British Open has an old course with a new finish at Royal Liverpool

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Phil Mickelson, of the U.S, pitching onto the green, during a practice round, ahead of the British Open Golf Championship, at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, in Wirral, England, Sunday, July 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

HOYLAKE – Cameron Young is playing only his second British Open, so Royal Liverpool is a new links for him to learn. After flying in Sunday morning, he kept his day short by skipping over from the 14th green to the 18th tee.

That's when his caddie, Paul Tesori, became part tour guide, part historian.

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Pointing to a small grandstand behind the 17th tee, Tesori told Young it previously was the 15th green. The old 15th tee — a par 3 — now is a 620-yard par 5 — the longest in Open history — that heads back toward town. Also moved back is the 18th tee, now playing some 60 yards longer.

Thirty-eight players in the field for the 151st Open also were at Royal Liverpool the last time in 2014. Only nine players in the field were at the last two.

For all of them, this old course has a new finish.

Players began filtering in for the final major of the year. Phil Mickelson was among the early arrivals, a LIV Golf player who played two weeks ago outside London. Abraham Ancer, another LIV player, worked his way toward Hoylake by playing across the Mersey River at Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Defending champion Cameron Smith played early, as did Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay, both of whom missed the cut at the Scottish Open.

Most everyone else was due to arrive on Monday, particularly those coming down from the Scottish Open. That includes Rory McIlroy, who birdied the last two holes at The Renaissance Club for a victory sure to give him a shot of confidence at ending his drought in the majors.

“I haven’t done any early reconnaissance,” McIlroy said. “I haven’t seen the place since 2014. I’ll get out there on the course tomorrow and try to figure it out and make sure I’m ready for Thursday.”

The biggest change to Royal Liverpool is the new 17th hole — a par 3 of just 136 yards that can be a menace with the prevailing wind coming off the Dee Estuary. Designed by British architect Martin Ebert, it stands out for its length and where it falls in routing.

Memorable par 3s are hard to find on the Open rotation — the “Postage Stamp” at Royal Troon, the 12th at Royal Birkdale, the 11th at St. Andrews come to mind — but rarely has a par 3 so short been situated so late in the round.

Ebert said in a story for the official program that comparisons are likely to be make with the Postage Stamp because of its length (123 yards) and the trouble surrounding it.

“However, the nature of Royal Liverpool's hole is quite different with the tee well above the green at Troon, compared with the horizon of the green leading to its flag being silhouetted against the sky at Hoylake,” he said.

How it plays remains an unknown. The greens falls off sharply and steeply to the right toward a pot bunker. A huge sandy area fronts the green, though it shouldn't be in play. Behind the green is peril. Ancer found himself there and pitched up a slope just onto the green.

He hit one 8-iron just over the flag, then hit another with too much altitude that landed short. The previous day, players were said to be hitting as much as 5-iron.

There also is a different flow to the finish — instead of two par 5s among the final three holes, Royal Liverpool's closing stretch now goes 5-4-3-5.

The greater mystery is how the rest of the links will play, and that depends on the weather. It was dry and yellow when Tiger Woods won in 2006 by hitting only one driver all week. It was soft and green when McIlroy powered his way to a wire-to-wire win in 2014.

Sunday began cool and windy with spells of rain, followed by periods of a blazing sun and warmth — all this before it was time for lunch.

The forecast calls for a little bit of everything, with a chance for robust wind on the weekend.

Young was the runner-up in his Open debut last year at St. Andrews, holing a long eagle putt at the 18th to finish one shot behind Cameron Smith. Even for someone just off a trans-Atlantic flight, links golf seemed to energize him.

Before long it was off for food and sleep, and they turned the course over to a celebrity match to get the week started.


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