Hard as it might be to believe, the final major in professional golf in 2019 is upon us.
Yes, it’s only mid-July and while the neighbors continue to set off leftover July 4 fireworks, the British Open will be held this week at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland starting Thursday.
It’s going to be a very interesting four days at the home course of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell if for no other reason than the British Open hasn’t been played there since 1951. And that means other than pictures, golf fans have seen no video of this course and are coming into this blind.
The players will get practice rounds in and will figure the place out after a couple of those, but no one other than locals McIlroy and McDowell have any experience with competitive rounds there.
The championship hasn’t moved from its traditional third week of July slot on the calendar, but plenty of other things have moved. Only two tournaments — the FedEx St. Jude World Golf Championship and the Barracuda Championship — remain before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
But that’s looking ahead just a bit. There’s a major championship title to be decided among the dunes, gorse and fescue and omnipresent chance of wild seaside weather that is always present in the British Open.
And in my mind, there’s no better guy to handle all of that and the pressures of competing in a major is the guy I’m picking to win at Portrush: Brooks Koepka.
The man who has earned over $7.3 million this year, is the best power player in the game these days and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to call him the best major player, too.
Coming into this week he has finished T2, 1 and 2 in the first three majors and he won two of the three he played in last year. There’s nobody who gets more dialed in than Koepka and when he’s in that zone, his game is breathtaking.
I’ll be up early, early Thursday and Friday morning. Will you?
n n n
Another remarkable thing taking place in the world of golf is much more of a local thing.
There has been a string of remarkable performances by youngsters from Western Pennsylvania, continuing the resurgence of younger players, after that aspect of the game had gone through a rough stretch.
Here are some recent highlights:
n Murrysville’s Palmer Jackson won the C.R. Miller Invitational at Latrobe Country Club on Tuesday. A week after suffering through a difficult ending to the West Penn Amateur at Oakmont CC, Jackson put on an amazing performance, winning his three matches by 6&5, 6&5, 7&6. He became the youngest champion of the event, the only three-time champion and his three victories came without him repeating. Jackson is in Toledo, Ohio, getting ready for this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur at the Inverness Club.
n Connor Schmidt, who survived that ugly finish to win the West Penn Amateur, continued his great year by qualifying for the U.S. Amateur on Monday. He put up a pair of 64s, was seven shots better than his nearest competitor. Schmidt, of Venetia, did not make a bogey in those 36 holes and made 12 birdies.
The 116th West Penn Open will be played this week at Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray. It’s a 54-hole event with a cut to the low 32 and ties after Wednesday’s round.
The list of champions in this event is long and impressive. W.C. Fownes, Jock Hutchinson, Sam Parks, Jim Masserio, Roy Vucinich, Lew Worsham and Arnold Palmer were the pros who have won. Winners have gone on to win 13 USGA national titles, including six majors.
Amateurs are well-represented on that trophy, having won the Open 15 times. Most really by Nathan Smith in 2008. He became only the fourth player to win the West Penn Amateur and Open in the same year.
n n n
Do you have an interesting story about your club or course or an individual who has done something special, let me know? Send your story ideas to email@example.com.
Mike Dudurich is a freelance golf writer and hosts The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan, Saturday mornings from 7-8 during golf season. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Mike Dudurich.