Royal Birkdale, Southport, England, 7,156 yards, par 70.
Defending Open Champion: Henrik Stenson, shot a major record -20, 264 last year at Royal Troon (Scotland) to defeat Phil Mickelson by 3 shots.
This is the 10th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale with the last one in 2008, which Predrag, I mean Padraig Harrington, won at age 36, as he went back to back at Opens. He won in 2007 also, in a playoff over Sergio at Carnoustie (Scotland).
Total purse: $10,250,000, first place, $1,840,000
Weather: Not terrible, but windy as one would expect at the Open. Padraig won here at +3 in 2008 with tough weather. Thursday: 64, partly sunny, winds 13-18 MPH; Friday, 64, periods of rain, 12-20 MPH; Saturday, 63, cloudy a little rain, 9-15 MPH; Sunday, 64, a little rain, 9-14 MPH. Some good scoring is definitely attainable.
TV: Thursday-Friday, 12:30 AM-3 PM, Golf Channel. Saturday, 3:30- 6 AM Golf Channel. 6 AM-2 PM NBC. Sunday, 3-6 AM, Golf Channel. 6 AM-1 PM, NBC.
No. 1, 448 yards, par 4
Tight driving hole with a bunker 260 yards out on the left. and out of bounds on the right. Second toughest hole on the course in 2008. Greens are relatively flat at Royal Birkdale, but winds could make the hole tricky.
There are 123 bunkers on the course.
No. 5, 346 yards, par 4.
A chance to go for the green on this dogleg left to right hole. It's only 290 to reach the front of the green off tees that are moved up, so players can give it a shot. There are pot bunkers in front of the green, so that makes the drive more challenging. But a real chance to make birdie and with a terrific drive, an eagle.
No.6 499 yards par 4.
The toughest hole on the course in 2008. A big cross bunker on the right hand side and any player who tries to take it on with a driver, hits into it or pulls it left, at least that's what happened in 2008. The course guide recommends hitting a long iron, which will be necessary on a lot of holes as driver will not be used much by the players, and get the ball in position to get out of number 6 with a par.
No. 15, 542 yards, par 5
There are 15 bunkers on this hole and it's the first par 5 of only 2 par 5's on the course. No. 17 is the other. There are 13 bunkers in the fairway and 2 in front of the green. Accuracy is at a premium. The bunkers are tough and very penalizing at Opens, and this course and hole are no exceptions. The green on the 15th slopes back from right to left. A back left pin placement would be a massive challenge on Sunday.
No.16, 438 yards, par 4
A lot of bunkers, so accuracy off the tee once again is a must. The green is elevated with 5 bunkers surrounding it. This last 4 holes are, for the most part, pretty difficult, but not as much the next one. It's doable and could lead to excitement on Sunday.
No.17, 567 yards, par 5
A birdie, even an eagle chance, but another tough driving hole. The player's drive needs to carry two large sand dunes to the left and right of the fairway, and avoid 2 hidden bunkers 312-323 off the tee. Another driving iron or 3 wood hole most likely. But a good shot at an eagle or birdie which could be highly significant on the 71st hole on Sunday.
No. 18, 432 yards, par 4
Another challenging driving hole protected by a fairway bunker and out of bounds on the right and a new bunker 304 down the left side. Maybe Dustin, Rory, Jon Rahm the guys who go deep, will challenge that bunker on the left. There is an additional bunker for the really long hitters, like those 3, at 349 yards out. Three bunkers surround the green. The course guide recommends hitting a rescue-like club, equivalent to a 3 or 4 iron, off the tee, and hit a 5 iron on the second shot to a small green surrounded by sand. Should be drama filled at this hole on Sunday with the championship in the balance.
I've done a lot of thinking this week on this one. My first thought was going with one of the young guns, then I went to a different young guy from the U.S., then a veteran who has played well on this course before. I looked at a recent winner on the European tour, thought about picking a really blazing hot young player, but came back full circle to my original pick.
From Jon Rahm to Jordan Spieth, who won electrically at the Travelers 3 weeks back, to Justin Rose, who finished 4th here in 1998 as a 17 year old amateur, to Rafa Cabrera- Bello, who won the Scottish Open last week impressively, to Hideki Matsuyama, who finished 2nd at the U.S. Open to Brooks Koepka, and is a real threat here, I came back to the 22 year old Spaniard by way of Arizona State, to capture the 146th Open. He was beyond impressive 2 weeks ago in capturing the Irish Open, winning at -24 and by 6 shots. His victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in February at Torrey Pines in San Diego with a majorly clutch 50 foot eagle putt on 18, proved to me, once I finally decided today, that this young guy is ready to win a major. I'm taking the man from Barricka, Espana to raise the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon eastern and central time in the U.S.