British Open: Tee times, how to follow, who to back and more
All you need to know guide ahead of the final Major of the year at Royal Portrush
Crowds watch Tiger Woods tee off on the 16th during a practice round ahead of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The British Open is returning to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951. This year it’s the final Major of the season after the US PGA was moved to May and Francesco Molinari is the defending champion after he held off Tiger Woods at Carnoustie last year.
When does it start?
It all gets underway at the early hour of 6.30am on the morning of Thursday July 18th and runs until Sunday July 21st. The Open is rare in that players all start from the first tee so play goes on well after 9pm or so in the evening.
Who are the Irish competitors?
Rory McIlroy is the tournament favourite and will garner the vast majority of attention this week as he looks to win a first Major since 2014 which is also the year he got his hands on the Claret Jug at Hoylake. McIlroy looked a little off in finishing tied-34th in the Scottish Open at the weekend but the fact remains that, on paper, he is having the best season of his career so far with 11 top-10s in 14 appearances this season which includes two wins at the Players Championship and the Canadian Open.
Shane Lowry comes into this week in some good form with a win at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi and he’s followed that up with three top-10s in the US since, including a tie for eighth at the US PGA. Lowry has links-winning form from when he won the Irish Open at Baltray in 2009 and obviously feels very comfortable with seaside golf but his British Open form makes for some very stark reading given that he has missed the cut for four years in a row since 2014.
Pádraig Harrington will always be remembered in the context of this event given that he lifted the Claret Jug on two occasions in 2007 and 2008, paving the way for a flurry of Irish Major victories. Harrington opened with a 63 at the Irish Open in Lahinch two weeks ago before fading and he missed the cut in Scotland last week. While the Ryder Cup captaincy will take up a lot of his time and, at 48, he is coming into the twilight years, it’s never worth discounting a potential run from the Dubliner in this event.
Graeme McDowell comes into this week as even more of a local than McIlroy having grown up in the town of Portrush while McIlroy came from close to Belfast. McDowell made no secret of the fact that he was desperate to qualify for this week and he did so at the Canadian Open by sinking a 30 foot par putt on the last to book his place. McDowell has shot 63 around here before and he already has a win under his belt this year in the Dominican Republic.
Darren Clarke is now plying his trade mainly on the Champions Tour in the US and this week will be more of a sentimental point in a career which was capped by his winning of this tournament back in 2011. Indeed the Dungannon man will hit the opening shot of the week when he tees of at 6.35am on Thursday.
James Sugrue is riding a wave at the moment since winning the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock last month. The Mallow amateur was sublime over the week in Dublin, winning the 36-hole final to book himself a place in this week’s tournament as well as next year’s Masters and US Open. This week will be all about experience for the young player as the professional game awaits down the line. He’ll also be involved in a special moment on the first day when he joins Clarke and Charley Hoffman in the first group off at 6.35am.
Who are the favourites?
Rory McIlroy (8/1) heads the betting as he returns to a course where he shot 61 as a 16-year-old during qualifying for the 2005 North of Ireland Championship. However, the course has been changed somewhat since with the old 17th and 18th holes now gone and two new holes brought in at the seventh and eighth. McIlroy will be under intense scrutiny this week as a he plays a Major championship at home for the first time ever and it would be one of the sporting stories of the year if he was to break what is a now a five-year Major duck in front of his home fans.
Brooks Koepka (9/1) is the close second favourite to McIlroy and the American comes here with three wins in his last eight starts in the Majors. He finished second to Gary Woodland at last month’s US Open at Pebble Beach, coming up narrowly short in his quest to win the title for a third year in a row, and that came a month after he had successfully defended the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Koepka also has Portrush-native Rickie Elliott on his bag, a man who has shot 65 around Portrush during his elite amateur days but the local has already said he’s not sure how much his knowledge will help the big-hitting American as players like Koepka take lines of tees that normal players wouldn’t even dream of.
After Koepka there is a gap to Dustin Johnson (14/1), Jon Rahm (14/1) and Tiger Woods (16/1). Dustin Johnson comes in as world number one and his Open record is pretty impressive with three top-10s, the last of which came in 2016. While he did throw away an opportunity to win this tournament in 2011 by hitting out of bounds on the 14th at Royal St George’s, paving the way for Darren Clarke to take the Claret Jug, his main strength in bombing the ball miles off the tee may be negated this week as accuracy in approach play and scrambling are likely to be the key components needed. Jon Rahm comes in off the back of his Irish Open victory two weeks ago and, with that being the second time he has won that title on a links course, there is little doubting his aptitude when it comes to playing beside the sea. Whether his temperament can stand up to winning a tournament as big as this is still questionable and his record at the British Open does read a pretty uninspiring 59th, 44th, missed cut. And then we come to Tiger Woods. Since his heroic Masters victory at Augusta in April the Woods train has very much gone into slow motion with the 15-time Major winner missing the cut at the US PGA before posting a tied-21st finish at the US Open which did feature a closing round 69. Woods has only played one other tournament since the Masters - a tied ninth finish at Memorial - and that lack of tournament sharpness does raise questions. The other factor is that Woods does not perform well in cooler conditions when his back stiffens up, something he spoke about at Pebble Beach. His performance at a chilly Bethpage and at the Ryder Cup in Paris last September proved that and the north west coast of Ireland isn’t exactly known for searing temperatures even in July, meaning the former world number one could have quite a job on his hands getting his body in prime condition, although he has pulled a good draw with his early tee time on Friday coming at the leisurely hour of 10.09am.
Any other tips?
Henrik Stenson (28/1): A former winner and one that has been off the radar a little since he beat Phil Mickelson in that epic duel at Troon in 2016. However, he has found some form in recent weeks with three top-10s in his last three events including a tie for fourth at last week’s Scottish Open where he recorded just one single bogey in his 72 holes and looked to have the ball on a string. Before that win in 2016 he also had three top-fives in this event previously so the links pedigree is there.
Louis Oosthuizen (40/1): The South African is a former winner of this tournament having raised the claret jug at St Andrews in 2010 before missing out in a playoff at the same course five years later when Zach Johnson won. Oosthuizen was tied for the lead after two rounds of the Masters this year before fading over the weekend and he also contended at the US PGA in May before recording a seventh place finish at the US Open. On top of that he has six top five finishes this season, including a win at his native South African Open and, with a career record of second place in all four Majors, he knows how to perform on the biggest stage.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (55/1): Two weeks ago he led the Irish Open with nine holes to play at Lahinch before being eclipsed by Jon Rahm and his back nine of two over par could be considered a slight worry. However, the Spaniard did finish in a tie for fourth, adding to a tie for third the week before in Germany and last week he tied ninth in Scotland. He’s certainly in form and in 2017 he captured a title on a links course by winning the Scottish Open at Dundonald. The Spaniard’s low ball flight proves to be quite effective on links terrain and, unlike a lot of the players in the field this week, he actually has form around this course in a second place finish at the Irish Open when it was held here in 2012.
Eddie Pepperell (66/1): The Englishman has shown just how adept he is at links golf by finishing in a tie for sixth at this tournament last year following a final round of 67 at Carnoustie despite the fact that, as he admitted himself, he was hungover. Pepperell recorded a tied-fourth finish at the Irish Open two weeks ago in what was a first appearance since the US PGA in May due to injury and also a third top-five of the season so far. More pointers towards his aptitude for links golf come in the form of a second place finish at the Scottish Open last year, seventh at the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2017 and a tie for second at the Irish Open just down the road in Royal County Down in 2015. His win at last year’s British Masters in rainy, windy conditions at Walton Heath proves even further that, when the going gets tough, he gets going.
Can I still get tickets?
Nope. For the first time ever the British Open has sold out with no tickets available at the gate.
How can I follow it all?
The Irish Times liveblog will run throughout the first two days, beginning around 6.30am on Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday or Sunday you will be able to follow along with our liveblog from a few hours before the leaders go out.
If you’re watching on television then Sky Sports is the only place as they hold exclusive rights. Coverage begins at 6.30am on Thursday and Friday, 9am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday.
What’s the weather going to be like?
As is always the case at the British Open the best way to describe the weather is changeable. However, it does look like the players are going to be spared some of the gale force winds that can sometimes blow in over the Dunluce Links.
Showers are forecast for all four days but winds are not expected to get much above 20kmh with the first day looking like the breeziest. Temperatures will be quite cool in the mornings meaning all players will face a chilly start on one of the first two days depending on how the draw falls. On each of the first two days the weather looks to be consistent enough throughout the day with sporadic showers so being on the right side of the draw may not be as crucial as it sometimes is in British Opens.
What are the tee times?
British Open first and second round tee times (Irish in bold)
06:35 / 11:36: Darren Clarke (Nir), James Sugrue (Ire), Charley Hoffman (US)
06:46 / 11:47: Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Sung Kang (Kor), Thomas Thurloway (a) (Eng)
06:57 / 11:58: Andy Sullivan (Eng), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Alex Levy (Fra)
07:08 / 12:09: Chan Kim (US), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Brandon Wu (a) (US)
07:19 / 12:20: Richard Sterne (Rsa), Romain Langasque (Fra), Matthias Schmid (a) (Ger)
07:30 / 12:31: Pádraig Harrington (Ire), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Andrew Putnam (US)
07:41 / 12:42: Bubba Watson (US), Eddie Pepperell (Eng), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp)
07:52 / 12:53: Phil Mickelson (US), Shane Lowry (Ire), Branden Grace (Rsa)
08:03 / 13:04: Alex Noren (Swe), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Sam Locke (Sco)
08:14 / 13:15: Webb Simpson (US), Sergio Garcia (Esp), CT Pan (Tai)
08:25 / 13:26: Ryan Palmer (US), Andrea Pavan (Ita), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa)
08:36 / 13:37: Kyle Stanley (US), Bob MacIntyre (Sco), Andrew Johnston (Eng)
08:47 / 13:48: Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Oliver Wilson (Eng), Curtis Knipes (a) (Eng)
09:03 / 14:04: Ian Poulter (Eng), Sungjae Im (Kor), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
09:14 / 14:15: Henrik Stenson (Swe), Xander Schauffele (US), Graeme McDowell (Nir)
09:25 / 14:26: Haotong Li (Chi), Russell Knox (Sco), Bernd Wiesberger (Aus)
09:36 / 14:37: Jason Kokrak (US), Conor Syme (Sco), Austin Connelly (Can)
09:47 / 14:48: Zach Johnson (US), David Duval (US), Corey Conners (Can)
09:58 / 14:59: Francesco Molinari (Ita), Bryson DeChambeau (US), Adam Scott (Eng)
10:09 / 15:10: Rory McIlroy (Nir), Gary Woodland (US), Paul Casey (Eng)
10:20 / 15:21: Rickie Fowler (US), Kevin Kisner (US), Hideki Matsuyama (Jap)
10:31 / 15:32: Jim Furyk (US), Siwoo Kim (Kor), Jimmy Walker (US)
10:42 / 15:43: Luke List (US), Alexander Bjork (Swe), Paul Waring (Eng)
10:53 / 15:54: Shugo Imahira (Jap), Nate Lashley (US), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
11:04 / 16:05: Mikumu Horikawa (Jap), Callum Shinkwin (Eng), Garrick Porteous (Eng)
11:15 / 16:16: Prom Meesawat (Tha), Matthew Baldwin (Eng), Jack Senior (Eng)
11:36 / 06:35: Tom Lehman (US), Joaquin Niemann (Chile), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Esp)
11:47 / 06:46: Byeong Hun An (Kor), Jorge Campillo (Esp), Chris Wood (Eng)
11:58 / 06:57: Joel Dahmen (US), Adri Arnaus (Esp), Dimitrios Papadatos (Aus)
12:09 / 07:08: Stewart Cink (US), Rory Sabbatini (Slo), Innchoon Hwang (Kor)
12:20 / 07:19: Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Kurt Kitayama (US), Jake McLeod (Aus)
12:31 / 07:30: Ryan Fox (NZ), Shaun Norris (Rsa), Dongkyu Jang (Kor)
12:42 / 07:41: Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Keith Mitchell (US), Thomas Pieters (Bel)
12:53 / 07:52: Justin Thomas (US), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den)
13:04 / 08:03: Brooks Koepka (US), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
13:15 / 08:14: Billy Horschel (US), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Aaron Wise (US)
13:26 / 08:25: Jordan Spieth (US), Marc Leishman (Aus), Danny Willett (Eng)
13:37 / 08:36: Cameron Smith (Aus), Adam Hadwin (Can), David Lipsky (US)
13:48 / 08:47: Paul Lawrie (Sco), Chez Reavie (US), Justin Harding (Rsa)
14:04 / 09:03: Takumi Kanaya (A) (Jpn), Tom Lewis (Eng), Brandon Stone (Rsa)
14:15 / 09:14: Lucas Glover (USA), Joost Luiten (Ned), Nino Bertasio (Ita)
14:26 / 09:25: Ernie Els (Rsa), JB Holmes (USA), Abraham Ancer (Mex)
14:37 / 09:36: Brandt Snedeker (USA), Lee Westwood (Eng), Brian Harman (USA)
14:48 / 09:47: Justin Rose (Eng), Tony Finau (USA), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den)
14.59 / 09:58: Dustin Johnson (USA), Jason Day (Aus), Keegan Bradley (USA)
15:10 / 10:09: Tiger Woods (USA), Matthew Wallace (Eng), Patrick Reed (USA)
15:21 / 10:20: Jon Rahm (Spa), Patrick Cantlay (USA), Matt Kuchar (USA)
15:32 / 10:31: Kevin Streelman (USA), Doc Redman (USA), Robert Rock (Eng)
15:43 / 10:42: Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Isidro Benitez (Mex)
15.54 / 10:53: Patton Kizzirer (USA), Sang Hyun Park (Kor), Yuki Inamori (Jpn)
16:05 / 11:04: Yoshinori Fujimoto (Jpn), Doyeob Mun (Kor), Andrew Wilson (Eng)
16:16 / 11:15: Gunn Charoenkul (Tha), Yosuke Asaji (Jpn), Ashton Turner (Eng)