Open 2014: Justin Rose in form to claim his second major at Hoylake

By Rob HodgettsBBC Sport at Hoylake
Justin Rose talking at a press conference before The Open
Justin Rose will begin his Open campaign at 14:27 BST on Thursday
The Open Championship 2014
Venue: Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake.
Date: 17-20 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Sport website, mobile & app, and Connected TVs

England's Justin Rose will go into the 143rd Open Championship as one of the firm favourites when the year's third major gets under way at Royal Liverpool on Thursday.

The 33-year-old is golf's most in-form player, with wins in his past two tournaments, as he bids to become the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1992 to lift the famous Claret Jug.

Tiger Woods has recovered from back surgery that caused him to miss the first two majors of the year and returns to the scene of his 2006 triumph as he attempts to win a 15th major and first since 2008.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and world number one Adam Scott are also expected to challenge for a first Open title on the Wirral this week.

Phil Mickelson holds aloft the claret jug.
Phil Mickelson's Open victory last year was his fifth major title

Rose, ranked third in the world, is trying to emulate defending champion Phil Mickelson by winning the Scottish Open and Open Championship in consecutive weeks.

A second major title for Rose this week, to go with the 2013 US Open, would make him the first Englishman to win the Open in England since Tony Jacklin triumphed at Royal Lytham in 1969.

"Thousands of times I've won the Open in my mind," said South Africa-born Rose, who grew up in Hampshire. "This is probably the one I've dreamed about the most."

Rose will begin his quest alongside Australian Scott and American Jason Dufner at 14:27 BST.

Tiger Woods of the United States hugs his caddy Steve Williams after winning the 135th British Open Golf Championships in Hoylake, in Liverpool, in north-west England in 2006.
Tiger Woods' victory at Hoylake in 2006 came two months after his father Earl had passed away

Woods was in tears when he clinched an emotional victory at Hoylake eight years ago, two months after his father and golfing mentor Earl passed away.

Since then, the former world number one has won three more majors but scandal, divorce, injury and swing changes have derailed his quest to beat Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.

Woods's latest injury - after four knee operations - was a back problem which caused him to undergo surgery in late March, and he has played only one tournament since.

The world number seven, however, has travelled to England with only one result in his mind. "First," he said.

The 38-year-old will tee off with Argentine Angel Cabrera and Sweden's world number two Henrik Stenson at 09:04 BST on Thursday.

Selected Tee Times (BST)
06:25 - David Howell (First player to tee off)
09:04 - Tiger Woods
09:26 - Rory McIlroy
14:05 - Phil Mickelson
14:27 - Justin Rose and Adam Scott
16:06 - An Byeong-Hun (Last player to tee off)

"Tiger Woods has been the face of our game for 15-20 years so to have him back is important," said McIlroy.

"It's great to see him healthy, and he always adds a lot of buzz and excitement to the tournament."

McIlroy, who missed the cut 12 months ago during a miserable spell of form, won at Wentworth this season and has shown occasional flashes of the brilliance which has won him a US Open and a US PGA title.

But the 25-year-old has often followed low first rounds with poor second rounds this season, including a 64 followed by a 78 at the Scottish Open and a 15-shot swing in a US tournament earlier this year.

"I feel as prepared as I've ever been coming into an Open Championship," said McIlroy. "Hopefully, I can start to turn that second-round thing around this week."

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy reacts on the 17th green during a practice round at Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, north west England on July 16, 2014 ahead of The British Open Golf Championship.
Rory McIlroy has suffered a torrid time on and off the golf course this year, with numerous poor second rounds and a split with his fiancee, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki

McIlroy will begin his campaign at 09:26 BST with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and 20-year-old American Jordan Spieth, the runner-up at the Masters in April.

Scott, who turned 34 on Wednesday, let slip a four-shot lead with four holes to play to finish runner-up to Ernie Els in the Open at Royal Lytham in 2012 but went on to win the Masters the following year and was third at Muirfield 12 months ago.

Stenson, runaway US Open winner Martin Kaymer and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell are also expected to challenge for the £975,000 first prize, though all would have to buck the recent trend of champions in their 40s.

World rankings: Permutations
If Henrik Stenson wins he becomes world number one if Adam Scott finishes outside the top three
If Justin Rose wins he becomes world number one if Adam Scott finishes outside the top six
If Bubba Watson wins he becomes world number one if Adam Scott finishes outside the top 15

Mickelson was 43 when he won his fifth major last year, Els was 42 and Darren Clarke was also 42 when he clinched the Open at Royal St George's in 2011.

Left-hander Mickelson said winning the Open validated him as a "complete player" and left him just one leg away from clinching a career Grand Slam of all four majors, with just the US Open - in which he has finished runner-up a record six times - missing from his CV.

But Mickelson has struggled for form this season with only one top-10 finish, and a repeat of last year would appear unlikely.

"Normally I would be discouraged or frustrated, but I'm just not," he said. "I believe the next five years are going to be some of the best of my career."

The Hoylake course, founded in 1869, will present a different challenge to eight years ago when a summer heatwave produced a fast, fiery track, prompting Woods to use mostly irons off the tees to navigate his way around the tight links.

Royal Liverpool golf course
Royal Liverpool is the second oldest seaside links golf course in England after Royal North Devon. A links course has an area of coastal sand dunes which makes it particularly tricky to play

The course has been stretched by 54 yards and a number of subtle tweaks made, including the removal of 13 bunkers to make 82 in all.

"It won't be as fast as in 2006, and although it played fantastically, aesthetically it will be much more appealing to the golfer who perhaps hasn't played much links golf. You can clearly see the definition between the fairways and the rough," said Royal Liverpool's head professional John Heggarty.

Facts about Royal Liverpool golf course
Just like the 2006 Open, the 2014 Open will start on the members' 17th hole (Royal) and finish on the 16th hole (Dun).
The green on 'Royal' was redesigned in 2010 and is 40 yards long with tricky run-off areas either side.
Since 2006, 13 bunkers have been removed leaving 82 in total.
Five holes have new swales around the greens to punish errant shots with more varied hazards.
Broken ground has been created on five of the holes in the rough to create tougher escape shots - the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 12th, 14th.

"Hoylake has historically been described as quite a flat course, although the holes down by the shore have the classic links sand dunes.

"But it is very strategic and the way the holes are set up, with clever bunkering, makes it a great test of golf."

England's David Howell, America's 2001 Open champion David Duval and Sweden's Robert Karlsson will get the tournament under way at 06:25 BST on Thursday.

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