The Open – First Day at Portrush

The Open Gets Underway at Portrush With List of Victims

I grew up around seaside courses. I was also crazy about playing them as a kid. However, in those days, what a seaside course represented was the customary green fairways edged with green rough reinforced by a row of green trees. The links thing never entered my consciousness until I started paying attention to European tournaments, chief of which was the British Open.

In some ways, the Open was my favorite of the four majors, but not because I loved the visuals of the course. My fascination came from the appearance of a field of pros playing on the face of the moon, upon which someone had spilled some green paint here and there.That was then, and I’ve seen a lot of golf since those years. Along the way, I have fallen in love with the seaside links of many countries, and most of all those in Britain.  Royal Portrush is no exception.

Virtually  all quality courses promoted on websites are captured in their best light – morning and evening light, that is.  Their undulations and odd-shaped greens are frequently filmed against a sea coast. You can almost see the Danes or Vikings coming ashore to do their thing. That’s the case with the 2019 Open at Portrush. With two links courses situated on the prime real estate of Northern Ireland, it is considered to be one of the world’s best golf courses. It is fitting to hold the open there It can also be one of the meanest, where an errant ball begets a string of errant balls.

David Duval received a grim reminder of such a reality by carding a 14 on one hole, on his way to a generally less than enjoyable round of 91. He lost two balls, and went on to hit the wrong ball. It’s more the sort of golf I am used to from time to time, and I wonder if getting through one hole in this manner puts a player on the clock as well, risking further sanctions. I shudder thinking about courting such trouble at Portrush, vastly more difficult than my normal haunts.
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I also enjoy the first day of major tournaments, even though they decide nothing about the victor, only those who run the risk of not being admitted to the weekend. First days are often notable for the emergence of names with which we are less familiar. We may know them, but many are not forever on the leaderboard’s upper columns. Today, a few of these were mixed with established names. The international mix was terrific to a golfing globalist. Among the top spots were an American, South African, Irishman, a Spaniard, a Thai, and an Englishman.  Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia are major winners, and the ever dangerous Brooks Koepka sits only two back at -3.  Close behind is Shane Lowry and Tony Finau.

Unexpectedly, one of those for whom I harbored favorable odds  Francesco Molinari,  came in with a “meh” performance, but he could very well be around for the big day. Tiger, a recent Masters winner after decades of other major victories, nearly blew himself out of contention with a 78. Rory’s name is not to be found near the upper tier, as he couldn’t even catch Tiger. Portrush is almost the home course for natives McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who has played well of late.

The number of links courses I have played is limited, although a few are of very good quality. The change of terrain certainly threw me at the time, and I can’t help but wonder if those more acquainted with the green green grass of home have a special sort of trouble with ‘face of the moon’ courses. As a rule in the Open,the heavyweights will show up eventually, but I wonder if Portrush has knocked them out of the running already.

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