Under glorious sun, The Man Out Front got a good look at Royal Portrush and can safely say the 148th British Open will be played on a links like few modern players have seen. The grandeur, scale and elevation changes alone make Portrush different from any other rota member.
When coupled with eager Irish crowds, expect an energy only matched by a British Open St. Andrews.
Even on a Sunday practice day with Wimbledon underway and the ICC Cricket World Cup getting plenty of attention from sports fans, crowds were sizable and marshals were in place. It was a good thing given that stars like Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Jason Day tested out Northern Ireland’s first British Open venue since the 1951 playing here.
As for conditions? Put The Forecaddie down for “perfect” when it came to the fescue and rye turf. There are very few divots visible thanks to members hitting shots off mats over several months. The fairways are surprisingly firm given their deep green shade and on the greens, the ball is rolling nicely with the usual slower links speeds.
The course sports healthy rough off the tee and in several spots, tall fescue grass combined with ferns and other wildflowers that will keep marshals busy looking for balls. The Forecaddie counted an almost perfect blend of shot shapes required off the tees and greens, setting up ideally for stout ball strikers who may just be so-so on the putting surfaces.
As for Portrush’s two new additions created so that the old 17th and 18th holes could host the Spectator Village? Martin Ebert’s new 7th and 8th holes blend in so well that even Tiger had to ask The Forecaddie which were the two new holes. Given his trained eye for course setup and design, that may be the ultimate compliment to the work.
The Man Out Front’s only concern: out of bounds situated incredibly close to the 18th fairway but marking no discernible boundary. The Man Out Front is still investigating whether those pesky white stakes are really going to remain by Thursday’s opening round. But in the meantime, put Royal Portrush down for having come into this championship in perfect condition.