It would be ideal if one of my lads could lift the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush giving me a hat-trick of Majors this season. Unfortunately, The Open has to be the hardest Major to win, as luck plays a huge part.
You can be playing amazingly well and still miss the cut if you’re on the wrong side of the draw. Portrush is very exposed as it sits on the edge of the Atlantic and the wind fronts can be quite something. You can get beaten up and play the front and back nines into a wind or get lucky and have a supporting wind for the whole of the round.
That’s why you can only tell who stands a realistic chance of winning after the players have completed two rounds.
The usual guys will be up there, but expect Matt Wallace to be on that leaderboard on Sunday if he can control his temper. He’s not one of my guys but he has a good all-round game and a gritty determination. That’s what players need these days – the ability to grind out a score when things aren’t just firing right.
From my side, I don’t really care who among my lads wins, just as long as one of them gets it done. That hat-trick of Majors would be quite something. I know Butch Harmon has done it with Tiger but to have three individual Major winners would be something extra special.
Portrush is an awkward course and players will need to navigate their way around. It won’t be point and shoot golf like they’re used to on the PGA Tour. I spoke to Graeme McDowell the other day, who spent two days back-to-back getting to know the course. He’s from Portrush and it’s a course he grew up on but it’s been more than 20 years since he played it continuously as a kid.
He said it’s changed a lot from the early days, although I’d expect GMac to do well as he’s worked hard on his game this year to get into The Open and hard graft pays off. He’s got the right ball flight and he still knows how to work the wind to his advantage.
Rory McIlroy is another home-town player and we all know about his 61 around Portrush as a teenager. He will have more pressure and expectation than Gmac on his shoulders, but he’s got the talent to win – and he knows how to win Majors. Like my two Major winners, Woodland and Koepka, Rory is a power player and sometimes they all struggle to manage their swing speeds with the short clubs.
Portrush isn’t a course you can overpower but any of these guys can control their short games during the week. They are the three to watch along with Dustin Johnson who also fits right into that category. It always helps to have an extra gear off the tee, no matter where you are playing, but you also run the risk of knocking it further into trouble if you aren’t straight on a links course.
The one’s to watch who can navigate a links well are Fowler, Kuchar and Spieth. Their eyes set up well to links conditions, especially Spieth when he’s got his putter working. I’ve pretty much covered all the angles. No doubt someone else will win, like Molinari did last year. That’s what makes The Open such a great event. It’s like watching the Grand National horse race. A favourite can fall at any of the fences during the race and a complete unknown can win.
I’ve seen my fair share of Open dramas and spent thousands of hours on the range over the years as a player and as a coach. But I’m no spring chicken these days and the enthusiasm to teach up-and-coming talent just isn’t what it once was.
Travelling the world takes it out of you and I’ve done it for decades without a break. During this time I’ve learnt most things the game has to offer and most of the time I’ve learnt things the hard way.
For this reason I’m putting together a two-day Master Class for a limited number of golfers after the end of the DP World Tour Championship in November in Dubai.
I will be passing on all my knowledge from over the years during the two days in conjunction with Kevin Duffy, one of the game’s leading strength and conditioning trainers.
I will never do one again. I will let you all know through Worldwide Golf the structure and pricing of the days but these will be limited. I’ve been promising to run one of these events for years but now I feel the time is right.
Mind you, if one of my guys does win at Portrush I might put the prices up!