The 143rd British Open will begin Thursday at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, and two players with local connections will play together in the first two rounds.
Brendon Todd, a former Cary resident and Green Hope standout, will play in his first British Open, and Duke alum Kevin Streelman will play in his third. They will tee off at 7:32 a.m. with Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge.
Both carry momentum into the season’s third major.
Todd’s past six results include his first PGA Tour win at the Byron Nelson, a tie for fourth, two ties for fifth, a tie for eighth and a tie for 17th at the U.S. Open. This is easily the best stretch of golf in his career and things could not be coming together at a better time as he enters the home stretch of the PGA Tour season.
In addition, he said he believes the British Open should fit his game.
“I think the British Open has got to be one of the best tournaments for my game, and whether I (win) it in my first try that is to be determined,” Todd, 28, said. “But there’s no question that I play well in dry, windy conditions and I’m playing the best golf of my life.”
It’s been won by a British Open rookie as recently as 2003 when 26-year-old Ben Curtis triumphed.
That is certainly the exception and not the rule, but Todd nonetheless is very passionate about the British Open. He would watch it early in the morning during his high school days at Green Hope.
“I’d go over to Kent Slinkard’s house early in the morning and we’d watch British Open coverage and then head out and play in the afternoon,” Todd said of his time with his former golf teacher in Cary.
Todd’s first and only previous taste of Britain’s links style of golf came at the 2003 British Amateur at Royal Troon in Scotland.
Coming off a good showing in his first major at Pinehurst, Todd is continuing his good form. So why is this seven-year pro playing his best golf right now?
“My short game has been really coming together the last few months; it’s helped me maintain momentum in almost every round every week,” Todd said. “The confidence that I have in myself and the results allows me to be really comfortable no matter who I’m playing with.”
Add to the equation that Todd and his wife Rachel are expecting a child in two months and he feels things are going in a good direction.
“I’m just in a great place in my life,” Todd said. “We’re excited about having a baby and I’ve put in a lot of years and a lot of hard work in, and I’m just trusting in God’s plan for me and I’m really just not trying to force things. I’m just playing the game with a really good sense of purpose right now.”
Can Streelman stay hot?
Streelman, 35, had a dramatic win in the Travelers Championship last month. He set a PGA Tour record with seven straight birdies to finish his final round.
As he prepares to play in his 14th major, Streelman knows there are challenging nuances to the links golf courses played in the British Open. Royal Liverpool will be no exception.
“You have got to really control your trajectory and control where you want the ball to land over there,” he said. “Very rare do you bomb a driver and try to get as close to the green as possible. It’s more positioning yourself off the tee to get you a good angle to a pin.”
Streelman has been working with a new swing coach, Wayne DeFrancesco, for the past month. After a frustrating missed cut at Pinehurst, Streelman sent video of his swing to DeFrancisco and liked the feedback he received.
Streelman produced instant results, winning the very next event at the Travelers with a 28 on the back nine. Even in his college days at Duke, he does not recall shooting that low for nine holes – although he said there were a lot of 29s.
The soft-spoken Streelman takes a shot of confidence from that impressive finish.
“It’s confidence knowing that when I’m in the hunt, and that when I’m in the final groups that I can get it done and there’s no question in my mind,” he said.
Streelman and his wife Courtney had their first child in December and in just six months and three weeks, young Sophia has already been on 19 flights as the daughter of this traveling Tour professional.
“It’s been pretty incredible,” Streelman said. “It’s been a lot of fun bringing her around with us, but now she gets to be home for a few weeks so that will be good for her.”