Open Championship ante-post tip preview: Tommy Fleetwood a serious contender at local course

As the Open Championship returns to the north-west of England, Tipstrr golf pundit Brendan Skilling believes the stage is set for local boy Tommy Fleetwood to get his hands on the Claret Jug.

The final Major of the season is undoubtedly the most prestigious of all golf's prizes, The Open Championship. 

Cameron Smith lifted the iconic Claret Jug at St. Andrews in last year's 150th edition of golf's oldest championship and he will be back to defend his title in the 2023 renewal at Royal Liverpool, which is on hosting duties for the twelfth time, and the first since 2014.

Much like the other hosts of this year's Majors, the Harry Colt-designed Royal Liverpool has undergone significant renovations since it last hosted nine years ago.

Rory McIlroy won with a 17-under-par total in damp weekend conditions that year, but we can expect it to play much tougher this time round, with several holes remodelled, narrowed and lengthened, and with every one of its 7,395 yards providing a sterner test. 

Nonetheless, we can expect to see the Irishman looking to replicate that famous win and he is unsurprising one of the early favourites at 9/1.

After last year's St Andrews birdie fest, we can expect to see par protected more preciously on Merseyside. Tiger Woods famously won here in 2006 without taking his driver out the bag, and again accuracy and placement will be key with a number of intimidating tee shots lying in wait.

There's also a brand-new 17th hole, a diabolical little par 3 of only 130 yards with danger lurking on all sides which could very well decide the Championship.

As ever at the Open, much will depend on the weather, as links courses tend to rely on wind alongside their pot bunkers as the main lines of defence, while a favourable draw will also help and may be worth up to two shots over the field.

At this stage it makes sense to stick with proven links operators, of whom the first selection is Tommy Fleetwood. Hailing from nearby Southport, he's sure to have plenty of support here as he looks to build on an impressive links record that has seen him consistently challenge on coastal tracks. Tied for fourth at last year's event, Fleetwood ended a three-year winless streak in December and should be set for a big year.

Next up is Shane Lowry, who merits serious consideration given his record. The 2019 winner is another brought up on links golf and will also enjoy plenty of support from across the Irish Sea.

Finally, at a larger price is Adam Scott. He may be entering the twilight of his top-level career and running out of chances to add to his solitary major victory, the 2013 Masters. His five top-10 Open finishes include his infamous implosion in 2012, when he squandered a four-shot lead by bogeying all of the last four holes to miss out by one shot to Ernie Els. He should have won that year, and he's more than capable of making it consecutive Championship wins for Australians in an event for which they hold a great affinity.

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