Golf Capital: Frittelli flys to Portrush, Open time again (finally) for NI

 

 

@hamishneal

 

It’s Open week! Delight in the final men’s major of the year, yes, in July as the climax of Links golf will crown the Champion Golfer for 2019 in Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. It comes after a week of worldly wins for a South African and South Korean in the USA plus an Austrian in Scotland. The re-jigged calendar of majors means this is the last men’s major until the 2020 edition of the Masters tees off on Thursday April 9 2020.

 

Frittelli-e1563180114350-630x472.jpg

 

Opening drive

 

Not quite the youth of last week’s winner on the PGA Tour Dylan Frittelli, 29, broke through for a first-time PGA Tour triumph claiming the John Deere Classic in Illinois by two-strokes over Russell Henley to claim the final seat in the charter jet to the Open. Frittelli’s final round seven under 64 was nearly usurped by Russell Henley who went low with a ten under round of 61. Frittelli, a two-time European Tour winner in 2017, might be South African but he was a member of a famous college team playing with Jordan Spieth in 2012 when their University of Texas side claimed the NCAA team title.

 

Despite the final major of the year taking place in Northern Ireland this week the PGA Tour is holding the ‘off week’ event in Kentucky this week the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club outside of Lexington.

 

Bernd Wiesberger started Sunday leading the European Tour;s Scottish Open by two strokes and did prevail but only after three extra holes edging out Benjamin Herbert of France after the duo finished two clear of another Frenchman Romain Langasque.

 

In Ohio Sei Young Kim won at 22 under in the Marathon Classic over American Lexi Thompson with Stacy Lewis third. Lewis has now secured three top tens in 12 starts since returning to the tour after having her baby daughter Chesnee in October 2018. The LPGA heads to Michigan for the Great Lakes Bay Invitational to be held in Midland for the inaugural staging of the team’s event which will be the final LPGA event before the next two majors the Evian Championship in France then the Women’s British Open in England.

 

Greens in regulation

 

As well as the great stories linking this week’s favourite Rory McIlroy as one of a few local hopes in the event there are some intriguing links to not only the players but the caddies. If it has not been difficult enough for the rest of the field to challenge Brooks Koepka in the past three years in majors this week Koepka’s caddie is a local Ricky Elliott used to regularly work at the course and has shot a 65 around the course. The Portrush native has worked with Koepka since 2013, the year he won a second-tier Challenge Tour event, so has been with him during the period he has transformed from up-coming player to elite performer. Not only has Elliott played the course hundreds of times so has Harry Diamond the caddie of McIlroy. It is worth noting the course has changed to allow the infrastructure for the Open to be built so two holes (17 and 18) have changed on the Dunlace course the track (one of two at the venue) that will be used this week. Elliott claims as Koepka is a superior player that his personal experience is of little relevance as Koepka ‘is taking different lines’ but the familiarity with some of the quirks has to work in the American’s favour.

 

Tap in

 

The Open is one of my favourite sporting events and that is due in large part to watching one of it’s recent iconic finishes ‘in country’ so to speak. Whilst travelling in 2002 I visited family in Nairn near Inverness in Scotland’s north when further south (nearly four hours south actually) Muirfield in Gullane was the host course for that year’s Open. Two Australian’s Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington were vanquished early in the four-person playoff before Ernie Els saw off Thomas Levet of France to claim his first Open title – he would go on to win another in 2012.

 

Something about watching the climax of a sporting event in that country in ‘real-time’ with the locals is hard to top and possibly the second-best way to experience a sporting event if you aren’t there.

 

This week

 

Henrik Stenson.

 

The trend of recent years has been the winner here has been tagged ‘experienced’ with seven of the last ten victors 35 years or older at the time of their triumph. Stenson, the 2016 winner at Royal Troon and 43 years of age, has subsequent finishes of a respectable T11 and T35 but hasn’t won anywhere since August 2017.

 

Eddie Pepperell.

 

Take way the hoopla about the Englishman’s popularity and Twitter banter he’s a deadest solid golfer having risen from 73nd in the world this time last year to 35th with a British Masters win and impressive T3 at The Players in that period. Not forgetting his semi-inebriated heroics at last years Open when a final round 67 propellled him into a contention and an eventual T6 finish three shots behind Francesco Molinari.

 

As noted last week I don’t mind the prospects of Mexican Abraham Ancer and the fact he played the Irish Open but not the Scottish Open would have meant he’d have plenty of time to get used to the venue which included him playing there on Sunday.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

March 6: Matt Millar T23 in NZ was the best result in the tough weather on the South Island.

March 13 Justin Thomas T35 was the best of the TPC Sawgrass four.

March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in the Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.

April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.

April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.

April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.

May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.

May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.

May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.

June 5: Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada. This column going well in Canada or with Canadians.

June 13. Brooks Koepka. Solo second, couldn’t quite make it three US Opens in a row.

June 19. Paul Casey continued his good form with a T5 finish in Cromwell but six shots off the winner.

June 26. Mackenzie Hughes finished T21 in Detroit a better result than some of the higher ranked other players with Dustin Johnson missing the cut.

July 3. Shane Lowry finished T34 at Lahinch after a positive start to the tournament.

July 10. One of this week’s picks Eddie Pepperell was T43 in Scotland.

 

Image via golf-monthly.co.uk

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