2023 Open Championship expert picks and preview: Rory returns to scene of last major at Royal Liverpool with McIlroy favorite ( ) to lift the Claret Jug again

Our golf handicapper Bryan Nicholson looks ahead to the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool - the scene of Rory McIlroy's last Claret Jug success nine years ago - but the Irishman will face stiff competition if he's to repeat that feat...

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Bryan Nicholson

Golf handicapper

Golf expert, writer and author. Full bio here.

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The Open Championship2023
WhereRoyal Liverpool, Hoylake
WhenJul 20 - Jul 23
How to WatchESPN & CBS

A look ahead to betting on the Open Championship 2023 at Royal Liverpool

Collin Morikawa (4:3)

Collin Morikawa ( ) took the Open Championship at Royal St Georges in benign conditions - Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing that springs to mind for Royal Liverpool in 2023 is who the winner was there the last time the Open Championship was played at the venue. Rory McIlroy ( ) - current FedEx Cup holder - took the Claret Jug home from Hoylake in 2014, and along with picking up the Wannamaker trophy that year, they were his last major triumphs.

Has Rory McIlroy featured strongly in an Open Championship since? Not too often. Rory challenged hard in 2021 for his second Claret Jug and it isn’t a coincidence: he’s not a great wind and links player so when it’s relatively benign he has a chance.

There were outlier conditions in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake. Similar to when Collin Morikawa took down the Open Championship at St. Georges in benign conditions, Rory McIlroy faced the same.

Royal Liverpool is one of the easier links courses on the Open championship Rota when the breezes are light, and it can be attacked through the air like St. Georges. The track may lend itself to an American winner if conditions suit in Open Championship 2023 week.

Forty-six players finished under par and -10 was needed to crack the top ten in what were easy conditions at Royal Liverpool last time the Open Championship was played there. There were two Americans in the top four and a ball striking theme stands out with the likes of Adam Scott ( ) and Sergio Garcia ( ) tucked in behind Rory McIlroy and the Claret Jug.

In fact, the leaderboard was a real mix, with eight countries represented from the top ten and ties.

The 2023 Open Championship market and the winner at St. Andrews

Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm ( ) is just behind Rory McIlroy in the betting for the 2023 Open Championship - Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Unsurprisingly it's Rory McIlroy ( ) who leads the early Open Championship 2023 betting market, with money anticipated to flow on many people’s number one golfer and winner of the Claret Jug last time out at Hoylake.

He was favorite going into that week too. It might pay to wait until closer the off to back Rory for the 2023 Open Championship if you wish to do so and see what is in the weather forecast.

Jon Rahm ( ) Scottie Sheffler ( ), and Open specialist Jordan Spieth ( ) are sandwiched in between Rory McIlroy and Cameron Smith in the betting.

2022 Open Championship winner Cam Smith who was our headline tip at +2500 is now a shot to retain the Claret Jug. The Aussie’s move to LIV golf is an interesting one and we can only speculate as to how things will look between all the main tours when the 2023 Open Championship comes around.

Smith ticks all the boxes for an Open Championship winner and was a pick for St. Andrews due to the fast and firm conditions last year and his short game expertise. Smith had also gained around fifteen to twenty yards off the tee and ranked amongst the top guys in approach last summer. Will Royal Liverpool demand the same skillset?

The course: Royal Liverpool - what should we look for as a prospective Open Championship 2023 winner?

Cam Smith Open Championship 2022

Cam Smith ( ) will be looking to defend the Claret Jug he won in 2022 at Hoylake in 2023 - © Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

As always, the key to profiling a winner is in the course. Royal Liverpool is a true links design which will play around 7,300 yards to a par of 72. In 2006 Tiger Woods, the eventual champion, famously used a 2 iron off the tee for much of the tournament and played those notorious stingers to avoid fairway bunkers which he did with aplomb.

The key attributes and premiums we will need to look for at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake are as follows:

  • Driving accuracy and positioning

  • Scrambling and bunker ability

  • Strong mentality

  • Good wind pedigree

  • Doglegs and run offs

  • Punishing rough and gorse

  • Strategically placed bunkering

'It’s a course where you have to hit the fairways, and greens are equipped with some flat areas where you can hole putts.' This was a quote from Graeme McDowell on Royal Liverpool which stresses the importance of accuracy, and it will be vital to hit fairways and greens in the Open Championship at Hoylake.

The track is said to be blown upon by mighty winds, which is its number one defense. Dunes line the track and if it blows it will be a case of the last man standing – the Grand National of golf events!

Who are we looking at early in our 2023 Open Championship Preview?

Tommy Fleetwood

Local lad Tommy Fleetwood grew up just down the road from Royal Liverpool and is to take the top prize in 2023 - © John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Fleetwood is familiar with this part of the world having grown up around the links courses of Liverpool. Tommy used to sneak onto Royal Birkdale as a young lad and he thrives on this type of test. Fleetwood is renowned as a ball striker – a flusher from tee to green who can shape it both ways and thrives in the wind.

In recent seasons though it’s his short game that’s shown plenty of improvement and he ranked 5th in strokes gained: around the green in 2022. Tommy was T-4 last year in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews and the Open may be his best chance of major success. Fleetwood is currently to win the Claret Jug in 2023.

Give me an off the radar play for the Open Championship 2023 at Hoylake

Joohyung Kim

Joo-hyung Kim caught our attention with a near miss at the Renaissance Club links course in the 2022 Scottish Open - © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joo-hyung Kim or “Tom” as he likes to be known is a man quickly rising through the ranks to prominence. Kim is ranked 21st in the official world golf rankings at the time of writing and has already amassed a handful of wins around the world. Famously, Kim started off with a quad bogey, only to go on to blitz the field for his first PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship.

Interestingly though, the 20-year-old caught our attention with a near miss at the Renaissance Club links course in the 2022 Scottish Open, showing he may be suited to a tough Open Championship test. Coincidentally, Tommy Fleetwood finished one shot back of Joo-hyung in this event.

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