Open Championship (Royal Birkdale) – Fantasy Golfanac

Course Details

Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England
7,156 yards – Par 70 – Bentgrass & Fescue Mix on the Greens

Strength of Field Rating: 600+ OWGR … Strong Field Strength
Greens in Regulation (Field Average): 57% … Tough-to-Hit Greens <-- 2008 @ Royal Birkdale Fairways Hit (Field Average): 51% …Tough-to-Hit Fairways <-- 2008 @ Royal Birkdale

Tournament Angles

#1 Links Golf
#2 Major Championships
#3 Windy Rounds
#4 Coastal Courses
#5 Strong Field Events
#6 Performance in Cold Weather
#7 Par 70 Courses
#8 Bentgrass Greens
#9 Hard Courses

Previous Winners

2016: Henrik Stenson -20 over Phil Mickelson -17
2015: Zach Johnson -15 over Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff
2014: Rory McIlroy -17 over Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler -15
2013: Phil Mickelson -3 over Henrik Stenson Even
2012: Ernie Els -7 over Adam Scott -6
2011: Darren Clarke -5 over Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson -2
2010: Louis Oosthuizen -16 over Lee Westwood -9

54-Hole Leaders

2016: Henrik Stenson -12
2015: Jason Day, Paul Dunne, Louis Oosthuizen -12
2014: Rory McIlroy -16
2013: Lee Westwood -3
2012: Adam Scott -11
2011: Darren Clarke -5
2010: Louis Oosthuizen -15

36-Hole Leaders

2016: Phil Mickelson -10
2015: Dustin Johnson -10
2014: Rory McIlroy -12
2013: Miguel Angel Jimenez -3
2012: Brandt Snedeker -10
2011: Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover -4
2010: Louis Oosthuizen -12

Important Interview Quotes

Q: Your thoughts on Royal Birkdale?
Johnny Miller:
“The big thing about Birkdale is that it’s surrounded by those dunes and long grass. It’s actually pretty hard to scramble if you hit it wildly, unlike Troon or some of those other courses where you can hit it out in the car park. Birkdale, if you hit it wildly, it’s pretty penal. It doesn’t seem to have the Scottish cache as much as a St. Andrews or a Carnoustie or Muirfield or whatever. But hole for hole, it doesn’t have to take a back seat to any of the rotation. -2017,

Q. We thought you guys didn’t like bad weather.
Well, growing up in Australia, you know, this is a good winter’s day. But I guess it’s summer over here, isn’t it?

All the Australians grew up in all types of weather, and a lot of golf where you have to bump it low and hit a lot of bump-and-run shots and little low punch shots and work the wind out and stuff like that, whereas America is a lot different.

Over here you have to hit it low and you have to control the ball. -2008

Ron Whitten: Because most tee boxes are perched atop the dunes, and the routing changes direction on nearly every hole, impertinent winds can complicate matters. The deep rough of marram grass can be deadly, bunkers can be annoying in their placement, and the greens devious in their contours. One never sees the ocean during a round at Royal Birkdale — the layout is separated from the shore by a coastal highway — but this is a classic links.

Except for its fairways. Links are usually characterized by interminable humps and hollows, like those at St. Andrews and Royal Troon, or at the very least by the dips and swales found at Carnoustie and Royal Lytham. But Royal Birkdale’s fairways are flat. Dead flat…

The club’s history book from 1989 offers the dizziest amount of spin: “The avoidance of blind shots and the undulating fairways traditionally associated with links golf thus (enables) Birkdale to gain the reputation of being one of the fairest of the championship courses.” -2008,

Q. Considering the four days that you had in which most of the guys have said were the toughest consecutive four days that they’ve ever had, how proud of you of the score that you played? And secondly, do you think simply because you really had to concentrate on every shot, there was no time to even let your mind go, that that’s why you played so well?

As regards to the weather, we started out Thursday morning and the weather was — that rain was as brutal as you’ve ever seen from tee to green. It wasn’t as tough on the greens because the greens had some moisture in them and the wind wasn’t that strong even though it was affecting the play because of the coolness and the dampness. It was affecting the ball traveling. The ball went better through the wind on the last two days because of the fact that it was a little bit warmer.

But I’ve never experienced the difficulty on the greens of the last two days. I found the greens quick. Even though they said they were trying to slow them up, I really found them quick, and it was difficult to get the ball to settle close enough to the hole that you had a tap-in. Every hole you seemed to have four-footers, five-footers, always trying to figure out the line. And many times changing what line you want to hit the ball on nearly as you go. So as tough as I’ve ever seen on the greens. -2008

Q. Ernie was in here the other day and talking about how much difference the draw can make in this tournament as opposed to a lot of other tournaments. What’s your perspective on that?
Yeah, that’s true. With the long day of tee times, you know, 6:30 I think is the first time, last time 4:30 or 4:20, yeah, there can be significant differences in the draw compared to another event when you’re going off both tees and a little more compacted, but that’s the way it’s always been here, and it’s an aspect of this event, and it makes it pretty cool and makes it different, that you can get the good time. I mean there is a little bit more luck thrown in there, I guess. I think that’s always been part of it.

I remember watching plenty of British Opens where guys had been struggling early or later in the day and then the sun comes out and you have some good scoring conditions. So a little luck there. -2008

Q. Growing up in Australia, did you ever face conditions like this? Did you grow up learning how to hit these shots?
Yeah, a little bit. I mean, winters in Melbourne are pretty awful and similar to days like today. You know, everyone lives on the coast in Australia pretty much, and when you’re at the coast it blows. I grew up in the wind, absolutely. -2008

Q. I asked Padraig the same question this morning, pointing out to him that he grew up on seaside golf courses. You did even more so because you’re from Portrush. Do you feel that gives you an advantage over the majority of the field because you’re so familiar with the wind and the links condition and so on?
I think so. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. Links short game is a completely different fish from short game that we’re faced with week in, week out, especially for the American players. Links short game requires a lot of imagination. You can play shots with anything from lob wedge right through to hybrids and 3-woods, and it really does take a lot of experience, and like I say, a lot of imagination.

Certainly playing golf in the wind, it’s about all flight control, it’s about shaping it against the wind, and it’s really about understanding how the wind affects the golf ball.

I think maybe I’m not the best shaper of a golf ball, haven’t been in the past, but I think I’ve got pretty good understanding of how the wind affects shots. I’m pretty good at kind of getting into my head what a certain flight is going to do, how much the wind is going to affect it, kind of controlling the gusts, timing your shots a little bit, and certainly that kind of experience is hard to come by, obviously. 10, 15, 20 years golfing at Portrush I think kind of stands me in good stead when I come to the British Open. -2008

Q. Do you think it gives you an advantage?
I don’t know. I enjoyed the battle today. I enjoyed going out there, and it really was a battle. I think I would, yes. You’re probably looking at close to 40 percent of the field that really aren’t prepared to play in weather like that. So yes, it does give you an advantage, big advantage.

You know, Birkdale would be known as a golf course that has suited, some say, the U.S. players coming across. But obviously if it stayed like that, they wouldn’t be very happy with those conditions. Yeah, I would definitely think it gives an advantage to anybody who’s been brought up playing these conditions, is comfortable in this temperature.

You look at some of our — our Asian friends would find today very cold, so they’re not comfortable in that weather. Yeah, I would definitely think it gives an advantage to any of the guys from Great Britain and Ireland and anybody who’s used to playing links golf. -2008

Q. So you accept it was slightly easier this afternoon?
I certainly would be the first to admit that. I sat at home this morning with my breakfast cereal and cup of coffee in my hand going, God, do I really have to go out there this afternoon? Obviously we got pretty lucky, it warmed up in the rain a little bit. But generally I didn’t have my jacket on all day. We count ourselves very fortunate. It’s not often the 4:30 tee time at the Open is a good draw, but the guys out there earlier had it even tougher than we did. -2008, R1

Q. Despite the passage of ten years and the changes to the course, do you think this venue gives you the best chance of winning this championship?
Well, I hope so, yeah. I’ve always felt like I tend to play well on the tougher courses, and this certainly is one. This is a fair golf course, so whenever you play a fair test, you can’t argue with it. You’ve got to think, well, this gives me a great chance to play the golf that I want to play.

I think it’s going to suit the guy that goes out there and — yeah, pretty much tests your all-around game. You need to certainly drive the ball well. It’s almost as good a driving test as a U.S. Open would be this week. So from that perspective, I feel like I’m swinging the club well, hitting the ball well, and I’m very comfortable on the golf course. I’ve got to say it gives me a decent chance. -2008

Q. Where do you rank it — (Birkdale)
I think it’s probably in the top three for me personally. Carnoustie is a big favourite of mine, and then here and Muirfield would be my other two favourites. Lytham very closely behind.

Q. How does this course tailor to your game? How do you feel this course suits your game?
Well, as you said, it’s a good driver’s golf course, and I consider myself a very good driver of the golf ball. -2008

Q. Could you just talk about how green the flora and fauna are out there along the sides of the fairways should the wind be at one and you hit one into the gunge? It looks like you’re going to have to step on it to find it.
I can only assume. I haven’t been out and seen it. I was here six weeks ago — six, eight weeks ago now, and with the weather — I don’t live too far away from here across the water, so the weather would have been very similar here, and the grasses have been growing very well in this part of the world with the amount of rain we’ve had and the heat. Definitely it’s got to be lush out there, and I’m sure it’s going to be an issue.

But you’ve got to remember as well, on any links golf course, you hit it in the bunkers, you’re chipping out sideways anyway. You hit it in the rough you’re probably wide of the bunker, so you probably deserve to be chipping out sideways. -2008

Q. The emphasis on driving the ball well, does that play to one of your strengths particularly?
Yeah, usually when I’m on, usually my driving skills are pretty good. The good thing about it is I feel like on these kind of courses you don’t have to just get there and just bang it. You have to hit different shots off the tee, and I always enjoy that. Hopefully it’ll work for me. -2008

BERNIE McGUIRE: Ernie, thanks so much for joining us, former Open Champion. Welcome to Royal Birkdale. You’ve played the course. Perhaps you can give us your thoughts on the course and we’ll take some questions.
Yeah, played it last Thursday, or the Thursday before that, and I found it quite green. I’ll play it this afternoon. I’m playing 18 holes with Lee Westwood, and we’ll check it out then. But I’m sure it hasn’t changed too much.

The greens are probably a little bit faster and more firm, but we’ll check it out. I think it’s a wonderful golf course. The rough is up, so you’re going to have to hit problem shots. It’s like every major; you know, they toughen it up a little bit more than any other tournament.

But the course itself, it’s not too long. But as you can see, the wind is blowing out there. So that’s going to be a big factor this week. A lot of doglegs on the course. You’ve got to position your tee shots, and really your second shots are really going to be the scoring club this week. Other than that, you know, it’s just pure links, links bunkers and the rolling dunes. So it’s a very testing layout. -2008

Q. You said earlier that the second shot was your scoring shots, your scoring clubs. Could you explain that a little more? Is it just at this links or this major or what?
As I said, there’s a lot of doglegs, so even the longer hitters, you want to put it in a certain area. This golf course is so well bunkered in the fairways that, first of all, you’ve got to stay out of the fairway bunkers and that means you might leave yourself a longer second shot where you’re safe in the fairway. You can take some risk, but if it doesn’t come off, you’re in trouble. You’re going to be playing with 3-woods or 2-irons into certain spots. The whole field is going to hit it into those same areas. I mean, the second shots, if you’re really on on your iron play, I think you can separate yourself there a little bit. -2008

Quotes found at unless otherwise noted.