British Open Golf
Royal Portrush Northern Ireland
All roads head to Northern Ireland and the return to Royal Portrush after a gap of 68 years.
The Dunluce links course is really demanding and amongst the best in the world, and if the wind gets up, lookout! Course management will be vital as Tiger showed when winning at Hoylake in 2006 by using the driver only once all week, having sussed out that the ball must be kept in play and that his irons would roll far enough on a dry course to allow shorter irons into the green. Rory holds the course record, but this course has been slightly altered to make it tougher, even so his knowledge of the course will be vital. Darren Clarke knows the course better than anyone, but it would be some kind of miracle were he to prevail and the claret jug will be going to whoever executes the best game plan. Patience will also be a key, so players who have been in and around the leaderboard in majors will come to the fore. Accuracy off the tee will also be a key factor as keeping the ball in play is the only way to make a score. In the last ten years, there have been four American winners, four Europeans and two South Africans. I fancy that the South Africans might play well here, and there are some well-known players, available at big prices, with Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Erik Van Rooyen the most likely contenders, but none are in tip-top form. The Americans seem to love the links golf challenge nowadays, and a lot of the top players play well year after year, despite this not being their natural game. Those who have the ability to adapt to the alien conditions can go well, particularly Kuchar, Schauffele, Fowler and Cantlay, all who could be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. Of the Europeans, a number of the younger players will fancy their chances along with Rahm, Rose, Fleetwood, Wallace, Sullivan and defending champion Francesco Molinari, who are all real challengers for the Claret Jug. The two Swedes, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren also need to be at the forefront of any betting plans and were it not for the fact that Noren has been a touch out of form, he would be a real fancy at odds of over 100/1 based on his record on links courses and his ability on windy courses. Former winner Stenson can never be discounted, and he played last weekend. We can only hope that this event can live up to last weekends sporting achievements.
All eyes will be on events across the pond at the British Open, but this is an important event as it offers some of the lower ranked players and newcomers, the chance of a win and a two-year exemption on the PGA tour. Last year’s winner, Troy Merritt was a previous winner, but three years previously, so it was a welcome change of fortune for him and in 2017, Grayson Murray took the title, his maiden tour victory. One of the problems with tipping in this event is that most of the players have been in average form so it is trying to pick out who is playing better than previous results suggest and who can take advantage of this “drop in class. It seems reasonable to expect players who have played well in recent weeks to be challenging over the weekend.