PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Royal Portrush’s 17th and 18th holes could be
The 17th and 18th holes at Royal Portrush could be the decisive ones at the 2019 Open Championship. Two wildly different tests that have undergone some drastic changes in recent years. Ahead of the 2019 contest, we asked top-ranked Englishman Justin Rose to talk us through how to play the two.
17th Hole, 408-yard par 4
The sharp elevation down the hill which makes the hole play shorter than its yardage. The new bunker on the left is designed to catch balls that funnel down short. It’s an unusual, risk-reward hole.
As for Rose’s game plan?
“It’s a quirky hole, for sure, because it’s not really drivable. You hit driver over the top there about 300 yards and it gets down within 20, 30 yards of the green. It plays quite narrow because of the way the camber tilts right-to-left. You’ve got to really thread the driver up the right edge of the fairway to get it down short of the green there. But it’s very tempting. Unless the wind is hurting I’ll hit driver. Pin placements will be a factor. I think the only tricky pin if you do hit driver is the left pin where they can stick it behind the bunker, that may be better to lay up on top of the hill and have something where you can control your spin coming into that pin.”
18th Hole, 474-yard par 4
For all the quirks of the 17th hole, the 18th hole surpasses them all. It was formerly the Portrush’s 16th hole, and features out of bounds long — which is very much in play, especially downwind. The fairway pinches tight at about 280 yards, so Rose will be trying to get the best of both world’s this week.
“300 yards is a good number off that tee. There’s still plenty of room from the out of bounds at 300, but 300 down a little bit of a breeze is probably an iron. It’s a 3-wood hole for me, because you want to be far enough on that hole to be able to get a full, clear sight of the green. It makes it a much more inviting second shot. It’s a great hole if you have four to win. By hitting an iron, even if you pull it left, you’re not reaching the trouble. Obviously if you hit driver and pull it left you are reaching the trouble. So I feel like 3-wood was a hedge there somewhere in the middle. But if you need birdie to force a playoff, for example, you’d probably hit driver.”