Five-time Open Champion, Tom Watson is predicting a ‘raucous’ Ryder Cup-like atmosphere at July’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Watson, 69, has just spent three days in his role as the R&A’s Global Ambassador at the course set to host golf’s oldest Major for a first occasion in 68-years.
Some 40 guests of Open Championship sponsors Nikon & Doosan took to the course to be greeted on the 14th tee by Watson where they were invited to pitch their driving skills against the 70-time pro career winning Watson while the great man was also guest-of-honour at an evening dinner.
Upon his arrival, Watson was shown the course and brought up-to-date with changes ahead of the 148th Open by long-time Royal Portrush Pro, Gary McNeill.
And Watson could hardly contain his excitement, not only for the course but the changes, particularly with a new 7th and 8th hole in place on the famed Dunluce lay-out.
“The changes Martin Ebert has brought to Royal Portrush has somewhat toughened it up to make it a little more dangerous to hit your driver off the tee. He’s making a lot of the holes play now the way it used to play with the old equipment,” said Watson in an interview with BBC TV Northern Ireland.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a great venue. What I hope is for dry weather and let’s add some wind to it. Let’s add a 15 to 25mph wind to it for a couple of days and see how the boys play the golf course.”
With the R&A confirming 70% of the ticket sales have gone to residents of the Emerald Isle, Watson is predicting a ‘raucous’ atmosphere and something akin to a Ryder Cup.
“The Open Championship creates its own excitement with the players who come here; we are going to see Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka here,” he said.
“We will see Darren Clarke here. We’re going to see Rory McIlroy and they are the local favourites.
“I know it is going to be a raucous party out here. People are going to have a great time watching The Open here.
“They are going to be following Rory and Darren, and Graeme McDowell if he gets in. They are going to have their favourites and it will have a little bit of a Ryder Cup atmosphere in that sense.
“The wonderful thing about it is this probably one of the most beautiful golf courses in the Open Championship rotation. It is absolutely gorgeous. The views, the way the golf course plays and with the greens all sort of raised, it lends itself to the beautiful vistas down the coast.
“There is the Giant’s Causeway which is one of the wonders of the world. You’re going to have people who are really going to enjoy their experience here.”
Watson will be in attendance at The Open running from July 18th to 21st but he will not be competing, having officially retired on the occasion of his 38th appearance amid emotional scenes at the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
While fellow Open Champion winners, Padraig Harrington and Clarke will also host R&A main sponsor outings in the coming weeks at Royal Portrush.
Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!