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The Open is every bit as unpredictable as golf can be. As with any other coastal links course, there is an added element of difficulty which constantly thrills spectators and allows a few underdogs to shine through. This year we have our eyes on a few up-and-comers with promising careers ahead of them who ought to have a good chance at Royal Portrush.
From names who are almost unheard to recent additions to the top of the rankings, we look at the ones to watch as we approach The Open 2019.
Tom Lewis – A history at The Open, but can he come back?
The Hertfordshire native first caught the golfing world’s eye with his performance in the 2011 Open, getting a 65 in his first round – putting everyone else in the field on notice. Unfortunately for Tom, this wondrous round wasn’t to be repeated and he scored in the mid-seventies for the rest of the competition.
He returned to the championship last year in 2018 at Carnoustie, and though he generally performed much better, the 65 from 2011 made that much difference Lewis slid from T30 to T47.
The 65 stroke round was also the lowest score ever by an amateur in a Major, a record he should be proud to hold, and it put him in tied first after the first round alongside Thomas Bjorn from Denmark.
Lewis’ career didn’t have the sudden upshot everyone expected it to have half a decade ago, but he’s aiming to make up for lost time. Rising from 370th last season to 67th at present. He’s still only 28, giving him a great chance at rising up through the rankings before he hits his prime.
He’s expected to tee off at The Open 2019 and go home with a top 30 finish. He might have already shot his best round he can expect at the event, but he won’t be happy without getting much closer to the Claret Jug.
Kim Koivu – Young Fin with high hopes on the European Tour
The Helsinki golfer is a very recent addition to the international scene. Koivu played on the European PGA’s Challenge Tour for just a few months before getting his third win, which gave him an automatic promotion to the European Tour.
He won the events in China, Switzerland and his native Finland, and proving he can take victories on different course types and weather conditions. Versatility is a huge strength, particularly at Royal Portrush, where the course is designed to be as tricky as can be and the sea wind is anything but predictable.
He’s confident in his ability, and has proven it too. Despite only turning pro at the age of 26 (since he first picked up his clubs at 16), he’s quickly risen to prominence. Perhaps his most impressive win was the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge, where he shot rounds of 70-65-66-66 – pretty impressive.
Until 2018 he had been teetering on the far side of position 1700 in the OWGR, but has since been performing around the 200th mark.
Koivu’s time on the European Tour has been brief, but with an adaptable game and a history of great performances, there’s a good chance he can make it to the top of the field at The 148th Open.
Shubhankar Sharma – Indian European Tour Rookie of the Year 2018
A young prospect from India, Sharma is one to watch in 2019. Being named by the European PGA the Tour Rookie of the Year in 2018 was an accomplishment he not only should be proud of but it was also unequivocally deserved. He took home two tour wins in the form of the Joburg Open and the Maybank Championship, and has taken top positions on a few more occasions in since 2017. Perhaps most notably was him finishing T9th finish at the WGC Mexico Championship.
In The Masters last year Sharma was cut from the tournament after the second round. Despite performing well in the second round, his first round cost him dearly and he wasn’t able to make it on to the next.
He’s certain to be making an appearance at The Open this year and will hope to better his T51 from Carnoustie.
Xander Schauffele – Three PGA Tour titles at 25
Young Californian Schauffele has done a good job making his name known among fans across the PGA Tour. Not only for picking up three tour wins in two years, but also for his somewhat unorthodox and unexpected swing.
Being taught solely by his father in driving technique, his form is unique to him, but the unusual form allows someone with a particularly small frame to power the ball towards the green without a wild or erratic approach. Picking his right foot up and thrusting his hips into his shot would get him scolded by many coaches, but it’s a style that works well for young Schauffele.
Xander will be looking towards The Open at Royal Portrush with great anticipation. He took it all the way to tie for second place alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose at The Open in 2018 and hopes to perform similarly in this upcoming major championship.
Bryson DeChambeau – The science behind the swing
The Golfing Scientist is doing well for himself heading into 2019. He’s been in the top ten on the OWGR since August, which was the first time he had his name at the top of that list.
Bryson is another golfer Californian with an unorthodox style like Schauffele, so maybe 2019 will be the year of the weird swings. His style is again adapted to himself and is based firmly in what is working for him with little regard for conventional advice. Despite the bizarre and almost flopping motion in the arms and bolt upright torso it’s actually a swing that’s not dissimilar to most other players by the time it strikes the ball.
While known for his consistency, his lack of it was his downfall at The Open in 2018, landing him in an untypically low position of T51. The young star still has much to learn about performing under high pressure, but with his intense and analytical approach to golf he should pick it up quickly – and maybe teach the rest of the field a lot at the same time.
Matt Wallace – Golf is more than just a game
Englishman Wallace is one of the most fiercely competitive men to step on a course at the moment. Despite a few small holes in his game, he’s gritty and determined enough to work through them at lightning pace and is still improving competition to competition.
He has taken four European Tour victories, three of which came in 2018, and is enjoying his time as a top player in Europe, being ranked 45th in the world and 8th of English players (9th overall in British rankings).
He qualified for the Open in 2018 via his high placing in the Race to Dubai standings, and looks likely to be competing at Royal Portrush. The course could play well to him, with his tenacious and highly focused mindset the unpredictable external conditions and tricky course architecture shouldn’t bother him as much as it might other players.
Justin Rose was the first Englishman since 2013 to break the top five last year, but it’s possible that Wallace could even swipe past him this year if all of the hard work pays off.
Lucas Bjerregaard – Danish star with big things on the horizon
Danish Bjerregaard has had limited success at majors in the past but is currently in the midst of the best performances of his career so far. He’s won two European Tour titles in the past year and will be looking to make it to The Open in 2019.
The most recent of his Tour wins came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where the course should replicate the conditions of Royal Portrush fairly well. He’s seen career-high Official World Golf Rankings of 45th, and is his performances on the Tour and rankings qualify him for the Masters – let’s hope that he can get through to The Open, too.
Joaquin Niemann – Chilean youngster with huge potential
At just twenty years of age, Niemann has every chance of a two-decade career at the top of the game. His impressive record speaks for itself: he only needed to play five times to get a temporary membership to the PGA Tour, and another three starts to secure a permanent place for the rest of the season.
He is full of potential, and appears to pay huge attention to technique and coaching advice. It’s still early days to see what might happen to the Chilean, but with so much time ahead of him it’s hard not to imagine him picking up wins at majors in the coming years. It’s unlikely he will qualify for the 2019 Open, but he has championship material in him and should be featuring at the British major within a couple of years.
If you’re wanting to witness the next big stars in action at Royal Portrush, doing it from the comfort of VIP facilities will ensure that you and your guests have the best possible time in Northern Ireland.
View hospitality at The Open 2019. Each package available is perfect for celebrating with friends or meeting business clients. They all offer great hospitality features and are designed to make your time in Royal Portrush as enjoyable as possible.
For more information, or to book, call our hospitality team today on 0845 229 1700.