Prostate Cancer UK's ambassador for golf and European Senior Tour pro, Andrew Murray, is commentating on the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale for Radio 5 Live. He tells us why he rates the course so highly and which English contenders he hopes will be challenging for the title.
This year, the links of Royal Birkdale in Southport host the 146th Open Championship for the tenth time in the club's history.
Former winners there include two five-time Open champions: Aussie Peter Thomson and the legendary Tom Watson from the USA. The last winner there was Padraig Harrington in 2008, his third major to date, and the shot to consolidate his victory at the 17th remains one of my all time ‘great shots’.
A five wood, second shot to the notoriously difficult par-five 17th green, from 260 yards away, to within four feet to set up his eagle three! A monumental shot anytime, let alone on the 71st hole of a Major. Magical stuff, and he went on to secure a two-shot victory over Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter.
Another of my favourite Open moments was when the 17-year-old Justin Rose holed his third shot from 50 yards in the left rough at the final hole of the 1998 Championship. It nailed him the silver medal, awarded to the leading amateur player, and he finished fourth. An astounding feat for one of this year’s favourites, who captured gold at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
Each hole is an entirely different proposition and is open to the severest of elements from the Irish Sea
We can expect record crowds for this year’s Championship, on what I consider to be the best Open venue in England and a course that most definitely is in the top five I have ever played. The course offers spectators views of the world’s top players from a number of natural sand dunes, high above many tees and greens.
Each hole is an entirely different proposition and, as in the case of most seaside or links courses, is open to the severest of elements – in this case, from the Irish Sea. We have had mixed weather in the North West for the last month, which will have led to the natural fescue grasses being well fed and watered. Sun and rain are a great combination to make the rough both punishing and difficult for even the best.
A great local story is that of Tommy Fleetwood, a native of Southport and a player in a rich vein of form after victory in last month's French Open. Alongside Rose, Westwood and Casey, he's perhaps the strongest challenger for an English winner on the finest course in England. Now that would be a great story!
Enjoy the Open on BBC Radio 5 Live. We have a terrific team again this year and it’s a privilege to be part of it. Tune in!