Royal Portrush Golf Club. photo courtesy David Cannon and Getty Images
The 2019 Open Championship begins this weekend, July 18-21, at the historic Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. It is the only course outside of Scotland and England to ever host the tournament, though it is the first time the club has held the tournament in 68 years. The Open Championship, sometimes referred to as the British Open, is the last major championship of the year and provides one final opportunity for the world’s best golfers to etch their name in history. Golf’s greatest players throughout history, such as Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have all claimed victory at golf’s oldest major. Last year saw the first Italian champion Francesco Molinari come from behind to win the Open Championship.
2018 Champion Francesco Molinari
photo credit: Warren Little
Francesco Molinari doesn’t exactly stand out on the course. Standing 5 ft. 8 in., Molinari was once not even seen as the best golfer in his own family, with brother Edoardo also a professional golfer. However, Molinari showed continual improvement since turning professional in 2004 with multiple European Tour wins and strong Ryder Cup performances. 2018 was a turning point for Molinari, as he joined the level of elite golfers by becoming the first Italian to claim a major championship. The 2018 Open Championship featured a frantic and crowded finish, with 6 players remaining tied for the lead on the final 9 holes at one point. While Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffelle and others played strongly, most eyes were on Tiger Woods who was chasing his first major championship in a decade. However, it was Molinari who would emerge from the pack despite starting the round 3 strokes back from the lead. The Italian hit 13 straight pars before a birdie on the 14th. Given the difficult conditions at host course Carnoustie, typified by Woods’ double bogey on the 11th hole that saw him drop from the lead, Molinari’s performance was enough to push him to the lead. A bogey-free final 4 holes, including a birdie on the 18th hole, handed Molinari the win by 2 strokes.
Molinari will be keen to lift the Claret Jug again this year, but will face a tough field and difficult course at Royal Portrush. In fact, all of the top 85 golfers in the Official Golf World Rankings will be competing, with the exception of an injured Kevin Na currently ranked at 34. Favorites include Brooks Koepka, who has either won or finished runner-up in each of the past 4 majors. Matt Kuchar is another in-form golfer, while the golf world waits to see how Tiger Woods will compete in what is his best year of golf in over a decade. Rory McIlory, winner of the 2014 Open Championship, looks to continue his strong season with a win on home soil. McIlroy has shown his ability at Portrush before, as he holds the course record with a remarkable 61 carded as an amateur at age 16. Fellow Northern Irishmen Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell will also be huge fan favorites as they look to win the Claret Jug. The tournament promises action and drama as the world’s best tee off.
Rory McIlroy hopes to win on his native soil. photo courtesy: Rory McIlroy
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.