Irish Eyes Certain to be Smiling at Royal Portrush
IT SHOULD be a matter of some embarrassment to the R&A that The Open is returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. The 1951 championship was also held at Royal Portrush and was won by Englishman Max Faulkner - we had to wait until 1969 and Tony Jacklin for the next home winner.
Until this year, it was the only time the championship had been staged outside England or Scotland, and that remains one of golf’s great scandals. There are some magnificent links courses in Northern Ireland - and in Wales for that matter. And tickets for this year’s event were snapped up within hours of going on sale. You now can’t get one for love nor money. They are like gold dust. And the passionate and enthusiastic Irish galleries will guarantee that this year’s tournament is one to remember - and will surely mean that we don’t have to wait another 60-plus years for The Open to be staged outside Scotland and England.
It is also safe to say that this year’s Open will be a rather better one than the tournament Faulkner won. Back in 1951, The Open was largely boycotted by American golfers, who couldn’t face the prospect of crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a boat. They simply didn’t regard The Open as being worth the effort. That, of course, all changed when Arnold Palmer won it in 1961 and 1962. It also didn’t help that the US PGA at Oakmont concluded on Tuesday, July 3rd. This was the second day of The Open Championship qualification, making it impossible to play in the final two majors. Sam Snead, the 1946 Open champion, won the final match at Oakmont for his third title in that championship.
Faulkner won by two strokes from Antonio Cerda as the rain tumbled down. Defending champion Bobby Locke was eight strokes back in a tie for sixth place. This year’s winner will collect around £1.5m. Faulkner’s cheque was for £300.
The maximum number of players making the cut after 36 holes was increased from 40 to 50, and ties for 50th place did not make the cut. With potentially an extra 10 players making the cut and getting £20 prize money the total purse increased from £1,500 to £1,700. The other prizes remained unchanged, with £300 for the winner.
Only 148 players entered, which was the smallest field since 1904. Back then, qualifying took place on the Monday and Tuesday, with 18 holes on the Championship course at Portrush and 18 holes at Portstewart Golf Club. To be clear, this meant the tournament was effectively played over 108 holes!
The number of qualifiers was limited to a maximum of 100, and ties for 100th place did not qualify. Cerdá led at 138 with Tom Haliburton, Locke and Norman Von Nida a stroke behind. The qualifying score was 155 and 98 advanced. Peter Alliss qualified, following up a first round 76 at Portstewart with an impressive 69 at Portrush.
Jimmy Adams and Von Nida shared the lead after the first round on Wednesday with 68, which turned out to be the only sub-70 rounds in the championship. In the second round on Thursday, Faulkner shot 70 to take a two-stroke lead over Norman Sutton, with Fred Daly and Harry Weetman a further shot behind. Alliss scored 79 and 80 and missed the cut.
In the third round on Friday morning, Faulkner posted another 70 and stretched the 54-hole lead to six over Sutton and Cerdá. In the final round that afternoon, Faulkner finished 5-5-4-5 for 74 and 285. Cerdá was the only player still on the course with a chance to tie. Going out in 34, he reached the 16th needing to play the last three holes in12 shots but his challenge ended when his drive ended up against some steps straddling a barbed wire fence and he took six. He finished on 287, two shots behind Faulkner.
Frank Stranahan tied for 12th and was the low amateur for the third straight year, one of two Americans to make the cut. Two Australians made their Open Championship debuts: future five-time champion Peter Thomson, age 21, finished in sixth place, while 1960 winner Kel Nagle was 19th.
There are those who believe that Royal Portrush will be torn to shreds by the world’s best players if the wind fails to blow. Those individuals might want to cast their minds back to 1977 when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson put on a breathtaking display at Turnberry that is widely regarded as the best Open of all time. The legendary Duel in the Sun saw Watson defeat Nicklaus by a single shot. Watson’s winning total was 268. Nobody complained that Turnberry was too easy. They simply marvelled at the incredible exhibition provided by the two greatest golfers of their day. And did anybody complain that Royal Troon was too easy in 2016 when Henrik Stenson won with a total of 264, three ahead of Phil Mickelson?
The oldest & most prestigious major, a trip to The Open is a must for every golf fan. From tickets and transfers to hospitality & golf, Golfbreaks.com can build the perfect package to help you experience The Open in style.
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