Tournament: The Open Championship, July 18-21, 2019
Course: Royal Portrush (Dunluce Links Course), Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland; 7,317 yards, par 72.
Purse: $10,750,000; 1st place - $1,935,000; 2nd - $1,120,000, 3rd - $718,000
Defending Champion: for this annual tournament? Francesco Molinari. Coming off a pretty great stretch of golf, he came from behind and overtook Tiger Woods on the final day to capture the Claret Jug (pictured above, and the trophy presented to the winner). For this course? Max Faulkner in 1951. Because the Open Championship rotates amongst 6-8 courses, and has not been played in Northern Ireland since the ‘51 event, won by Faulkner. Do your own research on how all that went down.
Fun Fact: In order to get the Open back to Royal Portrush, the club had to agree to abandon two holes, and to build two complete new ones. The old space will be taken up by the massive spectator interactive area and infrastructure from the R&A (Royal & Ancient, the organization that owns and runs the tournament (the USGA for Europe)). They were bold, agreed, and now have 2 new holes.
Television, and How to Watch: Thursday/Friday Golf Channel 1:30 am -4 pm ET; Saturday Golf Channel 5-7 am ET, NBC 7 am-3 pm; Sunday Golf Channel 5-7 am ET, NBC 7 am-2 pm ET.
Live Streaming: golfchannel.com It appears featured group and featured hold coverage will be available on the interwebs starting at 1:30 Thursday and Friday, and at 5:00 am Saturday and 4:00 am ET Sunday. It is also available at open.com and on the R&A’s The Open app (I believe for both Apple and Android).
‘Dawgs in the Field: 4. Bubba Watson, Brian Harman, Keith Mitchell, Kevin Kisner.
There, as usual, are a million storylines. Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy would be the biggest story, as he is one of the betting favorites and beloved as a countryman. Other Irishmen Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington are entered, and already have an Open Championship to their credit. But the biggest surprise with local flavor would be Graeme McDowell, who won the US Open in 2010, but was born in Portrush and is a lifelong member here. Not to mention he barely qualified by sinking a 35 foot putt on the final hole at the RBC Canadian Open last month.
Brooks Koepka is another favorite, having finished 1-2-1-2 in his last four major appearances. Dustin Johnson continues to have good money after his name, but hasn’t made a splash in a couple of months. Englishman Justin Rose has been playing great worldwide of late, but has only the 2013 US Open in his ledger. Defending champ and Italian Molinari has good odds, as does Spaniard Jon Rahm . Then Tiger Woods, winner of the 2019 Masters and 14 other majors, is roughly the 5th or 6th best odds as of now. Personally, I don’t see it. It won’t surprise me either way, I’m just not feeling it.
Of the former Bulldogs playing, I like Kisner the best. He’s solid, and drives it the best. There are only 58 bunkers on the course (less than half of most links courses), but they are notoriously penal and don’t often allow a player to do other than wedge it out, often sideways or backwards. And proving he can play this kind of golf, Kisner was in serious contention last year in this major, tied for the lead in both the 3rd and final rounds. Plus, there’s this:
Tee Times: Remember that Northern Ireland is 5 hours ahead of Athens, so I’ll put these in East Coast times.
Bubba Watson: 2:41 am ET.
Kevin Kisner: 5:09 am ET
Keith Mitchell: 7:42 am ET
Brian Harman: 9:37 am ET
The first groups tee off at 6:35 am local, and the last groups at 4:16 pm local. So yes, you will see that they have a LOT of daylight in those latitudes, and play very early and very late considering it’s a 5 hour round of 18 holes.
So while East Coast prime time golf is always a treat, so is waking up to major championship golf on some of the oldest courses in the world. The weather could be interesting... Thursday’s forecast is high of 62 with chance of rain between 30-60% and sustained winds of 15 mph. Then again, that is the forecast 300 days of the year, so maybe not interesting. But it could make for some fun TV watching. Enjoy it and rooting on our boys, and as always...