought you this column from the birthplace of golf where the headlines wrote themselves and Rory had a huge chance to lift the claret jug at St Andrews. Tiger waved goodbye as he walked over the swilcan bridge for the final time and Rory waited in the wings to take his place in the upper echelons of golf where only Rory has the game and character to stand beside the GOAT. Cam Smith just needed dispatching before his rumoured departure to the laughing stock LIV tour and this punter would have made another 5k dent in the bookies accounts. What a difference a year makes.

Rory has learned the hard way that distractions of any kind harm your chances of winning the biggest events, no matter your talent. He’s also learned what losing feels like, but the fearlessness of youth has been replaced by a fearlessness that comes with not needing to focus on anything except the number of major championships he can win to cement his legacy further as one of golfs greats. So as Rory goes into this week with 2x PGA Championships, a US Open and an Open on his mantlepiece, a 2nd claret jug will be his 5th and he’ll go on to win 5 more and end his career with an even 10. Will he complete the career grand slam in that 10? I don’t think he will but I’ll happily be wrong. Come on Rory, let’s have it this week.

With my fanboy remarks on Rory complete I know there’s punters out there who like some value and I’ll oblige below.

Unusually the 2023 Open will be shorter than the 2014 tournament at Royal Liverpool. The course will play 7,283 yards and is a par 71, hosting for the 13th time at Hoylake. There’s a new 17th hole to make what has been viewed by some as a boring course that bit more striking. The weather looks like showers in the morning but brightening in the afternoon on Thursday/Friday, with showers possible throughout the weekend.

In 2014 Rory won with stats of: Driving Accuracy - 21st, Driving Distance - 1st, Greens - 25th, Scrambling - 4th and Putting Average 6th. And in recent Opens the further along the list of those stats you go the more important it is so if you’re looking for one quality, it’s a hot putter. The below graphic for the 2023 season shows strokes gained tee to green and putting - you’ll find some value there when you mix that with recent form going into the Open.

A man that has it all right now, Little Rickie can putt with the best of them and he’s in brilliant form. A win after a big drought at the Rocket Mortgage in June, hitting the ball better than he ever has and putting lights out like he did when he first came on tour, he’s an obvious fit. That 2nd place in 2014 ay Hoylake, a Scottish Open win and a love of playing links golf will put him in a great position to break his major duck.

Cam Smith (17/1) comes off a win in London on the LIV tour and will gladly play the villain again to deny Rory. Putting and Scrambling I’d take Cam Smith over anyone in the field so I fancy him to be there or thereabouts come Sunday and if there’s a shot or two between him and Rory going into the final day then Rory will face classier opposition than he did at the Scottish Open - Cam won’t need much convincing to take advantage of a slow Sunday for Rory. *Note no LIV players are on the graphic above.

Finally I’ll punt you two classy players at huge odds. JT is 80/1 on the Exchange, with Jason Day at 160. JT is starting to show flashes of previous brilliance, he’s put in the work to play a ton of links golf in the last two weeks and at 80/1 he’s far too long. J Day got that all important win at the Byron Nelson but we can’t argue that he’s trending in the right direction after following the win with 3 missed cuts and a T45 at the Travelers. His last tournament was the 25th June so he’s had almost a month to work out what’s been going wrong - and whilst this means he may be rusty after that time off - at 160/1 you’re getting a major champion, a winner this season and a player with a no fucks given approach in targeting another major.

My sharpie pierced through a few names and it was difficult to leave out Major Brooks at the top of that list at 25/1. Out of the 4 majors the Open is the least suited to him and I'm leaving him out this week. Rahm (16/1) and Xander (31/1) are both good value with stats that suggest they should have a great chance but as much as I try I can't bet on every player and I'll still take Rory, Rickie and Cam over any of these all said and done.

Have a great week.

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