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McDowell likes his chances this week because he believes the Hoylake course suits his game. The Northern Irishman had a relatively slow start to the season but burst into the spotlight when he successfully defended the title at the recent Alstrom French Open at Paris National. He led after the first round at this Championship at Hoylake in 2006 and was still in contention until a last round 79 scuppered his chances.
Woods was asked what result would fulfil his expectations this week and it took him about a millisecond to respond that only a win would do. That might seem somewhat optimistic for a man who has had major back surgery and has played just two competitive rounds since March. However, we’re talking about Tiger here and he will certainly have warm memories of Hoylake to spur him on should he get into the mix come Sunday afternoon. It will be fascinating to see what transpires.
No Japanese player has ever won The Open but there are plenty of insiders who believe this 22 year-old from Ehime could be the man to do it. Tiger Woods is one person who believes Matsuyama has a lot of game as he certainly showed that earlier this year when he claimed his first PGA Tour victory at the Memorial Tournament. He also showed he can adapt to links by finishing 6th on his Open debut at Muirfield 12 months ago.
The 25 year-old from Holywood, Northern Ireland, shot 78 in the second round of this year’s Masters, 74 in the second round of the US Open and 78 on the second day at last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen. That’s a worrying trend but if he can halt it there is no reason why McIlroy can’t claim a third Major title here at Hoylake.
The former Masters champion finished tied-8th the last time The Open was played at Hoylake but it is only in the last couple of years that he has become a real contender at the world’s oldest Championship. Regular golf watchers will remember how he lost to Ernie Els at Lytham in 2012 but he bounced back with a share of third place last year at Muirfield and is almost certain to be in the hunt again. The popular Australian might well be the man the rest of the field have to beat.