The last golf major of the season kicks off this weekend when the 148th Open Championship returns to Dunluce Links course at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years. The action takes place July 18-21 and features the world’s greatest golfers competing for the Claret Jug. Among those competing are defending champion Francesco Molinari, as well as Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods. Northern Irish golfers Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke will all be looking to use local support to claim victory on home soil
The Open Championship, sometimes referred to as the British Open, is the oldest major tournament in the world. It was first contested in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland. The tournament is held on traditional links courses, harkening to golf’s development on link land courses in Scotland throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The original tournament was only 36 holes and was won by Scottish golfer Willie Park. The trophy then was the “Challenge Belt,” a red belt of fine Moroccan leather with a large silver buckle. However, the rules stipulated that the belt would belong permanently to the first golfer to win 3 consecutive Opens. Remarkably, only 10 years after the tournament began the belt was retired when “Young” Tom Morris, Jr. won 3 titles from 1868-1870, aged only 20 years old. Following this achievement, Prestwick Golf Club and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews shared the expenses on creating the Claret Jug, which has remained the Open Championship’s trophy ever since.
Tom Morris, Jr. and the Challenge Belt. photo courtesy The Scottish Golf Book
The Open Championship has been won by the game’s greatest players, beginning with the pioneering first wave of professionals like Tom Morris, Sr. and Bob Ferguson, to the legendary 6-time champion Harry Vardon. Jock Hutchinson became the first American to win the event in 1921 and was followed by other Americans like Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan. Other winners include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth.
Royal Portrush Golf Club
The Open Championship is only played on the best links courses in the United Kingdom, primarily in Scotland and England. In fact, 2019 host Royal Portrush is the only course outside of Scotland and England to have hosted the prestigious event, having previously hosted the tournament in 1951. The club was founded as “The County Club” in 1888, earning its current “royal” title in 1892 with the Duke of York and soon to be King Edward VII serving as the club’s patron. The course dates to the 19th century with an original layout by Tom Morris, Sr., though the current layout was designed by Harry Colt in 1929. The course was especially important in developing the game in Ireland, hosting the first Irish Amateur in 1892. More recently, it has helped develop 2011 Open Championship winner and Royal Portrush member Darren Clarke as well as Portrush born and 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell. The course has been lengthened to prepare for its first major championship in 68 years and fans should expect a tight course that demands accuracy in the face of often unpredictable July weather, as well as the course’s well known elevation changes.
Extensive television coverage is provided by both the Golf Channel and NBC. The first 2 rounds are covered by the Golf Channel Thursday and Friday, 1:30am-4pm ET. Saturday coverage starts on Golf Channel 4:30-7am ET before switching to NBC 7am-2:30pm ET. The final round begins on Golf Channel 4:30-7am ET and ends on NBC 7am-2pm ET. Radio coverage is provided by SiriusXM Thursday and Friday 2am-4pm ET and Saturday and Sunday 4am-2:30pm ET.