It’s the third week of July, which always means it’s time for one of the biggest and oldest events in sports.
The British Open, or as it's more affectionately called in the United Kingdom, The Open, tees off Thursday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
It's only the second time ever that the event will be contested outside Scotland or England, which should add even more intrigue to golf’s oldest major tournament.
Here are five reasons why this year’s British Open could be one of the best in the event's storied history.
One of the big reasons why The Masters is annually the most-watched golf tournament of the year is because of its fabulous setting, with azaleas, pine trees and immaculately groomed grounds being as much of a reason to watch as the golf.
Royal Portrush can offer the same visual appeal. Most views of the course will feature breathtaking hills, rolling cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean that is all around the property.
Frequent shots of the nearby Dunluce Castle also should be fun for viewers.
Royal Portrush is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest golf courses, with Golf magazine ranking it No. 12 on its list of top 100 courses in the world and Golf Digest ranking it as the fourth-best course outside the United States in 2007.
So, why hasn’t Portrush hosted the Open since 1951, the only other time the tournament was played outside England and Scotland?
A big reason was civil strife that broke out in Northern Ireland that plagued the region for nearly 30 years from 1969 to 1998.
One side wanted Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom, while the other side fought to have Northern Ireland disband from the UK and join the Republic of Ireland as one united country.
Ultimately, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, a pact that created a number of agreements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, all but ended the conflict.
The other big reason was that the venue for years wasn’t deemed fit enough to accommodate the thousands of fans and media members the tournament brings in.
The original 18th hole of the course couldn’t hold the massive grandstand built around the closing hole of every Open, hotel rooms were scarce and items such as scoreboards and tents would have to be shipped across the Irish Sea, according to golf.com.
But the original 17th and 18th holes on the championship course, Dunlace Links, were replaced by two holes on the adjacent 18-hole course at Portrush, the Valley Links, creating a situation where the more spacious 16th hole will play as the 18th hole for the Open.
More lodging has been built and other logistics have been improved enough to where the Open can finally return.
How will Tiger do?
Since inspiring many by winning The Masters in April, it has been a rather nondescript three months for Tiger Woods since winning his 15th major at Augusta. Woods has only played in three tournaments since, missing the cut at the PGA Championship, finishing ninth at the Memorial and then placing 21st at the U.S. Open.
Woods has never played Royal Portrush, but then again, most of the field hasn’t either, since it hasn’t been a part of the Open’s usual rotation of courses.
While many people will still be following Woods, they might be paying more attention to Rory McIlroy, a native of Northern Ireland who has admitted he never thought the Open would ever return to Portrush and is understandably excited to play the Open on home soil.
With the PGA Championship being moved from August to May this year, this will be the last major of the year and thus add to the motivation of golfers who have one last chance at winning a major before the 2020 Masters arrives.
Not only is it the last major, but the Open is often called the “world championship” of golf, given it traditionally has a diverse field of golfers from nations around the world.
The Open is always unique in that it is the only major that offers people a chance to watch the leaders tee off in the morning (the Masters was like that this year, though, due to an impending rainstorm) and the climax is usually around early afternoon, allowing for some good breakfast viewing and a chance to get on with other things in the afternoon/evening when it's over.
Thursday: 1:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Friday: 1:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Saturday: 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. (Golf Channel), 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday: 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. (Golf Channel), 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC)
Graham Media Group 2019