We’re less than 48 hours from the first tee shot at The 148th Open being struck and we now know Portrush native Darren Clarke will hit that ball.
Monday was another busy day at Royal Portrush, with the Claret Jug being returned, tee times being announced and practice round antics aplenty out of the course.
And The Open Notebook rounds-up all the key goings-on, as well as some less key – but entertaining – happenings.
A temporary parting?
Reigning Champion Golfer Francesco Molinari’s year in the sun is coming to an end and he endured a gut-wrenching parting of the ways on Monday – returning the Claret Jug to R&A chief Martin Slumbers.
Molinari did get driven to the course for the drop-off in a swanky Mercedes, so it’s not all bad, and he was in a reflective mood about the impact of his victory at Carnoustie last year.
“It changes your life, especially for a guy like me that likes to go a little bit under the radar and doesn't really need the attention,” mused the Italian in his press conference.
He was also reasonably bullish about his chances at Royal Portrush this week, so could the separation from the Claret Jug be a temporary one?
Overnight gym sessions
Hitting the opening tee shot at The Open is something of a double-edged sword – on one hand, it’s an incredibly prestigious honour but on the other it’s an absurdly early start…
Darren Clarke will strike that ball at 6.35am on Thursday this year and the 2011 Champion Golfer – perhaps with his tongue slightly in his cheek – is already planning a thorough warm-up routine.
“That 3am gym session beforehand could be early,” laughed Clarke in his press conference. “Tiger does a 1am I’ve heard, so I'm going to try to do a 3am. We shall see.”
We shall see indeed, with the gyms of Portrush now on standby for an overnight visitor.
Sugrue’s unsure start
Playing alongside Clarke in that first group on Thursday morning is Charley Hoffman and Amateur Champion James Sugrue.
It’s a big stage for Cork native Sugrue and his first practice shot at Portrush this week doesn’t necessarily bode well…
“I was actually quite nervous hitting my first tee shot today,” Sugrue told the world’s press. “The grandstands just come right around you – there weren't even that many people in the grandstands, so I can only imagine what it's going to be like on Thursday…
“I didn’t hit it out of bounds but almost! You do not want to hit it right on 1 – the rough is up to your knees and you have to hack it out sideways.”
A brolly good show
A year ago at Carnoustie, Tommy Fleetwood was caught without an umbrella as the weather worsened, before an official very kindly stepped in and fetched him one from The Open Shop.
So has the amiable Englishman learned his lesson?
“You never know what The Open is going to bring,” said wise, old sage Fleetwood. “I am trying to get a 2019 Open Championship umbrella. And that will go in the bag.”
Sort of prepared then…
One of the biggest personalities in golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez, will be at Royal Portrush after earning his exemption by being the Senior Open Champion for 2018.
The Spaniard is the undisputed King of the Warm-ups – cigar in mouth, clubs as stretching aids – but he may have a new pretender to his crown in the form of Chile’s Joaquin Niemann if this picture is anything to go by.
Shine on Joaquin!
Spieth can kiss
We don’t have a lot of context for this one but we still enjoyed Jordan Spieth battling a can on the course on Monday afternoon.
The 2017 Champion Golfer faces a long road to rehydration if that’s how he tries to drink…
Brooks’ secret weapon
Everyone is after an edge in pursuit of the Claret Jug this week – we showed you Dustin Johnson picking Portrush native Graeme McDowell’s brain in yesterday’s Open Notebook.
Johnson should potentially also spend time with his good friend Brooks Koepka, who has a secret weapon in the form of caddie Ricky Elliott – another man from Portrush.
If there’s anyone in the field who doesn’t need an extra advantage then it’s probably the guy who has won four of the last nine majors he’s competed in and finished in the top six at three others but such is life.