Daeshon Underwood previews the 2019 Open Championship and shares his best bets for the year’s final major at Royal Portrush.
This week is host to the fourth and last major of the year the British Open also known as the Open championship. To many the Open Championship holds the most history out of any event in golf because of the tournament history and the golf courses it is played on. This course fits the bill.
The Dunluce Links, Royal Portrush, Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Par 71, 7,337 yards
Royals Portrush was founded in 1888. It was originally known as “the country club” and was only a nine-hole course. It was not named Royal Portrush until 1895. The course actually helped lead the charge for women’s golf. After being named Royal Portrush they were the first links course outside of Europe to host the British Ladies Championship. In addition to being leaders in this regard, they also were the first course to host The Open Championship outside of mainland UK in 1951. In all Royal, Portrush has been host to over 50 national championships and is a crucial part of golfing history. It will add to its history this week hosting its second Open Championship after a 68 years break. Golfers have been begging for the Open to return for years and they are finally getting there wish. The country of Northern Ireland will certainly be having a week filled with excitement.
To start with we should all know this is a links-style course. A links course has very little trees if any and is very much laid on the land naturally. This will give the players options on the tee and the fairway leading to great shots or terrible shots. The weather will also play a huge roll and the wind will roll free and the rain could be a factor this week. The course started as a 9 hole course so obviously, a lot has been done to build it into the championship course is it today. In 1889 ( a year after its birth) it was extended to into an 18 hole course. Throughout the years the course was moved further into the “sandhills” until golf course architect Harry Colt made his plan for the championship course also known as the Dunluce links. Like many courses, they have had to adjust to length to cope with the length of the golfers on the tour these days. Various holes have had there back tees lengthened in total adding 201 yards to the championship tees to increase the difficulty. Two new holes were even added by Martin Ebert. The 7th hole is one of them. It is a Par 5 sitting at about 592 yards it will be a challenge. However, the player will receive a bit of
help from the elevated tees. The 8th hole is a par 4 playing at a distance of about 434 yards. You will need two pinpoint shots to find a good score with trouble lurking around every corner.
2018 – Francesco Molinari
2017 – Jordan Speith
2016 – Henrick Stenson
2015 – Zach Johnson
2014 – Rory Mcilroy
Open Championship: Inside Edge
Rory Mcilroy certainly has some history with this course. 13 years ago before all of the alterations to Royal Portrush Mcilroy did something very special on this course. If you didn’t know this is where Rory was born and raised, Northern Ireland. That being said he always had a bit of connection to Portrush. That would be heightened to another level when he broke the course record with 61 at the age of 16. The amount of confidence and comfort he must have going into this should be great. He knows the course and will be in the comfort of his home country with the fans behind him for sure. He also didn’t have to bad of a showing in last weeks Scottish open finishing in 34th. The Scottish open is often used a great warm-up tournament for The Open Championship and the conditions are usually similar. The key with major championships you just need to peak at the right moment and Rory is trending in the right direction. Similar to Rory Mcdowell will also be in the comfort of his own country but he has not been playing as well but can always make a charge on a links-style course.
Some other important finishes in the Scottish Open to note are:
4th Henrick Stenson
T9 Rafa Cabrera Bello
T9 Justin Thomas
T14 Matthew Fitzpatrick
T20 Matt Kuchar
British Open Important Statistics
Recently driving distance and scrambling have been key components to victories in Major Championships. In the Open Champion, scrambling seems to be even more important than it already is. This could be because the style and difficulty of a links course. There will be plenty of options when you are off the green to get creative. For that reason, let’s take a closer look at some of the players leading the PGA and European Tours in scrambling this year
PGA Tour Scrambling important names
1st Patrick Cantlay
2nd Webb Simpson
7th Matt Kuchar
9th Tommy Fleetwood
European Tour Scrambling important names
1st Justin Harding
2nd Lee Westwood
7th Rafa Cabrera Bello
8th Mathew Fitzpatrick
Two names that stand out to me from this list are Matt Kuchar and Tommy Fleetwood. Both are holding a great price and can take down this tournament with the right run. In last year’s open championship they both came in the top 12 and I can certainly see that happening here. For the value we are getting them at I will take them both as my dark horse picks. If you would rather only take one I would lean toward Matt Kuchar he is one of the best players on tour that has still not one of the major and this could be the tournament for him. He has the knowledge and skillset to navigate this course and outsmart the competition. He is almost always in contention in majors, he just hasn’t been able to get the victory. Some other stats/facts you can’t ignore are Rory Mcilroy is 2nd in driving distance, Brooks Koepka has not yet won the Open Championship, Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods he is always in contention, and Dustin still has something to prove from that terrible three put.
Market Leaders @ Draftkings
Rory Mcilroy +950
Brooks Koepka +1100
John Rahm +1500
Dustin Johnson +1700
Tiger Woods +2000
Rory has too much history with this course and country to not be the favorite. With his form returning to him I don’t think you can ignore him. Out of the top 5 market leaders, he is my favorite by far. He knows the course and the land and that will give a huge boost that few others will be receiving. Let’s not forget he is second in one of my favorite statistics to look at driving distance.
As I said before, I just love this price, Matt Kuchar. He is far too good to have this value. He came in 12 last year at the Open Championship and has been in contention countless times. With his experience and ball striking skills he should have no problems causing some excitement on Sunday afternoon. The key stat I like from him is he is 7th in scrambling on the PGA TOUR. He also just had a great outing at the Scottish Open.