My Journey to the Open Championship

This series is to document my research process for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

The Open Championship this year is being held at the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush. Royal Portrush in on the north coast of Nortern Ireland, has the greenest grass you have ever seen and is supposed to be a very challenging test of golf. This links style course is a par 72 and measures 7,317 yards. This is the first time that the Open has been played in Northern Ireland since 1951, so it is a very big deal for this course and the surrounding area. It is difficult to find examples of tournaments played here. You probably have heard that Rory McIlroy shot a 61 here at age 16 in 2005. While Rory is clearly a better player today versus 14 years ago, the course has also changed. Between 2015 and 2017, changes include 5 new greens, 8 new tee boxes, 10 new bunkers and 2 completely new holes (7 and 8). Also, 130+ yards were added to the course to bring it to today’s 7,317 yards. The North of Ireland Championship (seems to be an amateur/club tournament) is played here every year and as best I can tell plays to about par. And this is with the rough NOT grown. So, my guess is the Open will play to a par to -4 type score, assuming winds are up. If winds are calm, all bets are off and the pros could murder this course.

So, what does it mean to be playing on a links style golf course? A couple things that are of note for DFS. With open fairways and the only hazards being giant pot bunkers, players that can control their ball will be in great shape. Assuming low winds, players that can keep the ball in the short stuff and out of bunkers will score and score and score. However, with typical winds off the water (I will write a whole blog on this the week of the Open), players will have to adjust the clubs they hit to the wind. In addition, multiple holes are uphill or downhill and with winds whipping, this becomes very tricky. So, it is CRITICAL that you understand how the wind is blowing when you set your lineups the day before the Open.
As mentioned above, the course is a par 72. The four par 5s play 475, 530, 572 and 590 yards, respectively. How the wind is blowing will determine how these par 5s are played by the pros. The par 4s all measure above 400 yards, except for one at 382. This is where the tournament will be won or lost, so look for ball strikers who excel on par 4s. And the par 3s play 174, 189, 191 and 235 yards. The 235 yard hole is named Calamity Corner and is the 16th hole. Players must hit the ball over a ton of junk and carry the ball to a smallish green. That hole will be fun!

Another thing to watch for as we approach the start of the Open is Narrative Street – Northern Ireland style. As noted above, Rory’s 61 here in 2005 will receive a nauseating amount of coverage. Yes, it was a special round. But, the course was set up for amateurs and not pros and Dunluce is different today than then. Also, we will likely hear a lot about Darren Clarke given his large amount of experience at Royal Portrush. I don’t think Graeme McDowell made the field, otherwise there would likely be an hour special on BBC on him alone…. Be prepared to see more photos and videos of Giant’s Causeway than you can stomach. Don’t get me wrong, that place is incredible. But to visit and not to see on tv when golf should be shown.

Overall, Dunluce looks to be a real challenge for the pros. However, I should note that the winds ultimately will define the difficulty or ease of this course come July 18.

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