Royal Portrush provides a whole new challenge for the world’s best
The 148th Open Championship is heading to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush for the first time in almost 70 years and in preparation the course has seen some pretty significant changes, including two completely new holes added to the classical layout and meaning that none of the players here this week will have played the course under tournament conditions.
As always, The Open is played on a links course making the players face completely different challenges than they do most weeks and Royal Portrush will probably play closer to the likes of Carnoustie than The Old Course.
Undulating and relatively narrow fairways will be protected by deep bunkers and wild fescue rough while the greens are extremely undulating and surrounded by false fronts, dramatic run off areas and strategical placed bunkers – meaning whoever wins this one will have to be at their very best.
As for the individual holes, on the par 5s it all depends on the wind direction where at least two of them will be three shot holes for most players if playing into the wind, but all of them are easily reached in two if played down wind.
The par 4s number 4th and 17th can both be driveable in the right conditions. Three of the four par 3s clock in at between 175-200 yards. The par 3 16th is a monster measuring 236 yards on the scorecard and can very well become a defining factor come Sunday afternoon.
It goes without saying that with a links course the weather is one of the biggest factors to consider and it looks pretty changeable this weekend, so I would look at the forecast on Wednesday before placing any wagers since often one of the waves gets a substantial advantage at The Open.
Course: Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush
Length: 7337 yards (Par 71)
Greens: Links style bentgrass
Architect: Harry Colt
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
- Fairways gained
- Strokes gained approach
- Strokes gained around the green
- Par 5 scoring
- Par 3 scoring 175-200 yards
- The Open history/Experience
- Lead in form
Why Tiger Woods will win The Open Championship
Patrick Cantlay at 29.00* – 1.5pts EW (1/5 the odds 8 places)
Barring a driver that can get a little loose from time to time this really sets up well for Cantlay. The former college star put on a couple of solid performances in the first two majors of the year finishing in the top 10 in both, even leading for a minute on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta. An experience I think he learned a lot from, and he did indeed follow up his career best T3 at the PGA Championship with his first full field victory at Memorial.
In his only start at The Open last year he produced a very respectable T12 and has gained strokes on approach in eight of his last nine starts and around the green in seven out of nine in the same timeframe while also ranking in the top six in approach, par 5 scoring and par 3 scoring between 175-200 yards.
Justin Thomas at 29.00* – 1.5pts EW (1/5 the odds 8 places)
While he doesn’t have the best track record at The Open, he did prove last week at The Scottish Open that he can perform on links courses with a top 10 finish and since his comeback from a troublesome wrist injury everything but his putter has been hot fire, averaging over four strokes gained per tournament with his approaches and almost three shots off the tee.
He ranks in the top 20 in Par 5 scoring (4th), strokes gained around the green (11th), approach (17th) and driving distance (20th) over the past 36 rounds and at almost 30.00 the nine-time PGA tour winner is simply to good a value to pass up on. So fingers crossed that his putter shows up this week and he adds a second major to his resumé.
Paul Casey at 41.00* – 1pt EW (1/5 the odds 8 places)
After years of being the man who couldn’t win Casey got the monkey of his back at last years Valspar Championship and followed that up by defending his title there earlier this year.
He ranks 2nd in my model only behind Rory McIlroy and is in the top 20 in par 5 scoring (3rd) , fairways gained (11th) and strokes gained approach (18th).
Bentgrass is his preferred putting surface and if the win kicks up, he is a supreme wind player. Add the experience factor and you have a good bet on a veteran that has started to win again.
Paul’s Picks: Robbo marks your card ahead of the 2019 Open Championship
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