The British Open comes to Royal Portrush, County Antrim in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. Portrush has languished in obscurity for many years due to a crumbling golf course and an intimidating political climate. However, it’s been given a renovation with the old 17th and 18th greens being done away with and new 7th and 8th greens added from the excess land from the 5th and 6th greens of the Valley Course. With Dunluce Castle providing an epic backdrop (it was used as Castle Greyjoy in Game Of Thrones), the rolling greens, dunes and doglegs should provide the backdrop to an exciting and unpredictable Open.
The best players in the world will be arriving in Portrush on 18th July, and John Daly. Daly, who won the Open 24 years ago, has been denied his request to be allowed to roll around the course in a buggy. He has also somehow managed to be bitten by a spider on holiday in the UK, a land that has no native poisonous spiders. If those weren’t problems enough for Daly, he’s been given odds of 1000/1, so he’s probably already gotten all the press he’s going to for this Open. Instead, let’s take a look at the actual contenders.
Rory McIlroy (8/1)
Rory McIlroy has close links with Portrush. It was here at 10 years old that he met Darren Clarke, who inspired him to take up the clubs. Just six years later, McIlroy set an amateur course record of 61, with five straight birdies to finish. Now aged 30, Rory took some time off in 2017 and has come back with a strong showing in 2019, starting the year with five consecutive top six finishes and a victory in the Player’s Championship. With form, home course advantage and a prodigious talent, it’s no surprise that McIlroy is a strong favourite to win here.
Brooks Koepka (8/1)
Joining McIlroy at the favourite’s table is Brooks Koepka, currently the number 1 ranked golfer in the world. In May this year, he successfully defended the PGA Championship, the first to do so since Tiger Woods in 2007. However, if he’s hoping to build momentum coming into the British Open, then he’ll need to up his game a bit if he wants to improve on a disappointing 65th place at the PGA event in Minneapolis. He started strong at the 2017 Open, getting as far as joint 1st place after the opening round. However, he could not capitalise on this, and ended up 6th, his best result. He will be hoping to do better here, but with McIlroy looming, it will be a tough ask. Nevertheless, Koepka thrives in the spotlight of a Major tournament and so may be worth a flutter to take victory from the hometown boy.
Tiger Woods (14/1)
Tiger Woods, the man who was so dominant that several stops on the PGA Tour lengthened their courses to try to negate his awesome power, is back. Well, sort of. In March of last year, Woods tied for second at the Valspar Championship in Florida, his first top five PGA finish since 2012. He followed that with second place in the PGA Tournament, with a final round of 64, the best he’s ever achieved in a Major. In April this year, he won the Masters. Is he taking the Open seriously? Well, he’s getting up at 1am at the moment. Why? Because 1am his time (currently) is 6am Portrush time. Yeah, he’s taking it seriously.
Justin Rose (16/1)
Rose is a touch inconsistent at the moment. In November last year, he and Brooks Koepka were dancing around the World No. 1 spot. Koepka held onto it for the last few weeks of 2018 but Rose regained it at the start of this year. He was the favourite for the US Open and was close to the lead going into the final round. But there followed a collapse that saw him slip down the leaderboard and out of contention. Was it just a bad weekend, or the start of something worse? There will be plenty of people with their eye on Rose come the British Open, looking to discover the answer.
Dustin Johnson (14/1)
Dustin Johnson’s consecutive 64-week reign as World No. 1 is the fifth longest in golf history, and his win at the Saudi Invitational on the European Tour makes him the fifth most successful American golfer on that tour. So it’s only fair that we put him fifth on our list of names to watch out for. Johnson tied for second at the US Masters, one stroke behind Woods, and also got second at the PGA Championship. It’s clear he’s a contender. Is this his moment to step out from the shadows?
You can find details of all the players for the 148th British Open on our dedicated page. The tournament kicks off on 18th July and runs until the 21st.