The Dormie returns for the Open Championship.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club: Par 70, Yardage: 7,173 yards
The Open returns to Royal Birkdale for the 10th time in the tournament’s long history. The names who have won here are legendary: Padraig Harrington (2008), Mark O’Meara (1998), Ian Baker-Finch (1991), Tom Watson (1983), Johnny Miller (1976), Lee Trevino (1971), and this guy by the name of Arnold Palmer (1961). The club itself beckons the best golfers and will be hosting amateur tournaments about a month after the Open leaves its grounds: the Ladies’ Scratch Trophy and the Birkdale Goblet Trophy.
If the map doesn’t it away, the first hole is a daunting 450-yard par 4 that kicks off the par-5-less front nine. That’s not to say the front nine is easy, holes 3, 6, and 8 are also over 450 yards and the entire course is riddled with deep, deep bunkers. Hole #6, as seen above, has a massive dogleg to the right and has played as the hardest hole in the past two Opens that Birkdale has hosted.
The back side will also provide a tough test as it all culminates with the final four hole: the 544-yard 15th, 439-yard 16th, 572-yard 17th, and 473-yard 18th. What I’m getting at here is that you need to play consistent golf and be able to turn it on down the stretch. 16 is long with a bunker-protected green while 17 played as the easiest hole in 2008 as Harrington eagled it twice en route to victory.
TV Coverage (Eastern Time):
Thursday and Friday: 1:30 am – 4:00 pm (Golf Channel)
Saturday: 4:30 am – 7:00 am (Golf Channel) then 7:00 am – 2:30 pm (NBC)
Sunday: 4:00 am – 7:00 am (Golf Channel) then 7:00 am to finish (NBC)
At 156 players, the Open is certainly is one of the largest fields in golf. 16 of a possible 23 past champions are in the field including John Daly (!!!) and the aforementioned champions at Royal Troon: Padraig Harrington (’08) and Mark O’Meara (’98).
Henrik Stenson is the reigning champ and a hot pick this week as his masterful performance last year at Troon could translate to Birkdale. I’m not entirely buying it, though, as Stenson missed the cuts at both Augusta and Erin Hills. I think he makes the cut here but doesn’t contend. Sergio Garcia leads a very hot Spanish Armada (had to) as the Masters champion with Jon Rahm and Rafael Cabrera-Bello having won the Irish and Scottish Opens in the last two weeks. US Open Champ Brooks Kopeka has the tools to play well as an accurate bomber but the conditions won’t be as fair as they were at Erin Hills. The usual US suspects of Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler are always ones to keep an out on and are the top three in odds. Spieth has the Open pedigree to be the favorite of the three as he’s played over across the pond. Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Irish Open and many are wondering if his ribs are still bothering. Justin Rose could be the first Englishman to win the Open in a long time and has stepped up in big moments, most notably at the Olympics last year. Phil Mickelson showed at last year’s Open that he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. The story you’ll probably hear the most about is Tommy Fleetwood’s. He grew up around the corner from the club and used to sneak onto the course. He won the French Open a few weeks ago and has rocketed his way to #12 in the World.
The Cut: +7
The Winner and Score:
The winner of the Open at Birkdale has been above the last few times it has been played there and this year shouldn’t be any different. It’s incredibly windy and the length isn’t helping anyone. Like with the US Open, I’m going to give full bias take on Rory and then make my actual. The injury news isn’t anything to worry about but I’ll admit that three of four missed cuts is a tough pill to swallow. Rory wasn’t off by too much at Erin Hills as a few wide drives held him up on Friday. Birkdale should be a bit more forgiving and if Rory manages it well, he knows how to bring himself into contention. (bias rant over). Home course advantages are incredibly helpful. You know the ins and outs of every inch on the course. Fleetwood has played well coming into the Open and knows every inch of Birkdale. He outlasted DJ in Dubai earlier this year and played fantastically at Erin Hills. Fleetwood wins at two-over.
Disagree with my pick? Who do think will be in the final groups on Sunday? Let me know in the commentsFollow @geordo9