The Open Championship heads to Northern Ireland as Royal Portrush stages the 2019 major between July 18-21 and one leading contender would love to win more than any other.
For Rory McIlroy, the Open will be home from home given he grew up on the Royal Portrush links and is the course record holder having shot 61. Could he add a fifth major victory to his resume in a dream result?
Francesco Molinari will be the defending champion having lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie last year, while Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods will also fancy their chances of glory.
We take a look at the prospects of the leading contenders for the 2019 Open Championship.
McIlroy will be under full scrutiny when he tees it up in front of his home fans at Royal Portrush. If he can handle the pressure, then there would be no bigger story than McIlroy winning a fifth major. He has an Open on his CV having won at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and his last three appearances have seen him finish no worse than fifth. His form this year has been impressive with victories in The Players Championship and Canadian Open as well as top-10 finishes in the USPGA Championship and US Open.
World number one, winner of four of his last nine major appearances and eight top 10 finishes in majors underline just why Koepka is one of the hottest golfers in the game right now. Koepka won the USPGA Championship this year for his fourth major, and it was sandwiched either side by runners-up finishes in the Masters and US Open. There’s no doubting Koepka turns it on in the majors and he should be in the mix again as he bids to better a best sixth in the Open.
Johnson has been well-fancied in the last two Opens, only to finish down the field and miss the cut. His runner-up effort back in 2011 remains his best result, and the question marks remain over whether he will ever add to his solitary major win in the 2016 US Open. But second place behind Woods in the Masters and Koepka in the USPGA show he isn’t far away from celebrating another major victory.
Woods returned to the big time with his 15th major victory in this year’s Masters at Augusta, but the former world number one has underwhelmed—perhaps understandably—in the two subsequent majors. He missed the cut in the PGA Championship and was tied 21st in the U.S. Open. So what does that mean for the Open? Woods is at his best when plotting his way round and he did that in last year’s Open Championship when sixth behind Molinari. As a three-time Open champion, he has to be taken seriously.
There’s no real reason to call McDowell a main contender, but he should relish playing at home in Northern Ireland and on the Royal Portrush links he knows so well. He might have only scraped into the field, but now he is there the 2010 US Open champion could be set for a big week. His game looks to be coming back at the right time.