Open conditions at Birkdale won't be a breeze

Dustin Johnson practising at Royal Birkdale on Monday. Much is expected of the world No. 1 after he fell and withdrew before the Masters and missed the cut at the US Open.
Dustin Johnson practising at Royal Birkdale on Monday. Much is expected of the world No. 1 after he fell and withdrew before the Masters and missed the cut at the US Open.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The British Open is the most exacting test of shotmaking among the four Major golf championships, while at the same time offering more players a chance of winning than the other three, former PGA Tour winner and analyst Brandel Chamblee believes.

Competing in strong winds tests every facet of a player's game, he said, while the hard bounce of Open courses allows shorter hitters a better chance than on some of the longer, softer layouts at the American Majors.

Royal Birkdale, where the 146th version of the championship starts tomorrow, is perhaps the fairest test on the Open rota, however, one that has never produced a lucky winner.

"It has the flattest fairways of any of the Open courses," Chamblee, who will be part of Golf Channel's team for its Live from the Open show from England, said. "It's fair and you don't hear any rumblings from the players.

"In general, Open championship golf demands the most out of players. You've got to be able to work the ball left-right, right-left, up, down, cope with cross-winds.

"That's why Sergio Garcia has had his most consistent Major there. He works it easily (both ways)."

Like most links courses, wind is the best defence for Birkdale, a par-70 layout measuring 7,156 yards which Chamblee says is "long enough" to offer a decent test, although in an ideal world he would like all championship courses stretched much longer.

Questions hang over some of the big names heading to Birkdale. American Brooks Koepka has not played since winning the US Open four weeks ago, and neither has world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

"I can't wait to see Koepka come back," said Chamblee. "What does he do for an encore? I hope Dustin has found his equilibrium after the birth of his child and injury (he fell in rented house) at the Masters."

Chamblee expecting big things from American Rickie Fowler and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, but believes that Spaniard Jon Rahm is the nominal favourite, a player with all the makings of greatness.

"I can't wait for this to get underway," said the US analyst. "It's not like Birkdale is easy but you'd like to see it blow a bit. Links golf is meant to be played with mother nature throwing spears."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Open conditions at Birkdale won't be a breeze'. Print Edition | Subscribe