Royal Portrush Returns to the Big Time
It has been 68 years since The Open was staged in the seaside town of Portrush, but officials had no hesitation in bringing the tournament back to the famous venue once the political concerns of recent decades went away. With Irish golf enjoying an incredible era of sustained success and fans desperate to see the best in the world visit their shores, the R&A picked Portrush for its showpiece event and millions of pounds have been spent in preparation over the last few years.
Regarded as one of the most stunning links courses in the world but also one of the most testing, this year’s Open will be attended by 190,000 fans after selling out of tickets for the first time ever. The course has been lengthened to 7,317 yards and features five new greens, 10 new bunkers and two new holes, all surrounded by spectacular views. Among the most eye-catching holes are the 382-yard par-four at the fifth, the new uphill seventh called Curran Point and the par-three 16th known as Calamity Corner where many players have fallen foul of the treacherous abyss.
The Majors So Far in 2019
One of the most remarkable sporting stories of the year came at The Masters in April, when Tiger Woods roared back to his best to claim a first major championship since 2008. He finished just one stroke clear of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele, claiming his fifth Green Jacket at Augusta.
Koepka may have been denied on that occasion, but he was back to winning ways at the PGA Championship in May, holding off Dustin Johnson by two shots. Koepka was in front of the chasing pack from the first round to the last, showing nerves of steel to defend his title and land a fourth major in the space of two years.
Koepka had to be content with second place at the U.S. Open, though, as fellow American Gary Woodland edged him out to win at Pebble Beach. It was Woodland’s first taste of glory at the highest level and came after a sublime performance that left him on three under.
The Open 2019 Betting Tips
The demands of a Royal Portrush course that will be unfamiliar to many of the leading U.S. players make it an excellent opportunity for sports bettors and fans alike to enjoy what should be a riveting four days. The weather could also play an impact, too, with some unsettled conditions forecast. Here’s a rundown of who the oddsmakers think are best equipped to compete for top spot:
Rory McIlroy – 9/1: This will be the first time in his career that McIlroy gets the chance to play a major championship in his native Northern Ireland, and he will be cheered on by a partisan crowd as he navigates a course that is very special to him. It was at Royal Portrush that McIlroy announced himself to the wider world with a course-record 61 at the age of 16 in 2005. The venue will look rather different now following its recent makeover and there will be pressure on the 30-year-old, but he is in decent form following a win at the Canadian Open and top-ten finishes in two of this year’s majors, so the fond memories and fierce support stand him in good stead for a fairytale Open victory.
Brooks Koepka – 10/1: Koepka has perfected the art of peaking at the big events, showing only sporadic form between major tournaments but then raising his game when it matters the most. He has finished first or second in every major this year and the only gap on his CV is a strong showing at The Open. He also comes armed with a secret weapon, in the shape of caddie Ricky Elliott. No ordinary bagman, Elliott is originally from Portrush and should know the intricacies of the course better than anyone, so it would be unwise to bet against another podium finish for Koepka.
Dustin Johnson – 16/1: The second-ranked player in the world behind Koepka, Johnson has been something of a nearly man at the majors over the past couple of years, tying for second at The Masters and finishing runner-up at the PGA Championship. He also finished third at the 2018 U.S. Open. He has not shown his best at The Open since a second-placed finish in 2011 and his form in his last three events has been disappointing.
Jon Rahm – 16/1: Back up to eighth in the world rankings, Rahm is on a hot streak after finishing in the top three in all of his last three events. Following a tie for third at the U.S. Open, the Spaniard finished second at the Andalucia Masters and then triumphed at the Irish Open in Lahinch, a links course that had been set up very much with a view to Portrush. Rahmn has yet to win a major but has been knocking on the door for a couple of years and, at the age of 24, could be due for a breakthrough in Northern Ireland.
Tiger Woods – 20/1: Masters champion again in April and one of golf’s all-time legends, Woods’ chances can never be written off. However, the relatively short odds on another Tiger title are only likely to appeal to romantics hoping for another Hollywood story. This does not seem to be a setting that is best suited for Woods, with the chillier conditions and long flight potentially causing issues for his troublesome back. He has barely competed this summer outside of the majors and will surely be too rusty to mount a serious challenge.
Justin Rose – 20/1: Rose has had a solid rather than sparkling campaign in 2019. He was ranked No.1 when he won the Insurance Open back in January but the moments of magic have been few and far between over the past few months and he has slipped back to No.4, despite tying for third at the U.S. Open. He will head to Portrush slightly under the radar, but certainly has the game to flourish on a tricky course.
Francesco Molinari – 25/1: Molinari won The Open in 2018, shooting an excellent eight under to win at Carnoustie. The defending champion has his work cut out for him in Northern Ireland, however, having admitted that he has struggled to cope with the increased scrutiny that has come his way as a major winner. It looked like he might win The Masters in April when he led through three rounds, but a final-round 74 left him in a tie for fifth and opened the door for Woods to capture the Green Jacket.
Other Contenders - Among the rest of the hopefuls, Rickie Fowler could be a good bet to realise his potential in Portrush. He has often thrived in difficult conditions such as wind and rain and bad weather may just bring the best out in him. American Xander Schauffele is shaping up to be a future superstar and can be backed at around 28/1. Jordan Speith has been there and done it before, winning three major championships, and if there are signs of his long game returning in the early stages then it may be a good idea to have a flutter before his odds shorten from 33/1.
Unlike Spieth, Adam Scott is one former major winner who already seems to have got back on track, showing consistent form this year. He has only missed one cut at The Open since 2003 and should at least be pushing for a top five or top ten finish again. Keep an eye out for Henrik Stenson, too, a links specialist who won The Open at Royal Troon in 2016 and has posted some encouraging results in recent weeks.