As the golfing fraternity unites for one final time in 2023, Hoylake hosts the 151st Open Championship and maybe, just maybe, Tommy Fleetwood is in the box-seat.
With PGA, DP World and Japan Tours meeting on the Merseyside coast, for many, this remains the most prestigious tournament in golf.
After Cam Smith won his first major at St. Andrews last year, who will claim the Claret Jug on Sunday evening at Royal Liverpool?
Fate for Fleetwood? – 22/1 for 8 places with William Hill
Is this finally the week Tommy Fleetwood delivers on the major stage, in his own back yard no less?
Much like Matt Fitzpatrick did at Brookline in last year’s US Open, the Southport native has been one of golf’s nearly men, but ready to rise to glory.
Still without a win on the PGA Tour, the Englishman’s three-year winning drought was, however, ended in South Africa earlier this season.
More importantly, in recent months now under the guidance of Butch Harmon, Fleetwood has been playing the best stuff of his career.
Coming home T5 at Oak Hill last month, he arrives home on the heels of a T6 at the Genesis Scottish Open last weekend and as a runner-up in the Canadian Open.
Whilst only three British players have won the Open in the last 24 years, the wait for a English winner of the Claret Jug stretches back yet further.
Indeed, it was Sir Nick Faldo‘s victory at Muirfield in 1992 – his third Open win – the last time the colour of St. George adorned the trophy.
The last time an Englishman won the Open on English soil was Tony Jacklin way, way back in 1969 at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s – not a million miles from Hoylake. An omen?
Could Fleetwood finally be the man to end 31 years of hurt, and in the case of the above, far longer?
The form book
Of the form bunch, Rory McIlroy, of course, must be taken very seriously.
However this time, the Northern Irishman is buoyant.
Fresh from winning for the first time on Scottish soil at Renaissance, the Briton, seeking to end a nine-year wait for a major is primed to claim a second Claret Jug after a win at Hoylake in 2014.
Having come agonisingly close in 2022, McIlroy is the favourite this week at 15/2 and with some justification.
Rickie Fowler, a contender at the US Open, rather floundered on the Scottish coastline last time out, but still waiting for his first major was runner-up to McIlroy here nine years ago.
Form like his this year and that statistic cannot be overlooked.
The man McIlroy practiced with earlier this week, Tyrrell Hatton, was a central figure last weekend but rather imploded in the wind in the final shake-up.
If Fleetwood is the big English hope – as a runner-up at Sawgrass in March and with two T6 Open finishes -Hatton is not far behind at 25/1 for 8 places with William Hill.
Away from the PGA Tour, Talor Gooch could be good price to feature.
Quite simply the best player in the LIV Golf League this year, the Oklahoman has won three times since April.
Gooch may have only been T33 at Royal St. George’s in 2021 and a place lower last year but has the qualities for this test at 80/1.
However, the man who won LIV London at Centurion earlier this month, Cam Smith, can make a strong defence of his title at Hoylake.
Edging namesake Cam Young 12 months ago, the Australian, having grown to love the conditions, is as good a shout as any this week.
Of the many outsiders, David Lingmerth might also be a name to consider.
The Swede, who only qualified for Hoylake after grabbing one of three places at Renaissance last weekend has five top-ten finishes on the PGA Tour this season.
Though the 35-year-old has a less than impressive best of 74th in the 2015 Open at the Home of Golf, his T3 in East Lothian is enough to suggest his form could carry over.
Lingmerth is a massive price of 300/1 for 8 places with Betfred.
If we continue to cast an eye over events of last week, Sam Burns looks primed for Links golf.
But for a freak bunker-initiated treble on Sunday, the American, who claimed the WGC Dell Technologies this term, would have had a top-ten finish likely with ease.
Meanwhile, what of Padraig Harrington‘s chances?
The veteran Irishman, no stranger to living with the trophy – for two years, in fact – featured at Renaissance and went into the final round only mere shots off the lead.
With some talking up a unlikely wildcard call-up for the Ryder Cup, Harrington can boost his chances of facing Team USA for a seventh time.
One final name to ponder for the betslip, Thomas Detry is well into treble figures with the bookies.
A player 52nd in the FedEx Cup standings, the Belgian has been the beneficiary of LIV Golf, taking a card in the States.
Though his record does standout, Detry shot up the leaderboard last weekend before fading badly.
His results do not scream Champion Golfer of the Year, but his potential for a good week is there at 250/1 for 8 places with BoyleSports.