15 June 2019
Open Season for Everyone
Almost seventy years after it last visited Royal Portrush Golf Club, The Open will return to the Irish course for its 148th edition. Who will be victorious come July 21?
The Open Championship will make a historic return to Northern Ireland this year, for the first time in nearly 70 years. The oldest major tournament in the world was last staged in Ireland at Royal Portrush Golf Club in 1951.
With the exception of Irishman Rory McIlroy and a handful of European Tour players who took part in the 2012 Irish Open, most participants in this year’s field will not have much experience of playing on the site of this year’s final major.
Ulsterman McIlroy is the lucky one with the most extensive experience of playing this North Ireland course. “Royal Portrush is one of my favorite golf courses in the world, I think it will be a fantastic Open venue,” he said, as quoted by The Irish Post. “They are going to add a couple of new holes to the golf course and I think that will be a great addition and will make the course even stronger. I’m really looking forward to it.”
McIlroy, who lifted the Open trophy at Royal Liverpool in 2014, is taking his preparations for this year’s event seriously. The 30-year-old decided he won’t play at the Irish Open which takes place the week before the Open. Instead, after playing at the Scottish Open, McIlroy will focus on practice that week.
“If there is ever a year when I feel I can miss the Irish Open, it’s this year,” said McIlroy, as quoted by the BBC. “If I was to play the Irish Open, the Open Championship would be my third event in a row. For me, that’s not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life.”
Since winning the Open in 2014, McIlroy has finished T-5 or better in three straight Open appearances, coming in as the runner-up last year at Carnoustie. The facts all add up to give McIlroy some good odds on this year’s tournament.
The next name on everyone’s lips is Tiger Woods. Claiming the Claret Jug three times, the winner of 15 major titles has conquered links courses before; twice at St. Andrews, in 2000 and 2005 (his 2000 title there was by eight strokes, the biggest margin of victory at the British Open since 1913), and once at Royal Liverpool in 2006. His comeback at Augusta this year has sent a strong message that Tiger could be a tough rival in the 148th Open title race.
Defending champion Francesco Molinari will also be hopeful of a repeat performance of his past success. The 36-year-old Italian might not have much experience at Royal Portrush but the experience of overcoming the pressure of the Open counts for a lot. Molinari proved he has what it takes to win on a links course in last year’s Open at Carnoustie and since then his game has continued to improve consistently.
As in every tournament, there is still a whole field of players with the potential, ambition, and desire to surprise spectators. Whether or not the winner is someone who was predicted to do well or a long shot that swoops in to claim victory, it’s certain that the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush will be an interesting closing major this year.