The 148th Open Championship Preview

Josh Culp

Royal Portrush will be the star of the show this week as the PGA TOUR heads to Northern Ireland for The 148th Open Championship. 

The event features a wide range of golfers from all across the world.

The field size sits at 156 golfers with the PGA TOUR rules of top 70 and ties applying for the cut-line rules. 

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As usual, this event does not use split tees which brings the weather draw into the picture, more than any other event. 

To look at this event from a Euro-heavy focus, head over to Dave Tindall's Open Championship Preview.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week's Open Championship can be seen on NBC and Golf Channel. Viewers can Stream Live on Golf Channel


The Course

Royal Portrush is the host venue this week. The Dunluce Links course was laid out by Harry Colt in the late 1920s. It last hosted the Open Championship back in 1951 when it played at 6,800 yards as a par 72. It was seen more recently at the 2012 Irish Open when it was a par 70 that played around 7,000 yards. The course has been tweaked since then with a few new holes added. For The 148th Open it will be a par 71 that plays around 7,340 yards. 

Stationed on the North Atlantic Coast, this course will be exposed to the elements. 

The course is heavily undulated across the property. Not unusual for a links course which are often built on rolling terrain. That brings luck into the equation as some great shots will be subject to some bad luck and some poor shots might get lucky and end up better than they should. All part of the links equation. 

That brings Open Championship experience into the fold since it is often a learned skill to roll with the punches and not overreact to a few bounces that don't go your way, early in the week. Perhaps that is why we see some elder statesmen commonly play their way into contention at this event, more often than most of the other majors. 

Off the tee, the course is designed to have a lot of options. Martin Ebert did the recent renovations and he was quoted saying, "I hope there‚Äôs a sense of 50 percent will take the driver and 50 percent lay up with an iron or something similar, just to see them having to make decisions." 

The amount of bunkers sits in the low-to-mid 60s which is actually very low in terms of Open Championship venues. 

On approach, golfers will deal with a lot of undulations which means hitting some shots from uneven lies. The greens are also heavily undulations which should act as a nice shield to prevent golfers from landing too many shots close to the pins. That will likely lead to a lot of lag putts as well as a lot of short-game shorts from the runoff areas. 

For turf the golfers will see fescue across the property with some bent and meadow grass tossed into the mix. Very similar to what we see every year at this event. Being right on the coast, the greens will be prepped to run around just 10 feet on the stimp which is slow by PGA TOUR standards but common for this event. Given all the undulations at Portrush, there will still be plenty of slippery putts, if you leave yourself in the wrong spot on the greens. 


Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

Royal Birkdale
Royal Troon
St. Andrews
Royal Liverpool
Augusta National

In my opinion, there aren't many comps for this course on the regular PGA TOUR schedule. We just don't get to see golfers challenged on links courses with fescue turf and tough bunkering. That is why I just chose the last five venues for The Open and also added Augusta National because of all the undulations on the Georgia layout. That translates well to Royal Portrush which features rolling terrain and a lot of elevation changes. 


The Weather

Thursday: Cloudy with a high of 63 degrees. Winds at 9 to 12 MPH with gusts up to 25 MPH. 

Friday: Cloudy with potential for light showers. Winds at 7 to 10 MPH with gusts up to 16 MPH. 

Weekend: Temps remain in the mid-60s with a steady stream of wind. Some spotty showers remain possible all weekend. 

The weather looks pretty good but there is always the chance for the wind to wreak havoc when they play by the sea.  

Golfers to Watch

Rory McIlroy
Hold the course record at Portrush but the layout has been altered since he shot that round of 61 as a teenager. He's somehow gained the reputation for not playing well at links courses or in the wind but his resume suggests otherwise with finishes of T5 or better in four straight Open Championship appearances including his 2014 victory. Add in his local knowledge, and McIlroy becomes the man to beat. 

Brooks Koepka
He's finished 1st or 2nd in five of the last six major championships which is unsustainable in the long run but when will the run actually end? It might not end this week when you consider his caddie is a local and knows the course better than 90% of the field. He should have a good game plan for the course this week which makes him one of the top threats to be Champion Golfer of the Year by week's end. 

Dustin Johnson
He swallowed a few big numbers last time we saw him in action in Detroit. Two of those were on the par 3s but he was also shaky with the driver. From a season-long view, he's still easily one of the top 3 golfers in the field so we shouldn't overlook him based on a short-term run of mediocre results. 

Graeme McDowell
His brother is a greenskeeper at Portrush so this would be quite the story is G-Mac poked his head into contention this week. He'll know the course better than nearly everyone in the field this week. 

Jordan Spieth
You might have expected him to add John Deere to his schedule last week but he told the tournament director he was nursing a minor injury that he wanted to keep fresh for the late-season run.  Popped back into form with three straight top 10s, starting at the PGA Championship, but arrives with a T65 and missed cut in his two most recent starts. His name still holds weight for public expectation but it's hard to trust without any ball-striking consistency and a "minor injury" added to the mix. 

Tiger Woods
He's been dormant since the U.S. Open which is somewhat relevant but also not a huge deal since that was just five weeks ago. He did the same thing between the Masters and PGA Championship and missed the cut there. For him to go with the same prep schedule lets us know that rest in between was not the factor his for poor play at Bethpage, at least not in his mind. 

Henrik Stenson
He elevates his game when it comes to these links layouts. He also arrives with three straight top 10s, worldwide. 

Eddie Pepperell
Took some time off to rest his back but enters with a top 5 and top 45 in the last two weeks as his prep work. He's a machine on links layouts which generally let him club down and use his driver less than most courses. The Englishman is an interesting boom-or-bust sleeper this week. 

Ranking the Field 

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Brooks Koepka
4. Jon Rahm
5. Patrick Cantlay
6. Justin Rose
7. Tiger Woods
8. Adam Scott
9. Justin Thomas
10. Xander Schauffele
11. Rickie Fowler
12. Hideki Matsuyama
13. Graeme McDowell
14. Matt Kuchar
15. Webb Simpson
16. Tommy Fleetwood
17. Jason Day
18. Gary Woodland
19. Paul Casey
20. Sergio Garcia
21. Tony Finau
22. Bryson DeChambeau
23. Francesco Molinari
24. Rafa Cabrera Bello
25. Henrik Stenson
26. Marc Leishman
27. Tyrrell Hatton
28. Louis Oosthuizen
29. Eddie Pepperell
30. Matt Wallace

Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.

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