The Open Championship visits Northern Ireland for only the second time and all eyes will be on home favourite Rory McIlroy at Royal Portrush.
Not only is Portrush, which last staged the Open in 1951—the only time the event has been played outside of England or Scotland, McIlroy’s home club, but the four-time major winner is also the course record holder.
McIlroy looks set to start as the favourite for victory as he bids to lift the Claret Jug for a second time having won the Open in 2014 at Royal Liverpool.
Could last year’s winner Francesco Molinari win again? Will Brooks Koepka’s majors form continue? Could Tiger Woods win major number 16?
McIlroy knows how to win majors—four of them in fact—but can he do it under scrutiny and the gaze of entire nation?
He has finished no worse than fifth on his last three attempts at the Open, has enjoyed another solid year on the PGA Tour and there would be no more popular winner at Royal Portrush.
Koepka seems to turn up during majors weeks, winning the most recent of his four majors in the USPGA Championship in May and having finished runner-up in both the Masters and US Open this year too.
Can you seriously ignore a man who has won on four of his last nine major appearances? Probably not, even if he has never bettered sixth in the Open.
Dustin Johnson has also been runner-up in two of this year’s majors and he has gone close in the Open before too, finishing second back in 2011. While he still has only one major on his CV, he should be in the thick of things come the weekend at Portrush.
Woods pushed Molinari for much of the final round last year at Carnoustie, but did eventually win a 15th major when triumphing in the Masters in April. He will love plotting his way round Royal Portrush as he chases a fourth Open victory.
Royal Portrush returns to the Open Championship rotation and will stage the first event in Northern Ireland for 68 years.
Given it was back in 1951 that the Open last visited Royal Portrush, the Dunluce Course will be something of a mystery to many fans.
Hole 4 – Par 4 (482 yards): A tough early par-4 with out of bounds right and fairway bunkers to avoid. The green sits behind mounds, making it a really tricky hole.
Hole 7 – Par 5 (592 yards): If the wind blows then this par-5 will play considerably longer than 600 yards. Wee Nellie bunker protects an already tight fairway and trouble awaits for any wayward second shot.
Hole 16 – Par 3 (236 yards): Calamity Corner, as the hole is known, threatens to damage a good round. There might be no bunkers, but rough surrounds the green and very little room for error off the tee.
Hole 17 – Par 4 (408 yards): This par-4 needs a cautious approach, given it is potentially driveable but has fairway and greenside bunkers which can cause problems if finding. Expect this hole to be played several different ways.