6 Reasons Why The 2019 Open Will Be One For The Ages
Article by Will Trinkwon
Starting today, the 148th Open Championship begins at Royal Portrush, marking the first time that the Open has been played across the Irish Sea in almost 70 years. 68 years ago, in 1951, the trophy was lifted by the charismatic English golfer Max Faulkner and this year’s competition has all the makings of another classic. With a host of brilliant storylines, a panoramic and brilliantly designed course, as well as rowdy but respectful Irish crowds, I predict that this year’s championship will vindicate the decision to bring it back to Portrush. Without further ado, here are six reasons why the 2019 Open is sure to be a hugely entertaining and important tournament.
1 – Royal Portrush’s Aesthetics
At the centre of this week’s competition is the beauty and splendour of the course. Because it’s been so long since it last held a major golf championship, Royal Portrush is unlikely to be on casual players’ radars. More fool them. The links is a salt-soaked masterpiece of towering dunes, taught fairways and wonderfully browned rough, which will light up the TV viewer and live spectator alike. Set out by the renowned course architect Harry Colt in 1929, who overhauled the previous design, dating back to 1892, the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush makes the most of amazing natural architecture. The sea is frequently in view but is particularly visible on the beautiful 5th hole, where the green sits so close to the beach that it seems to be falling into the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, you can gaze out over it and see all the way to Scotland!
2 – The Open Water Initiative
One of the less commented upon aspects of this week’s Open Championship is the herculean effort that the R&A have put into making it environmentally friendly. At the heart of the 2019 Open’s greenness is the ‘Open Water Initiative’. The project, supported by the UN and developed by one of the top international drinking water companies, Bluewater, will see disposable plastic drinking bottles outlawed. Instead, spectators will be given over 10,000 reusable metal bottles free of charge. The result will be a significant decrease in plastic waste which will reduce damage to the environment. You’re not going to be able to enjoy the results on your TV, but this is as big a reason why this year’s Open is so special.
3 – The Storylines
Sports and perhaps especially golf fans love a good story, and this year’s Open is full of them. Perhaps the most tantalising revolves around home grown lad Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The former comes into the championship as the bookies’ 8/1 favourite and for good reason. As Golfshake writer Derek Clements has recently explored, McIlroy famously shot a course record 61 around the links and also clocked a top 10 at Portrush in the 2012 Irish Open. That McIlroy has made hay at Portrush in the past isn’t surprising. He grew up in Hollywood – just a couple of miles down the road from Portrush – and played here regularly at as a youth. Should Ireland’s prodigal son triumph in the first and possibly only time during his career that the Open will be held in the country, the Irish crowds will go wild. Graeme McDowell, who qualified for the championship with a tied 8th finish in the Canadian Open, is another home-grown hero. These home player storylines will create an incredible atmosphere and help make this an Open like no other.
4 – The Atmosphere and the Irish Fans
It’s a widely acknowledged fact that there are few golf fans more knowledgeable and respectful than those of the British Isles and Northern Ireland. In his pre-championship press conference, a certain Tiger Woods praised Ireland’s fans as some of the most “respectful” in the world, but also, with a wry smile, hinted that they also know how to make a great atmosphere. For most of the crowds, this will be the first and possibly only time that the Open has and will come to the country and the home vibes are guaranteed to be amazing. Local heroes McIlroy and McDowell will be cheered around the links and the spectators have also embraced Tiger and a number of other top pros. The 215,000 tickets to the championship sold out in August last year. And the demand was so high that the R&A were forced to release 20,000 more. If the speed that the tickets were snapped up is anything to go by, and with the respectful rancour of the Irish fans, this championship’s atmosphere seems certain to be particularly electric.
5 – Royal Portrush’s Renovation
Royal Portrush was already a great course when the club approached world-renowned golf course architect Martin Ebert to ask him to add two new holes and beef up the track ahead of the Open. Ebert and his partner Tom Mackenzie were the masterminds behind the critically acclaimed 2016 renovation of Turnberry – which saw all 18 holes changed to highlight its stunning coastal scenes – and have worked their magic on Portrush. The 17th and 18th holes, long considered the weakest of the old layout, were scrapped and replaced with two instantly iconic holes forged from Royal Portrush’s second Valley course. The result is the newly inaugurated 7th and 8th holes. The 7th, nicknamed ‘Curran Point’, is a heck of a par 5, cut into a trough of scenic dunes which encase a large bunker which will worry the big hitter’s drive. The 8th hole, ‘Dunluce’, is a great risk and reward hole, giving golfers the option of either laying back of a pair of fairway bunkers and facing a longer approach or bombing over them and cutting the hole’s yardage dramatically. With the introduction of these new holes, the Open at Portrush is set to be truly world-class.
6 – An All-Round Test
A lot like the site of this year’s US Open, Pebble Beach, Royal Portrush isn’t a bombers course. Sure, there are advantages to hitting a long tee ball – just as there inevitably are round any track – but these are minimised by the course’s design. Like many top British links courses, Royal Portrush is stoutly defended by narrow, bumpy fairways, whose cambers will reject anything by the most purely struck drive from their surfaces, and bunkers which, if you go in them, will be difficult to get out with a score still alive. Pot-like traps litter the fairways and around the greens and are designed to snare anything within their vicinity. Add this to knee-length rough and you’ve got a course where accuracy is far more important than distance – at just over 7,000 yards, the course is indeed relatively short compared to modern norms. The winner at Portrush, however, won’t be able to just coast on a great long game – their short game will have to be firing too. The greens possess treacherous undulations which put a premium on deft chipping and a warm putter. Such is the quality of Portrush’s design that the 2019 champion will have to excel all-round if he’s to walk away with the claret jug. Portrush delivers a truly all-round test guaranteed to produce a deserving champion.
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