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British Open Preview: ‘Dawgs in the Field, Tee Times, How to Watch

The Open Qualifying Series - Kolon Korea Open Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

Tournament: The 151st Open Championship, July 20-23, 2023

Course: Royal Liverpool, par 71, 7,313 yards. Also known as Hoylake, as the course lies in the town of Hoylake and Liverpool is about 15 minutes eastward/inland. Northwest England, on the coast of the Irish Sea.

Purse: $16.5 million total, with $3 million to the winner.

Defending Champ: Cameron Smith. The Wizard of the Flat Stick and of Oz put together one of the better final rounds in a major. Third round leader Rory McIlroy looked primed to capture his 2nd British. But he took 36 putts on Sunday, two-putting every hole on the course and was overtaken by Smith’s brilliant 64.

Fun Fact: The Open routing starts at the members #17, and ends on the members #16, a long par 5. Plus, they took away the previous tournament #17 (a par 4) and instead added a brand new hole. A dinky little par 3 is brand new to the routing, but it heads straight into the winds off the Irish Sea and has a domed green, sure to repel balls into the sand, estuary, or the seriously deep greenside bunkers. With wind, this hole could ruin someone’s chances. With no wind, it could allow someone to close on a heater.

TV Times: these are listed in Eastern, so adjust your viewing and/or alarm clock accordingly. Thursday-Friday, 1:30 a.m.-4 a.m. ET (Peacock), 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (USA), 3 p.m.-4 p.m. (Peacock). Saturday, 5 a.m.-7 a.m. (USA), 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 4 a.m.-7 a.m. (USA), 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC).

‘Dawgs in the Field: 6. Harris English, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Sepp Straka, and Brendon Todd.

We’re quickly reaching the end of the season, as the golf world gathers across the pond for the Open Championship. I’ll just refer to it as the British Open - they can brand it however they want but it’s the easiest way to distinguish it from the US Open.

Out of Bounds mark the course periphery, with some residences, a hotel, and a pub or two. The Irish Sea tends to be a spot of bother at times for the holes along the water. There is even internal OB along several holes, mostly where the driving range normally sits - except it is going to be covered in corporate tents and the practice area is instead down the road at a local municipal course.

Tiger Woods won in the British at Hoylake in 2006 when it was bone-dry - he actually hit but a single driver on the first day, and never took the head cover off the rest of the tournament. Rory won it last time (2014) on these grounds, but the course was much softer (not soft, just softer) and there was virtually no wind. After a dry spring, the course has had plenty of rain the last couple of months. Plus the forecast is for strong chances of passing showers each day, and a steady 10-12 mph wind.

The course relies on wind, and that is incorporated into its architecture and conditioning. Being at sea level, there are no elevation changes but it is far from flat - the fairways are continuously rolling, often feeding into the small but deep bunkers. The greens are the flattest surfaces, as balls would not otherwise stay on any slope due to the constant buffeting of the coastal breezes and gusts. They say that the trick is not landing the ball on the green, but in keeping it there. Stingers, sawed-off swings, bump-and-runs will be the shots du jour.

Though knackered from holiday, I was dead chuffed to gander at the field list and find some dishy bloke names. There is a Tiger in the field (Christensen, an amateur) and a Tiaga (Semikawa). Just no Tiger Woods. We have Adri, Haydn, Laurie, Nacho (yep), Ewen, Rasmus, Bio, Christo and Thriston are countrymen, Romain, Hurly, Joost, a real-life Guido, Yannick, Thorbjorn, Sami, Graeme (not DawgOutWest), Charl and Callum, Marcel, Ockie makes an appearance, and aye - a Seamus for good measure. And those are just the first names.

But here are the names you probably care about most:

Harris English makes his 8th appearance, having made the cut 5 times previously and a best of T15 in 2013. He starts his Open Thursday at 8:14 am GMT/3:14 am ET.

Brian Harman tied for 6th last year, so he had an automatic invite to this year’s field. He has also played 7 previous times, but with 4 missed cuts. He tied for 19th in 2021, and again tied for 6th last year as his best finish. Last time here at Hoylake in 2014, Harman was T-26. And he’s not finished worse than 12th in his last 3 golf tournaments. The lefty gets it going at 1:48 pm GMT/8:48 am ET.

Russell Henley has played in 8 previous British Opens, but only has a T20, T37, T62, T73, and 4 missed cuts to show for it. I believe he qualified with his T4 finish at this year’s Masters. He tees off Thursday at 6:46 am GMT, 1:46 am ET.

Chris Kirk was top 50 in world rankings as of the end of May and thus was invited to play. Kirk turned professional in 2008. And even though he has 5 Tour titles, this is only the fifth time he’s played the British (it may be he turned it down a year or two). Thursday’s tee time is 8:47 am GMT/3:47 am ET.

Sepp Straka is also top 50 in the world thanks to decent play this season and his 2nd Tour win two weeks ago. He first played the British Open last year, missing the cut (badly). But he’s the first Austrian with a PGA Tour card, and could be the first Austrian to win the British. He’s paired with fellow ‘Dawg Chris Kirk the first two rounds.

Brendon Todd qualified in an interesting way. The British Open has a “qualifying series” in which top finishes in events around the world will get you an invite. Todd finished 8th at the Wells Fargo in May - not good enough to qualify by itself. But 3 of those ahead of him were already exempt, then Wyndham Clark qualified by another route by the end of May, thus Tood was the 4th best finish not already exempt. Pack your bags, Brendon. He’s played here 3 times before with a T12 in 2015. He will try to take advantage of it Thursday afternoon at 12:20 pm GMT/7:20 am ET.

Keith Mitchell was a victim of the same qualification rules. At No. 60 by the end of May, he expected the R&A (committee running the British Open) to start filling slots with those lower than the #50 cutoff point, since many of those high-ranked players were exempt through other means. But the R&A has that qualifying series with tournaments all over the world, and they were able to fill the field strictly with the exemptions. So Keith is back in the US playing the Barracuda Championship in the Lake Tahoe area. As is Greyson Sigg.

So if you want to see your Bulldogs, or really any golf, be prepared to watch it first thing in the morning. At those latitudes, the sun is out a long time and they will be playing golf past 8 or 9 pm local both Thursday and Friday. Which means it ends early-mid afternoon for us in the States.

I’m brining my tablet to work and will have the golf running non-stop in the background. Though the forecast is getting more benign by the minute, it can change quickly and is often hard to predict. I’m hoping for lots of wind to both dry the course out and to force creative shot-making. Enjoy whatever comes, and as always...