World’s best descend on Royal Portrush for 148th Open
The Open returns to Ireland for the first time since 1951 with Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland the venue. Max Faulkner won that year, and Portrush is the home town of 2011 Open winner and crowd favourite Darren Clarke.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will also attract plenty of crowd support, and McIlroy shattered the course record here with a stunning 61 at just 16-years-old.
Royal Portrush Golf Club
The Dunluce course at Portrush usually plays as a par-72 for the members, but at the Open two par fives will be converted to stiff par fours and the course will play to a par of 70. The layout has hosted two Amateur Championships (1960, 1993) and six Senior Open Championships (1995-1999, 2004). Most recently, it hosted the 2012 Irish Open.
Brooks Koepka, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson appear the favourites with the highest expectations on McIlroy playing in Northern Ireland.
McIIroy’s Open Championship record is near impeccable with two wins among 11 top-10s. Since his 2014 Open title, he has recorded a T5-T4-T2 placings.
Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott is a Portrush local and this will certainly serve the world No.1 well should conditions get tough, as they usually do over four days of Irish weather.
Francesco Molinari, the defending champion, always rises to the occasion at The Open. He finished in a share of 10th position at the 2012 Irish Open and will use that experience to his advantage this week.
It would be remiss not to mention Henrik Stenson, arguably one of the world’s best ball strikers in the wind. His 2019 season started poorly, yet the 2016 Open Champion has found form and heads into this week with three consecutive top-10s finishes.
Stenson’s last victory came at the 2017 Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour, yet it is on the links cousres that he produces his best golf. The 11-time European Tour winner is coming off a solid top-5 finish at the Scottish Open and is certainly exhibiting similar form to his successful 2016 season.
World No.16 Adam Scott is having one of the best seasons of the last 15 years despite not having a win with six top-10 finishes including a 3rd place at the US PGA Championship.
The Australian has been in Northern Ireland for a week getting tips from Darren Clarke about how to manage Royal Portrush. Scott’s preparation is the same as he did at Carnoustie a year ago where he finished in a tie for 17th position and he’ll be looking to improve his 2012 runner-up result in this championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Other Australians in the field include Dimi Papadatos and Jake McLeod, who are both playing in the first championship, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith and Jason Day.
Leishman has five top-10s in majors, three of which have come at The Open where his confidence in the wind pays dividends. The Victorian has enjoyed a solid 2019 including five top-10s, with the most recent a solo 5th at the Memorial.
At St. Andrews in 2015, Leishman was in the hunt in a three-way playoff for the title, yet was unlucky when his tee shot landed in a sand filled bunker on the first playoff hole to go onto record a tied runner-up finish.