This coming week, Royal Birkdale Golf Club will host the 146th Open Championship. The tournament has been played there nine time previously.
The first time was in 1954, when Peter Thompson won his first Open Championship victory. He won again there in 1965, for his fifth and last. Arnold Palmer’s win in 1961 was instrumental in returning the Championship to center stage in the golfing world.
Padraig Harrington won the previous visit, in 2008, at three over par, defending the title he won in 2007 at Carnoustie. 2008 was the tournament that aging Greg Norman contended until late on the final day.
In 1998, Mark O’Meara won his the second major championship of the year here, but the big news was 17-year-old amateur Justin Rose finishing in a tie for 4th place. Rose turned pro shortly hereafter.
The course will play at 7,137 yards, par 70 (34-36). At one time, four of the last six holes were over 500 yards, and par was 34-38 = 72.
The fairways are flat ribbons tucked in between dunes. There are cut narrow for championship golf. Nothing other than a straight tee shot will do.
Greens are fairly flat and accept accurate approaches well. They have to be hit, though. Missing will put the ball in a nasty pot bunker or into willow scrub that rings most every green.
Most of the holes are laid out to present a crosswind. While not hard by the ocean, the course is still only a few hundred yards off the Irish Sea. Wind will be a big factor.
One hole to watch is the 346-yard 5th. It has a drivable length, but the risks of trying to cut the corner are great.
The 15th hole has a plaque on the spot where Arnold Palmer played a spectacular shot out of heavy rough with a 6-iron from 140 yards to save his par in the final round. Palmer eventually won by one stroke over Dai Rees.
Another notable hole is the 16th, regarded as the signature hole of the course. The player must find the fairway after a long carry, and an approach the is just a little bit off line will find one of five deep pot bunkers.
The U.S. Open is the major I would like most to say I had won (wish!), but the Open championship is the most fun to watch.
Tuesday 7-18: Phil Mickelson will not have a driver in his bag this week because of the narrow fairways. He plans to use a “hot” 3-wood and a second “driving” 3-iron. There’s also a 64* wedge in there.