The First Look: The Open Championship
July 14, 2017
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- The Claret Jug has made its way to Royal Birkdale for The Open Championship. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
• COURSE: Royal Birkdale GC, 7,156 yards, par 70. Considered by many to be the fairest of Open Championship venues, Royal Birkdale dates back to 1889 but took its signature path between sand dunes in a 1922 overhaul by J.H. Taylor and Fred Hawtree. A 1940 Open debut was scuttled by World War II, finally getting its host opportunity in 1954. Peter Thomson won the first and last of his five Open crowns at Royal Birkdale, and Arnold Palmer's 1961 triumph is considered a turning point in the Open's fortunes. With subsequent wins by Lee Trevino (1971), Johnny Miller (1976), Tom Watson (1983) and Mark O'Meara (1998), six of Royal Birkdale’s eight Open champions are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
• CHARITY: The R&A contributes some $6.5 million annually to programs designed to enhance the game worldwide. Particular emphasis is given to junior golf programs, along with growth initiatives in emerging golfing nations.
• FIELD WATCH: Dustin Johnson, FedExCup No. 1, has been absent from a tournament weekend since May, heads a roster expected to feature 73 of the top 75 on this week’s Official World Golf Ranking. … Newly crowned U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, now 11th in the rankings, tees it up for the first time since his record-tying march at Erin Hills. … … Openings remain for the John Deere Classic’s highest top-5 finisher yet to qualify, plus the Scottish Open’s three highest top-10 finishers still without berths. … Among the 12 survivors of local qualifying is Ian Poulter, Europe’s Ryder Cup stalwart who sat out last season’s second half with foot woes and saw his world ranking fall out of Open favor.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Henrik Stenson (2016 at Royal Troon).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Mark Hayes (2nd round, 1977 at Turnberry), Isao Aoki (3rd round, 1980 at Muirfield), Greg Norman (2nd round, 1986 at Turnberry), Paul Broadhurst (3rd round, 1990 at St. Andrews), Jodie Mudd (4th round, 1991 at Royal Birkdale), Nick Faldo (2nd round, 1993 at Royal St. Georges), Payne Stewart (4th round, 1993 at Royal St. Georges), Rory McIlroy (1st round, 2010 at St. Andrews), Phil Mickelson (1st round, 2016 at Royal Troon), Henrik Stenson (4th round, 2016 at Royal Troon).
• LAST YEAR: Henrik Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson in an historic Sunday duel at Royal Troon, emerging three shots clear after posting just the second Sunday 63 to win a major championship. Stenson carded 10 birdies to join Johnny Miller (1973 U.S. Open) as the only major champions to shoot 63 on the final day, also setting a new 72-hole major standard at 20-under-par 264. Though Mickelson’s closing 65 was two shots better than anyone else on the course, he still lost two shots to the Swede. All told, the Stenson/Mickelson pairing notched 14 birdies and an eagle, and their best-ball score would have been 59. J.B. Holmes was a distant third – 11 shots behind Mickelson.
• STORYLINES: Despite Johnson’s six victories in the past 13 months, his past two outings have produced missed cuts at the U.S. Open and Memorial Tournament. He hasn’t played the weekend at a major, in fact, since last year’s Open at Royal Troon. … Spain’s Jon Rahm, ranked 297th in the world as a newly minted pro a year ago, now stands No. 8 after a stirring six-shot romp at last week’s Irish Open. He owns seven top-5 finishes worldwide since January, including victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. … Jordan Spieth, who just missed a playoff at St. Andrews two years ago, also brings some momentum after his dramatic bunker-holeout win at Hartford. … Rory McIlroy in urgent quest for form, coming to Royal Birkdale off missed cuts at both the Irish Open and Scottish Open. … Stenson has been hot-and-cold since spring, missing four cuts in his past 10 starts worldwide. Three others, though, have resulted in top-10s.
• SHORT CHIPS: In a nod to a weakened exchange rate after Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, this year’s prize money will be paid out in American dollars for the first time. The winner will receive $1.8 million from a total purse of $10.25 million. … Eight of the Open’s past 10 champions were age 35 or older. The exceptions: McIlroy in 2014 and Louis Oosthuizen in 2010.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 1:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 4:30-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 4-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 2 a.m.-3 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (SiriusXM).