The 148th Open Championship could test the very best

An unfamiliar course and some adverse weather could make the 148th Open Championship one of the most memorable major tournaments in recent memory

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Dunluce Links - Royal Portrush - 148th Open Championship

16 July 2019: The final major of the season is less than 48 hours away even as golfing wisdom remains in short supply in Portrush, a small town North of Northern Ireland. Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy are among a handful of golfers familiar with the teeth of a beast that is lying quietly at rest before unleashing itself on its weary victims later this week. This is certainly going to be a spectacular Open, an event that shall remain in our conscious for several years to come.

Hero - The Open Banner - 2019
Hero – The Open Banner – 2019

The course is drawing praise from all quarters, for being such a fine test of links golf, even though the wind and rain have remained obscure so far this week. But that is just the calm before the storm, as rough weather is predicted for much of the time this Open will be played. The change in schedule has worked out nicely, pushing the Open to the end of the major calendar, setting up a mouth watering finale to anoint the Champion golfer of the year, as the winner of the Open is called.

Shubhankar Sharma is in the lone Indian in the field. Even though he has endured some rough tides this season, his performance at the Scottish Open pointed to a reversal in fortunes. After a splendid effort on Friiday helped him make the cut, he backed it up with some good performances

A bogey free 67, including a monster putt on the 18th to secure the weekend set the tone for some good golf last week. Shubhankar shot 66 on Saturday and Sunday to end the week in T34. While that might not be too much to crow about, it was creditable especially considering that he missed the cut in three of the four events leading into the Scottish Open.

Shubhankar played his first nine holes of golf on Tuesday and went around the back nine today. “I am happy to come back to the Open, good to have another opportunity to play this event,” said the man who turns 22 this Sunday. “This is going to be one of the best opens and it will be a very nice experience.”

“I was very surprised and I am really looking forward to it,” he added, reflecting on the opportunity to play alongside Brooks Koepka during the first two rounds. “Brooks is the world No.1 and I played with him before in India, during a Challenge Tour event (Kensville Open, 2014). There will be a lot of crowds following us and it will be an interesting experience. I hope to play well.”

“I will play all 18 holes today and should have a fair idea of what is needed here,” said Shubhankar, in response to a question about his strategy for the course. “The course is in great shape and can play very different based on the weather conditions. You can never really have a strategy for links courses, but we will have a better idea about our approach for the week by the end of the day today.”

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka is counting on the knowledge of his caddie, to help him navigate this tricky course. Ricky Elliott is a Portrush native and that should offer the four-time major winner a handy advantage. Koepka has been on a phenomenal run – winning four of his last nine major starts and finishing inside the top six in three others. Elliot knows the Dunluce links inside out, offering almost undue advantage to an already mighty golfer.

 

 

PGA TOUR Notes

Rory McIlroy
  • From Holywood, roughly 60 miles from Portrush
  • Shot a 61 at Royal Portrush as a 16-year-old
  • Four-time major champion: 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship, 2014 The Open, 2014 PGA Championship
  • Has finished in the top five in each of his last four starts at The Open (Won/2014, DNP/2015, T5/2016, T4/2017, T2/2018)
  • Two wins during the 2018-19 season: THE PLAYERS Championship, RBC Canadian Open
  • Leads the PGA TOUR with 11 top-10s; recorded a career-high 12 in 2014
Graeme McDowell
  • Native of Portrush
  • Playing first Open Championship since 2016 (Royal Troon/T63)
  • Got into the event through The Open Qualifying Series with a T8 at the RBC Canadian Open
  • Estimates that he has played Royal Portrush “300 to 500 times”
  • Won fourth PGA TOUR title at the 2019 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
  • No. 46 in the FedExCup standings; has never qualified for the TOUR Championship