Written by Rory Wood
The 146th Open Championship will be played at Royal Birkdale near Liverpool from 16-23 July this year. It will be the 10th time Birkdale has hosted the Open. It was last played there in 2008 and won by Padraig Harrington - let's not forget Greg Norman, age 53 at the time, was leading by 2 shots coming into the final round! That championship was played in high winds, and Padraig won at 3 over par - only the second time since 1985 the Open winner finished over par (+6 at Carnoustie in 1999).
I am particularly looking forward to this Open Championship in number of reasons. First, i thought the US open at Erin Hills exceeded (low) expectations with Brooks Chopra playing power golf to win comfortably on a course that ended up presenting better than the media hype might have suggested. But, it certainly didn't help the credibility of the event when arguably the top players in the world (Rory Mcilroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren) all miss the cut. Another factor is the length they are making these courses, you do wonder how any player driving the ball under 280-300 yards has any chance. (FYI Brooks hit a 379 yard 3 wood on the 72nd hole - playing conservatively?).
But back at Royal Birkdale, you know the course cannot present at near to 8000 yards like Erin Hills (Birkdale will be the same length as 2008), but instead you know it will rely on it's natural defences. We know the course will play tight and tricky - especially if the weather turns, and the wind will always play a significant role. Watch the video below with Tom Watson discussing the Open and Royal Birkdale as well as the head pro giving some further insights into the course.
Tom Watson Discusses the Open and Birkdale
Royal Birkdale Pro gives insights to the course
Furthermore, with all my research for my 2018 Open Rota Tour, I have gained a greater understanding for the Open Courses - i just can't wait to play them all!
So who will win?
There is some good golf being played by the new generation. Recent wins from Jordon Spieth, John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood (a Birkdale local) and good form from Ricky Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson Dechambeau and Justin Thomas suggests they have all hit their a-game at the perfect time and should be in the running
On the other hand, the experienced campaingners like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickleson and the big 3 (Rory, DJ and Jason) will be hoping to step it up.
Either way I'm sure the cream will rise to the top and create another oustanding open (hard to beat last years) on a golf course that has tested the best before without being ridiculously long.
Below you will find some more video clips about previous Open Championships - a flashback to the 2008 open, and the epic highlights of last years open at Royal Troon. Enjoy!
2008 Flashback to the Open at Royal Birkdale
2016 Open Championship Highlights at Royal Troon