Top 5 Drives from Royal Birkdale
While links golf rewards patience, control, ingenuity and skill, there is still a place for power off the tee.
There are three major champions among the quintet who unleashed our top five drives of The 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, not to mention a man who made a little bit of history in Southport. There are few more satisfying sights in golf than seeing the ball being ripped down the middle of the fairway, so enjoy reliving our favourites from this year’s Championship.
5. Rory McIlroy
Playing alongside Dustin Johnson for the first two rounds of The 146th Open, Rory McIlroy wasn’t going to struggle playing alongside the American in terms of length off the tee. The Northern Irishman was on the comeback trail on Friday, steadily recovering from a one-over-par first round of 71 and posted a two-under 68. Having mishit his drive on the par-five 15th resulting in a bogey six, McIlroy composed himself on the 438-yard 16th and launched his drive down the middle of the fairway, which was unaffected by a slight headwind and trundled on almost beyond the spectators cross-walk. The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year would eventually par the hole, birdie the 17th and put himself back in contention before finishing the week tied fourth.
4. Branden Grace
Branden Grace made history on Saturday at Royal Birkdale when he became the first man to shoot a 62 in a major. There had been 31 previous instances of golfers carding a 63 but Grace broke new ground with his eight-under-par round as he tamed the Southport course in spectacular fashion.
To pick a best shot of the round would be nigh-on impossible but certainly his best drive came at the short par-four fifth. The South African took on the green, and in some style, as the ball pitched about five feet in from the bunker guarding the front-right edge and kicked on into the heart of the green, 25 feet from the hole. The 29-year-old cosied his eagle putt up to the hole and tapped in for birdie, his third of eight in that remarkable round.
3. Dustin Johnson
Dustin’s Johnson’s most memorable drive of the 2017 Open came on the 5th hole on Saturday, when he pulled his tee shot into the crowd yet the ball remarkably avoided the spectators, bounced off the grandstand and on to the green. While that was an almost-unprecedented slice of good fortune, Johnson proved on the opening day that he doesn’t always need luck when he unfurled a corker off the 17th tee, one of the longest hitters in the world giving the ball the full treatment. Even playing partner Rory McIlroy complimented the American on his drive, which pitched in the first cut, kicked inside and bounded down the fairway into A1 position.
2. Sergio Garcia
By the time, Sergio Garcia arrived at Royal Birkdale for The 146th Open, he had already enjoyed by far the most satisfying season of his 18-year professional career. Having long been the go-to name for ‘best player never to win a major’, he finally broke free from that tag by emotionally pulling on the Green Jacket at the Masters – a victory nobody in the world of golf would begrudge the likeable Spaniard. His 2017 Open was a rollercoaster, as the 37-year-old injured his shoulder while angrily hitting out at a gorse bush and finished the week at two-over, tied for 37th, but did conjure up one particular moment of magic on the tee. At hole 5 on day two, Garcia uncorked a massive drive that hummed through the air, cutting the dog-leg and ended up running past the flag and through the green. He would complete his eagle and almost instantly erase any memory of the bogey he carded on the previous hole.
1. Rickie Fowler
With the 5th tee having been brought forward from the standard 346 yards to 310 yards for day three, Rickie Fowler took full advantage. You have to go back to 2009 for the last time there was an albatross at The Open – Paul Lawrie achieving the feat at Turnberry’s par-five 7th – and there have only been eight in 157 years of The Open but Fowler came achingly close to being on cloud nine. None of the 18 albatrosses recorded at a major have been a hole-in-one on a par-four but the American looked destined to become the first as he cut the dog-leg right with a mammoth drive. The ball landed near the front of the green and kicked slightly to the right towards the hole, appearing for all the world to be headed for the heart of the cup. At the last moment it curled away to the right, ending six inches from the hole, as Fowler had to console himself with a tap-in eagle en route to finishing his Open tied for 22nd.