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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

...And The Coveted Claret Jug Goes To...?

Royal Portrush (Dunluce links) in Northern Ireland
by Harry Cummins

     For only the second time in its storied 148 year history, the British Open this year won't be contested on the undulated sod of Great Britain or Scotland.

     The greatest golfers in the world will instead converge on Northern Ireland this week to vie for the right to raise the iconic Claret jug.  There are no less than 15 past British Open Champions in the select field that will stroll the giant sandhills and plateau greens of Royal Portrush, also the site of the 1951 Open.

     My pick?  Take a flyer on the threesome teeing off Thursday at 10:21 (EST) I say the winner of the 2019 Open Championship will emerge from this grouping of Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantley and Matt Kuchar.


     Northern Ireland's own, Rory Mcllroy, is the opening line 8-1 favorite to capture the title which will be contested over this 7,344 yard, par 71 layout.  When he was just 16 years old, Mcllroy shot a record 61 on this same course in a qualifying round for the 2005 North of Ireland Championships.

     The world's No 1 player and 4-time major winner Brooks Koepka is also looking for a local edge. His caddie, Ricky Elliott, grew up playing Royal Portrush and estimates he has played over 1,000 rounds on the course.  Elliot's parents house is still located 1/4 mile from the famed links.

     There are few settings in golf to rival the panoramic beauty of Royal Portrush. The hills of Donegal in the west, the isle of Islay and Southern Hebries in the north and the Giant's Causeway and Skerries to the east.  The course is overlooked by the ruins of the 13th Century Dunluce Castle.

     Starting Thursday, the attention of the entire sporting world will be on this former fishing village now a world famous holiday resort. With the rescheduling of the PGA Championship to May, this will be the final major of the golf season. Defending champion Francesco Molinari leads a field of 156 golfers expected to draw a record 200,000 spectators. All tickets to the event have been sold nearly a year in advance.

     It is cause for great celebration for an area so troubled by sectarian violence in it's past. The conclusion of the third round this year will be greeted by a somewhat controversial celebration of marching bands and a 3 hour concert in the center of town.

     With the finishing holes at Portrush nicknamed 'Calamity Corner' and 'Purgatory, a most memorable week on the Emerald Isle can be expected.

 
NBC Sports Group will offer 410 hours of OPEN TV coverage from Portrush

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