Home game this week for Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy as The Open returns to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951.
Why yes, yes he is
148th Open Championship
Dunluce Golf Links
Royal Portrush Golf Club
Portrush, County Altrim, Northern Ireland
|Yards (per official scorecard):||7,344|
|Rough:||Fescue, gorse and natural elements|
|Architects:||H.S. Colt; Martin Ebert (2015)|
|Purse:||$10.75 million/$1.935 winner/600 FEC Points|
|Defending Champion:||Francesco Molinari (-8, 276; Carnoustie)|
|Fact of the Week:||The last player outside of the OWGR top 50 to win a major was Keegan Bradley in 2011.|
|2018||Francesco Molinari||276||Won his first major playing alongside Tiger Woods on Sunday.|
|2017||Jordan Spieth||268||Completed the third leg of the career grand slam by defeating Matt Kuchar by three shots.|
|2016||Henrik Stenson||264||Set the major championship scoring record as he and Phil Mickelson ran away from the field.|
|2015||Zach Johnson||273||Defeated Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen to complete the St. Andrews-Augusta career double.|
|2014||Rory McIlroy||271||Torched Royal Liverpool and won by two over Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia.|
|2013||Phil Mickelson||281||Stenson was keen on revenge in 2016 after Mickelson was magnificent at Muirfield.|
|2012||Ernie Els||273||Adam Scott led by four with five to play but Els took home the Claret Jug.|
|2011||Darren Clarke||275||Dustin Johnson’s “what if” run in the majors continued as another 40-something took advantage and picked up his only major.|
|2010||Louis Oosthuizen||272||Not many knew how to pronounce his name prior to Sunday. His seven shot victory changed that.|
|Safeway Open||Kevin Tway**|
|CIMB Classic||Marc Leishman|
|CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES||Brooks Koepka|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||Cameron Champ**|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Xander Schauffele|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||Matt Kuchar|
|The RSM Classic||Charles Howell III|
|Hero World Challenge*||Jon Rahm|
|Sentry TOC||Xander Schauffele (2)|
|Sony Open in Hawaii||Matt Kuchar (2)|
|60th Desert Classic||Adam Long**|
|Farmers Insurance Open||Justin Rose|
|Waste Management||Rickie Fowler|
|AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||Phil Mickelson|
|Genesis Open||J.B. Holmes|
|WGC-Mexico Championship||Dustin Johnson|
|The Honda Classic||Keith Mitchell**|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||Francesco Molinari|
|THE PLAYERS||Rory McIlroy|
|Valspar Championship||Paul Casey|
|WGC-Match Play||Kevin Kisner|
|Corales Punta Cana||Graeme McDowell|
|Valero Texas Open||Corey Conners**|
|83rd Masters Tournament||Tiger Woods|
|RBC Heritage||C.T. Pan**|
|Zurich Classic of New Orleans||Ryan Palmer & Jon Rahm (2)|
|Wells Fargo Championship||Max Homa**|
|AT&T Byron Nelson||Sung Kang**|
|PGA Championship||Brooks Koepka (2)|
|Charles Schwab Challenge||Kevin Na|
|RBC Canadian Open||Rory McIlroy (2)|
|United States Open||Gary Woodland|
|Travelers Championship||Chez Reavie|
|Rocket Mortgage Classic||Nate Lashley**|
|3M Open||Matt Wolff**|
|John Deer Classic||Dylan Frittelli**|
(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)
Facts and Figures:
|Tournament Record:||264; Stenson.|
|Course Record:||61; McIlroy, at age 16.|
|Defending Champions (entered):||Tiger Woods (2005-2006) and Padraig Harrington (2007-2008).|
|Multiple Winners (entered)||Woods, Harrington and Els.|
|First TOUR win (most recent):||Ben Curtis (2003)|
|First Appearance:||Tom Watson and Ben Curtis. That’s the list.|
|Notes:||Field of 156; Top 70 and ties play the weekend.|
|Notes II:||A four-hole aggregate playoff will determine a winner after 72 holes. Sudden death follows if still tied.|
|Notes III:||One-tee start daily, as it should be.|
Scottish Open Recent Winners
|2019||The Renaissance Club||Bernd Wiesberger||TBD|
|2018||Guallane Golf Club||Brandon Stone||T61|
|2017||Dundonald Links||Rafael Cabrera-Bello||T4|
|2016||Castle Stuart Golf Links||Alex Noren||T46|
|2015||Gullane Golf Club||Rickie Fowler||T30|
|2014||Royal Aberdeen Golf Club||Justin Rose||T23|
|2013||Castle Stuart Golf Links||Phil Mickelson||WIN|
|2012||Castle Stuart Golf Links||Jeev-Milka Singh||T69|
|2011||Castle Stuart Golf Links||Luke Donald||MC|
|2010||Loch Lomond Golf Club||Eduardo Molinari||T27|
|2009||Loch Lomond Golf Club||Martin Kaymer||T34|
|2008||Loch Lomond Golf Club||Graeme McDowell||T19|
John Deere Recent Winners
|2016||Ryan Moore||Played after|
The best part of having a new course in the Rota is the abundance of information available as interest is through the roof.
1951 and Max Faulkner was a long time ago but the sand dunes and the wind still will determine the Champion Golfer for 2019. The rugged links terrain requires fantastic ball-striking, nerves of steel around the greens and a knack to balance Mother Nature throughout 72 holes.
Elite players win major championships. I’m not breaking any news here but the Keegan Bradley stat above stands out. The mental, physical and environmental challenges all are required in this examination.
Staying in an unfamiliar (read: not a usual TOUR stop) country, playing a course for the first time and dealing with the weather aren’t cut out for everyone. Koepka nailed this in his comments before the U.S. Open that he believes over half of the field is just happy to be there. The others might be mad at the USGA or course set-up. So that leaves just a handful of guys he needs to worry about.
I believe that’s going to ring true again this week.
The Northern Irish/Irish contingent who grew up in this climate will have the advantage. They might also have the pressure of familiarity to over-perform. The great ones don’t need motivation or “home course advantage” to produce results. They execute, focus and work their plan. Regardless of what Brooks Koepka has shown us recently, these are NOT easy to win. Elite players design their training, diet (!) and lives around winning the major championships.
I don’t expect anything different, again, this week!
In honor of the Keegan Bradley stat above, here are the top 50 players in the OWGR as of last weekend. I’ll assess their chances and anybody outside can be labeled whatever you want them to be, sleepers, fliers, DFS breakers, etc.
1 Brooks Koepka
The only people that have beaten him in the three previous majors are Tiger Woods and Gary Woodland. I’d like to congratulate CHRIS WOOD on his 2019 Open Championship. Koepka’s forays into regular TOUR lyf frustrate gamers but this is where the payoff happens, right? Caddie Ricky Elliott grew up here so there’s another perceived advantage for the four-time major champ!
2 Dustin Johnson
I found it interesting that he went back to swing coach Claude Harmon the week of a major championship. Johnson’s talent is never in question but it’s obvious the split earlier this season hasn’t produced the desired results. I’m not sure if week No. 1 brings the results he’s looking for but this is excellent for gamers like me who are using him next week in Memphis.
3 Rory McIlroy
His evisceration of Hamilton Golf & Country Club is exactly what the doctor ordered in fantasy land. I was pleased to see him play a “rust-buster” at the Scottish Open last week to work out all of the kinks before his home game. I’m all in.
4 Justin Rose
The only concern is the long layoff but it’s hard to question anything else. Reading his comments about the short turnaround between majors could imply he’s annoyed or frustrated. I believe he’s using his powers for good to convey the message rather than present it as a complaint. I also believe none of it matters as he looks to add to his U.S. Open (2013) title.
5 Tiger Woods
I don’t love him on layouts where he’s never done the business. I don’t enjoy hearing how wiped out he is after winning the Masters. I don’t think two weeks in Thailand before two weeks is Portrush is the ideal preparation to win major championships. This is all new to gamers and to Woods so I’m not sure what to think. If his short game is on point and par is a decent score, he’s always a threat.
6 Bryson DeChambeau
The Scientist thought he was headed for a playoff in Minnesota before Matt Wolff did him dirty with eagle on the last. I’m not sure science translates to links golf where imperfect winds, knobs, lies, etc., are part and parcel of the outcome. Changes in elevation (yes, it’s not flat) and changes in direction of holes will add more math to an already heavy course load.
7 Francesco Molinari
Last year he entered The Open off results of WIN, 2nd, T25, WIN and T2. He is not arriving this year on that form as he has one top 25 in his last five. I love his temperament for the conditions and major championship golf but the form pushes me away.
8 Jon Rahm
After MC at Bethpage and Colonial, the Spaniard went to Pebble Beach and hit the podium to remind us how good he is. Two weeks later he was second at Sergio’s event in Spain before winning the Irish Open the following week. Write him off at your own peril. I’m not.
9 Justin Thomas
Those who are fans will ignore his MC X 3 history here. Those who question will point that out as the reason to avoid him. I believe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Dude has plenty of game, especially tee-to-green, to handle anything. Some guys, not named Watson or Curtis, need a few reps to get comfy on the sand dunes. Is it telling that his T9 at the Scottish Open was his best finish since February? I believe so.
10 Patrick Cantlay
Set it and forget it. He’s second in SG: Total and doesn’t fall outside of the top 25 in any major SG category. At 27, he’s not a kid anymore and has the memory of the Masters fresh if he gets in another back -nine dogfight this week.
11 Xander Schauffele
He’s played 10 majors, cashed nine times and recorded five paydays in the top five. If your concern is how he performs on difficult courses he’s never missed in a U.S. Open and was T2 in his debut at Carnoustie. Your witness.
12 Gary Woodland
His wife is expecting twins in the coming weeks. He’s expecting twin majors, back-to-back, if he can keep the ball rolling this week. The U.S. Open champ has never taken the Friday red-eye flight home in eight previous attempts but he’s only cashed once in the top 25. Hard to ignore T8 at Bethpage and WIN at Pebble Beach. He gave it a go in Detroit and hit it all over the shop so he should be refocused and ready.
13 Matt Kuchar
Having his best season and most controversial season at 41, this version of Kuchar has been outstanding theatre. His worst finish in the majors this year is T16 at Pebble Beach after T12 at Augusta and T8 at Bethpage. He came close at Birkdale in 2017 and hit the top 10 at Carnoustie last year as his ball-flight and short game are proven commodities on the links.
14 Rickie Fowler
After T9 Masters was followed by T4 Wells Fargo, most gamers thought Fowler would be off and running for the rest of the spring and summer. Nope. Brakes applied and he hasn’t been in contention in his last six events.
15 Paul Casey
More than a third (six of 15) of his 2019 events have seen him cash T5 or better, including last time out at Travelers (T5). The naysayers will point out none of them were at the first three majors. They will also point he has one top 45 in his last seven Open attempts. Weird combo.
16 Adam Scott
Yeah, load up. All you can get. Big game hunter only gets out of bed when they really count. Unfinished business at this event should give him an extra ounce of motivation.
17 Tony Finau
Gave us a teaser at the 3M Open but fizzled to T23 after a run of MC X 3. His record at here, T27 or better in three starts, plus that sliver of light, makes for an interesting contrarian pick, relative to those above him. Interesting decision for those who are chasing; simple decision for those who are not.
18 Jason Day
Another who has never left early, there’s no secret that his short game has been the secret to his success. His ability to turn chicken shit into chicken salad works when there aren’t any ponds or hazards to find! The game travels as well as he’s cashed T27 in his last four Opens. I’m not leading with him but he’s should bring a stable influence to most rosters.
19 Webb Simpson
Quickly, name the last time he did NOT finish inside the top 30? Time’s up: Valspar is the answer. That’s six straight if you’re scoring at home, and you should be! He’s cashed in 25 of 33 majors and six of seven Opens. Hardly surprising with his accuracy off the tee and short game. Good combo.
20 Tommy Fleetwood
The best laid plans involved him catching fire in June and riding his hot streak into the Open. Instead it has been a middling, for him, run that’s produced one top-10 paycheck since THE PLAYERS. He’s rattled off 10 cuts made in the last 10 majors so flying under the radar this week might be exactly what kicks him on.
21 Bubba Watson
Nothing suggests this is going to be the week where he finally puts it together. In his last 11 majors he’s stayed for the weekend three times. Abandon ship.
22 Louis Oosthuizen
His results at this event, at least when he plays St. Andrews, are inarguable. He has one top 25 in his other seven Opens (T19). Mark down 2021, folks!
23 Matt Wallace
Only two things to know here: When it goes, it goes RED FREAKING HOT and when it doesn’t, well it doesn’t. Of his last seven worldwide five have cashed T14 or better with three on the podium. I’ll point out he’s played the last two weeks on the links as well. Omit at your own risk.
24 Marc Leishman
For all the deserved hype about how well he plays in the wind, his best payday since February is at landlocked Memorial (T5). His record speaks for itself as he’s T6 or better in three of his last five Opens. Quiet majors season this year (T49, MC and T35) doesn’t inspire me to rush him to the front of the line.
25 Patrick Reed
Ran out of gas in Detroit against a quiet field but picked up his first top 10 (T5) of 2019 in the process. Backed it up with T23 the following week in Minnesota on two of the easiest courses this season used on TOUR. His short game prowess will tempt some as will his record here (three T28 or better from five).
26 Chez Reavie
Over the last three years he’s played in seven majors and five have cashed T22 or better. His last three include T12 (Bellerive), T14 (Bethpage) and T3 (Pebble Beach). Tempting, huh!?! Well, don’t forget he blew the field away at the Travelers the week after Pebble Beach before MC in Detroit. That’s hot enough for look in my book.
27 Kevin Kisner
One top 25 since the Masters doesn’t inspire but he was on the same form last year before T2 at Carnoustie. I argued last year that Carnoustie was the last place on Earth to help get a guy’s game back on track. I’m not making the same mistake again this year. Fantastic contrarian pick because his excellent short game and ability to work it off the tee. Maybe this will be his annual reset! He’s cashed in 13 of last 15 majors.
28 Phil Mickelson
Speaking of Ctrl-Alt-Del, Mickelson, the new king of Golf Twitter, went into hiding/fasting as he dropped 15 pounds during a six-day fasting period before heading to Portrush. Got all of that? Didn’t Koepka do the same thing before almost winning the Masters? What’s going on here? Golfers used to be fat and jolly, like Craig Stadler. I’m glad Mickelson is trying something different because whatever he was doing after the Masters was not working. He’s all yours this week!
29 Hideki Matsuyama
Run to book. Empty bank account on win tickets and each way tickets. Celebrate.
30 Matthew Fitzpatrick
Just when I start believing he throws in a clunker. When I think I know where to avoid him he cashes a nice check. Some guys I can’t solve and he qualifies.
31 Keegan Bradley
Finally, the man who was the inspiration for today’s evaluations! Part of major championship golf is testing all facets of the game and all of the clubs in the bag. In the last five years Bradley has one top 25 finish in the majors, T18 at Royal Troon, in 16 events he’s entered.
33 Shane Lowry
The Irishman’s record on links in this part of the world is fantastic, matching his form since the Masters. Knocking off the rust last week with T34, his worst finish this summer, he’ll be on most folk’s radar this week. Psst, he’s MC in this event the last four years. Shhhhhhh.
34 Rafa Cabrera Bello
#NappyFactor. Finishes of T9 or better the last three events worldwide. T4 at Irish Open and T9 last week with a career-best 63. T2 at 2012 Irish Open here. SHALL I GO ON?
35 Eddie Pepperell
MC at Bethpage after a T2 the week prior probably salted a few gamers. He took six weeks off and returned with T4 at the Irish Open followed by T43 in Scotland. His hot is REAL HOT FAM so get a nibble or two in his home Open.
36 Sergio Garcia
He broke a string of seven consecutive MC in majors with T52 at Pebble Beach. #DadLyf #BabyLyf.
37 Henrik Stenson
Joins RCB as WHITE HOT entering the week as he’s cashed three straight in the top 10 as well. #3WOOD. No questioning his experience and nous on links courses so yeah, get it.
38 Jordan Spieth
Similar to Kisner, he showed up ice cold at Carnoustie last summer and ground out a top 10, his first since the Masters. Similar to last year, Spieth knocked out a trio of top-10 paychecks before a weekend collapse at Pebble Beach was compounded with MC at Travelers. His last four at the Open are T4, T30, WIN and T9 and has never missed. So yeah. Sort all that out. Worth a punt in the top 10.
39 Ian Poulter
If there’s gonna be one, this is gonna be it. Finally got out of his rut with T14 in Scotland last week. Every Ulsterman/Irishman/Englishman can’t win this week but Poulter should come with a price to make him interesting.
40 Bernd Wiesberger
Yeah, if you don’t know what he’s been doing, it’s ok, fantasy football is right around the corner. I’d suggest he has ZERO VALUE this week in most games after T2 and WIN the last two weeks on the links. If he pulls the “Molinari” from last year, I’ve seen him for 66-1, there are worse problems to have for your money. If he doesn’t win last week he’s probably closer to 100-1!
41 Billy Horschel
Steady, but unspectacular as his worst recent results are all in the majors. That trend continues this week as he enters with four MC from five tries.
42 Cameron Smith
43 Tyrrell Hatton
Two Rs, two Ls and two Ts and a very solid links player. He’s cashed in his last seven majors and his T21 at the U.S. Open is the best of this season. I always wonder how he’ll hold up in the heat on Sunday with his, ahem, temper. In front of the home fans should surely help if that’s the case this week. I’m in.
44 Brandt Snedeker
No surprise he played a Donald Ross track well for T5 in Detroit in his last appearance. Disappointing 77th-place finish at Pebble Beach where he’s raked over the years. Let’s see if Todd Anderson’s swing changes can hold up this week. If not, no sweat, save him for Wyndham.
45 Haotong Li
Yeah, no idea. Just a pup, he’s cashed in eight of 10 majors including solo third at Birkdale and T16 at Shinnecock. Intersting.
46 Andrew Putnam
Whoa, hey, No. 46! Went ICE COLD after solo second at Sony and then BLAMMO, T3 at Colonial. I’m most interested in his T4 in Scotland last week as he made it six straight paydays worldwide in his last six. He’s cashed in the last three majors he’s played in as well.
47 Alex Noren
The opposite of his countryman Stenson.
48 Jim Furyk
I’m an ageist, sorry.
49 C T Pan
Not ready for prime time just yet as evidenced by MC-MC at Bethpage and Pebble Beach. I’ll patiently wait.
50 Justin Harding
I’ll point out, again, that his two best finishes are on tracks that are wide open without any rough. That’s not the case this week.
Functioning Form/Long Shots/DFS/Etc.
Zach Johnson: There’s nothing wrong with finding guys who make the cut and could surprise on the weekend. The making the cut part is now 12 straight, even after playing the JDC the week prior annually. I’m not as confident as surprising on the weekend but it’s been T17 or BETTER the last four years.
Jazz J: He has 10 top 10s in 18 starts this season. He knew he was in The Open in January after winning in Singapore but that didn’t slow him down one bit. Remember when he was in the penultimate group at Bethpage Black before he shot a million?
Andrea Pavan: Check out this run: Win, MC, MC (Irish) and T4 (Scottish). WHO DOESN’T LOVE VOLATILITY???
Erik Van Rooyen: Too many top 30 paydays in 2019 to NOT give him a nibble. T8 and T43 in two majors suggest the biggest tracks and fields don’t bother him either.
Thorbjorn Olesen: I’ll bite as he rolls in off T10 and T15 last week, both on the links. At 110-1, surely a nibble or two.
Andy Sullivan: Playing the last four weeks and cashing inside T28 in all four gives me hope. His T2 at the Irish Open inflates my position.
Shugo Imahira: He’s dominated on the Japan Tour with five top 10s in his last six but he’s MC at both majors he’s qualified for in 2019.
Emiliano Grillo: Cashed in eight straight on TOUR and four straight majors. Strong all-around game and world traveler.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera: If his T16 at Bethpage didn’t convince you he’s on fire I’m not sure I can help. Heat check took five weeks off and returned with T2, T8 and T29 the last three weeks. Oui.
Adam Hadwin: T6 in Canada and fourth his last time out at 3M. Not bad from his last three events.
Lucas Glover: I don’t like he didn’t handle the cool weather at Pebble Beach but T7 at 3M and T10 at John Deere shouldn’t be completely dismissed either.
Paul Waring: In 11 events this season he’s cashed four in the top 10, including T7 at the Irish Open. He also hit the top 10 in the 2012 Irish Open here.
Ryan Palmer: Has taken home a check in all four trips over here and shows up off T17 at JDC, his best finish there.
Romain Langasque: Check this: In his last 10, five MC and four top 6. Savage! He was third last week but you knew that because you read The Confidence Factor!
Adri Arnaus: If you believe in heat checks, he was T2 at Sergio’s event and T15 LTO at the Irish Open. I’ll give you ONE guess on how many majors he’s played before. One. T58 at Pebble.
Thomas Pieters: Never missed in three tries in this event. Almost won the Masters a couple of years ago and played on the European Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine. Just crazy enough for a punt.
Charley Hoffman: He’s rattled off T20 and T17 the last two years over here but his baggage of four straight MC follows him over this year.
Abraham Ancer: Form of his life and hit the top 20 last week. Love that he went early to learn. I definitely don’t hate he was T16 at Bethpage and T49 at Pebble Beach either.
Zander Lombard: Runner up at 2014 Amateur at Royal Portrush. One dolla hollah.
Brandon Wu: Flew to Scotland to qualify, and did as medalist at St. Andrews. Amateur was T35 at Pebble Beach after qualifying for that as well. Tough.
Matthias Schmid: T9 at The Amateur last month and followed that up by winning the European Amateur.
If not mentioned above…
Graeme McDowell: I think qualifying for the event was the biggest deal. His MC-MC on the links the last two weeks suggest this could be just a celebration. I know the reasons why I should take him but I’m going to let him enjoy his week. He’s already won by just being here.
Lucas Bjerregaard: MC in five straight.
Branden Grace: He sure did fire 62 at Royal Birkdale. He also arrives on MC in four of his last five with T53 the other.
Ernie Els: MC in five of six and the other is WD. If there was a switch, he would have flipped it by now, right?