Last year, the golfing calendar underwent something of a reconfiguration. The Players Championship was moved to March and its space in the calendar in May was taken by the USPGA Championship, which was usually played in the middle of August. This means that in the new calendar, the USPGA is now the second Major of the year contested and the final Major of the year is now the British Open.
So far, American players have dominated the three previous Majors of the year. Tiger Woods won his 15th Major title in emotional scenes at Augusta in April and in May, Brooks Koepka landed his second USPGA Championship in a row (and his fourth Major in his career). Then last month, unfancied Gary Woodland surprised many by taking the US Open at Pebble Beach. Can American golfers make it a clean sweep of Major’s this year at Royal Portrush this week, or will another player from a different part of the world step up to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday night?
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The British Open
First contested back in 1860, the British Open is by far the oldest of the four Majors in golf. Traditionally played over links courses at venues across Scotland, eventually more courses were included in the Open roster to include courses in England and now also in Northern Ireland, although we are still waiting to see the first Welsh course join this elite group.
Many of the top players in the world have lifted the famous Claret Jug including Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy and the current champion is Italian Francesco Molinari.
British Open Records
- Oldest Winner – Old Tom Morris (46 years, 102 days) in 1867
- Youngest Winner – Young Tom Morris (17 years, 156 days) in 1868
- Most Open Victories – Harry Vardon – 6 – (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914)
- Most Consecutive Victories – 4 – Young Tom Morris (1868, 1869, 1870, 1872) There was no Open Championship contested in 1871.
- Lowest Open Championship Winning Score – 264 (-20) – Henrik Stenson in 2016
- Lowest Open Championship Round – 62 – Branden Grace in 2017
- Largest Prize Fund – $10.75 million (in 2019)
This Year’s Venue – Royal Portrush – Dunluce Course
Royal Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland will host its second ever British Open Championship, 68 years after the first was held at the course back in 1951, which was won by the English golfer Max Faulkner.
The course is rated one of the top 100 courses in the world and was ranked four by Golf World magazine in their list of the top 100 courses in the British Isles. Golf Digest ranked it as the fourth best course outside of the United States back in 2007.
There are two courses at Royal Portrush with the Dunluce Links being the one that will host the Open. The course is 7344 yards in length (par 71) from the tees in this tournament and some of the most striking holes are the 16th and 17th, named Calamity Corner and Purgatory, which gives players every idea of how tough these closing holes are.
The course has hosted the Irish Open back in 2012 when Rory McIlroy was the winner and it has also hosted The Amateur Championship in 2014 and the Boys Amateur Championship last year.
The record on the old course was 61, shot by Rory McIlroy in 2005, but on the new layout the record is 65, held by Caolan Rafferty since 2017. The feeling is that if the wind does not blow, that record could well be under threat in this year’s Open Championship.
Darren Clarke, a Northern Ireland former Open winner at Royal St George back in 2011, will be the honorary starter on Thursday morning hitting the opening tee short of the tournament.
A Trio of Players to Back
I think the omens are good for local favourite Rory McIlroy (9/1 with bet365) to perhaps land another British Open to add to the one he won at Hoylake back in 2014. He is familiar with the course, holding the old course record here before the redesign, and of course, playing in his native homeland should be a hugely motivating factor.
McIlroy has done well in Majors this year without ever really pushing hard into contention but I think with this being on home soil, he may well have been focusing primarily on this tournament this year and I expect him to go very well and I think backing him to win at 9/1 is a good bet.
I’d also pick two longer odds selections as very feasible each way bets and the first of these is another British-based player in Tommy Fleetwood. It’s fair to say Fleetwood didn’t enjoy his ‘home’ Open last year at Royal Birkdale but he is well used to playing on links courses and his game is in pretty good shape. He has contended in Majors before, especially in the United States and at odds of 30/1, I think he is an excellent each way option.
I also feel that Phil Mickelson (100/1) is a fantastic each way bet. Mickelson realised many years ago that he needed to properly prepare for British Opens and made sacrifices to come over and play events in the UK prior to the Open and he was rewarded with a win in the event in 2013 and he has also finished second in 2016 to Henrik Stenson. He hasn’t had the best of seasons, hence his odds, but he has crafted his game well to adapt to links golf and I think he is capable of putting together four low rounds to surprise a few this week.
*All odds shown are correct with bet365 at the time of writing (1pm on Tuesday 17th July)