An Inside Look as the Open Returns to Royal Portrush

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Before Augusta National’s “Amen Corner” there was “Calamity Corner,” the renowned 16th at Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Dunluce Links.

This week, golf viewers around the world will get to know this hole as the Open Championship makes its epic homecoming to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. 

Royal Portrush’s Head Professional for the last twenty years, Gary McNeill, has extremely high expectations for the anticipated 148th Open.

However, the course that players will face starting Thursday morning does not look exactly like the track that McNeill and the rest of the Portrush community have cherished since its inception. 

In order to accommodate the influx of fans expected by the R&A each year at the Open, the Dunluce has had to undergo some major alterations. The only space large enough for the required spectator village was the land occupied by the original Harry Colt-designed 17th and 18th holes. 

Although the final two holes held a special place in Portrush’s history, the members were willing to build two new holes, slotted in as the 7th and 8th, which borrowed land from the club’s second course, the Valley Links. Other notable renovations include two new bunkers on the 1st and a new championship tee box on the 14th, making the hole 80 yards longer. 

“Everything that Martin Ebert, the architect, has done is very much in keeping with what was already here,” said McNeill. “It just feels like the course is almost a better golf course with the addition of the two new holes.”

The old 17th and 18th holes were situated on a relatively flat piece of the property and “didn’t have a lot of character” McNeill explained. The new 7th and 8th holes, on the other hand, boast sweeping undulations that run throughout the fairways and greens and are located in one of the most scenic sections of the golf course. 

Another picturesque hole, the 5th, named “White Rocks,” is a 380-yard downhill dogleg par four, featuring three new fairway bunkers, including two that are about 300 yards from the tee, strategically placed to catch wayward drives. The real danger, though, lies behind the green. The tiered putting surface slopes away from you, toward the daunting cliffs of White Rocks beach. A treacherous out-of-bounds line is only a few paces off the back of the green. 

“During the championship they will play the players up a bit, to entice them to have a crack at the green. It’s what the R&A look upon as a ‘risk and reward’ short par four where there’s a bit of entertainment for the spectators,” said McNeill. “If they get a hard bounce, or catch some of the slopes there, they could run out of bounds over the back. We anticipate that there will be quite a bit of drama on this one.” 

Royal Portrush’s most famous hole, the unnerving par three 16th, fittingly named “Calamity Corner,” will prove to be drama-prone as well, especially during the Sunday finish. Measuring at a lengthy 236 yards, it is played over a “very deep chasm which lies between the tee and the green and on the right-hand side,” said McNeill.

To the left of the green is a shallow swale, a sort of safe-haven for players who either unconsciously or consciously choose to guard against the danger to the right. In the 1951 Open, Bobby Locke purposefully played to this area each day of the championship and made an up-and-down par each time, giving the corner a title that stuck: Bobby Locke’s Hollow. 

Will players be happy to walk away from Calamity Corner with a par? “They’d be delighted,” McNeill emphatically remarked.  

Like at any traditional links course, the swirling coastal winds will play a major factor. But Royal Portrush takes this challenge to a new level. 

“There are no two holes that consecutively run in the same direction,” explained McNeill. “You are constantly dealing with winds coming from different directions.”

As a whole, Portrush is known to be a driver’s golf course. In order to attack pins on the Dunluce’s many elevated greens, it is imperative to be playing from the manicured fairways. 

The rough, on the other hand, is nightmarish. According to McNeill the tall grass is “particularly penal this year. It has been unusually warm through the winter and the spring months so it’s a little juicier than it normally would be at this time of year.” 

Whose game will fit this masterfully crafted puzzle-like links? 

McNeill has his eye on the 28-year-old Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, whose accuracy off the tee could give him a great shot at being named this year’s Champion Golfer of the Year. 

“Tommy Fleetwood is a great driver of the golf ball and he’s been knocking on the door at the US Open on tough golf courses, where the premium is very much on driving the ball in play.”

McNeill noted that the Portrush community has a great deal of confidence in Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, and Darren Clarke, three Northern Ireland natives. Additionally, Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliot, grew up playing Royal Portrush. 

“Ricky knows this golf course very well and Brooks – there’s not many players playing better than him now, particularly in major championships,” said McNeill. 

When the Claret Jug is raised Sunday evening in the shadows of the Dunluce castle ruins, golf viewers will all be hoping it does not take another 68 years for the Open Championship to make another swing through this dreamscape on the coast of Northern Ireland. 

Presidents Cup singles recaps: U.S. clinches 12th win in 14 tries

2022 Presidents Cup - Day Four
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Trevor Immelman’s International team began the week at Quail Hollow Club outmanned and as massive underdogs before digging themselves a big hole. But for a moment on Sunday, it looked as if the visitors would dig themselves out of it.

That was until the Americans shut the door, winning the Presidents Cup for the 12th time in 14 events.

After winning Saturday afternoon’s fourball session, the Internationals entered Sunday trailing by four points and needing to win at least 8 1/2 of a possible 12 points in singles to pull off the upset. They gave it their all, too, at one point pushing the projected final score to just 16-14.

But Tony Finau flipped an important match versus Taylor Pendrith and Xander Schauffele hung on after letting Corey Conners tie their match after being 3 down on the back nine. Add in some match-tying going on toward the bottom of the tee sheet and that was enough to kill any momentum the Internationals had.

Schauffele then secured the clinching point with a 1-up win over Conners.

Here is a match-by-match recap of Sunday’s singles matches (as they finish) in Charlotte, North Carolina:

Match 19: Si Woo Kim (INT) def. Justin Thomas (U.S.), 1 up

This one was chippy. Thomas led for much of the way, turning in 2 up. But Kim birdied Nos. 10 and 11 from 20 and 11 feet, respectively, to tie the match. A couple holes later, with Thomas back to 1 up, Kim made Thomas putt from inside of 3 feet to tie No. 13, and the decision clearly miffed Thomas, who rolled in the par. Kim won the next hole with par and then shushed the crowd after matching Thomas’ par make at No. 15. Kim and Thomas traded holes at Nos. 16 and 17, the latter won by Thomas after he stuck his approach to 3 feet. It looked as if the two would play to a half-point, but Kim birdied the par-4 18th hole from 10 feet while Thomas missed from 9 feet to drop to 17-5-3 in Cup matches. Kim earned his third point of the week.


Match 20: Jordan Spieth (U.S.) def. Cam Davis (INT), 4 and 3

Early on, it appeared as if Spieth’s Cup singles struggles would continue as Spieth, 0-6-1 in the format between the Presidents and Ryder cups, fell 2 down after two holes. But Spieth holed 20-plus-foot birdie putts on Nos. 4 and 5 (from the fringe) to tie the match. He added a 27-foot par make at the par-5 seventh to remain even with the rookie Aussie, who bogeyed the ninth after retaking the lead with par at No. 8. That allowed Spieth to take momentum to the back nine, where he birdies Nos. 11-13 to win those holes and take a commanding lead that he wouldn’t surrender. His win capped a 5-0 week as Spieth became just the sixth player in event history to accomplish the feat and the first American since Jim Furyk in 2011. “I was more nervous than I probably should’ve been today,” Spieth said, “but I really wanted to get that monkey off my back.”


Match 21: Sam Burns (U.S.) tied Hideki Matsuyama (INT)

Burns capped his debut Cup with an 0-3-2 performance, but he played much better than that record indicates. He was 2 down on the front nine to Matsuyama before birdieing Nos. 10-12 to take his first lead of the match. The birdie on No. 10 came from nearly 50 feet. Burns gave the lead away at the par-4 15th hole as Matsuyama won it with bogey, but the American managed to sneak away with an important half-point after Matsuyama’s birdie chip at the par-4 finishing hole hit the flagstick and stayed out.


Match 22: Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) def. Adam Scott (INT), 3 and 2

Cantlay jumped on the veteran Aussie by making two birdie bombs at Nos. 2 and 3 (from 20 and 27 feet, respectively). Scott bogeyed the par-3 fourth to go 3 down and couldn’t claw back to better than 2 down as he won just two holes all match. Cantlay sealed the win – and a three-point week personally – after Scott lipped out a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th hole and Cantlay rolled in a short par putt.


Match 23: Sebastian Munoz (INT) def. Scottie Scheffler (U.S.), 2 and 1

Scheffler played the first seven holes like a man on a mission to secure his first full point of the event. He carded two birdies and led 2 up at that point. But Munoz won Nos. 8-10 to flip the match. Both played traded 60-foot eagle bombs at No. 11, and Munoz kept Scheffler at arm’s length, birdieing three of his next six holes while winning No. 15 and 17 to send the world No. 1 home at 0-3-1.


Match 24: Tony Finau (U.S.) def. Taylor Pendrith (INT), 3 and 1

Each player led 2 up at one point in a back-and-forth fight. Finau won the first two holes before Pendrith got them right back and then some, winning four of the next five holes – three with birdies – to take a 2-up lead of his own. But Finau didn’t give up. He birdies Nos. 11-13 to retake the lead and made some crucial putts – 13-foot and 15-foot birdie makes at Nos. 16-17, respectively – to put Pendrith away.


Match 25: Xander Schauffele (U.S.) def. Corey Conners (INT), 1 up

Schauffele did everything he could to give a point to the struggling Conners, but the Canadian ultimately couldn’t take advantage. He went 0-3 in team play and then carded five bogeys and double against Schauffele. The American led 3 up after winning No. 10 with par, but then lost Nos. 12-14 by playing that stretch in 2 over. He appeared to be on his way to losing No. 15, too, after driving his ball into the water. But he hit an incredible third shot from 220 yards out and an awkward lie to 11 feet and made par to win the hole. Conners squandered a big chance at the par-4 17th hole, missing a 5-foot par putt that would’ve won the hole. By tying the hole, Schauffele guaranteed himself at least a half-point, which would get the Americans to 15 points – enough to retain the Cup. Schauffele tied the last to win 1 up and get the clinching full point.

Rory McIlroy overcomes six-stroke deficit, claims FedExCup title and $18 million

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Rory McIlroy claimed his third FedExCup title by capturing the Tour Championship on Sunday. McIlroy overcame a six-stroke final-round deficit to Scottie Scheffler to claim the $18-million bonus.

Scheffler began the final stanza with a heavy advantage, thanks to a fantastic finish to the third round Sunday morning.

After play was suspended Saturday evening because of an inclement weather threat, the field returned to East Lake at 9:45 a.m. to wrap Round 3. Scheffler and Xander Schauffele, in the final group and separated by one shot, were in the 13th fairway when play resumed. Scheffler played his final six holes in 4 under to reach 23 under par. Schauffele played them in 1 over to drop to 17 under.

McIlroy wrapped up a third-round 63 to also reach 17 under and grab a spot in the final-round final twosome.

Both he and Scheffler bogeyed the first hole, but while Scheffler continued to slip, McIlroy steadily rose. The Northern Irishman made four birdies over the remainder of his opening nine to turn in 3-under 32. Scheffler, meanwhile, posted a 37. The difference was one.

Following a McIlroy birdie at the 12th, they were knotted.

Im was also in contention through much of the final round. He got within a shot of the lead before a double bogey at the par-4 14th.  Im made a couple of late birdies to again climb within one of the lead, but he was unable to birdie the par-5 18th, settling for a 66 and a 20-under finish.

Im, ultimately, was chasing McIlroy. After McIlroy bogeyed the 14th to drop one back of Scheffler, he rolled in a 31-foot birdie at the par-3 15th to draw even at 21 under. McIlroy then scrambled for par at the 16th, while Scheffler made bogey.

With two holes to play, McIlroy led by one.

Scheffler had a chance to regain a share of the lead at the par-4 17th, but after sticking his approach shot to 12 feet, he badly shoved the birdie effort and made par. With one hole to play – and an $11.5 million difference between first and second place – McIlroy maintained the slight edge.

Both players hit the fairway at the 18th, Scheffler driving it 334 yards and McIlroy 342. Hitting first, Scheffler found a bunker short and right of the green. McIlroy followed by hooking his second from 228 yards off the left grandstands.

Again playing first, Scheffler blasted his bunker shot over the green. McIlroy was able to get relief from the grandstand and chipped to 20 feet. After Scheffler was unable to chip in for birdie, McIlroy just needed to two-putt for par to secure victory. He did that easily. Scheffler settled for par and a T-2 alongside Im.