Over the next four days, it will draw a sell-out crowd of 237,750 to the town of Portrush, five kilometres outside Coleraine on the Causeway Coast.
They were there in massed ranks from 0530 yesterday morning an hour ahead of Darren Clarke striking the first ball. He went around in Level Par in mild and sunny conditions early on. Three hours later Rory McIlroy hit his first shot out of bounds and posted a horror show-card of eight over par.
The local crowd was disappointed but this is a show where there are stars around every corner. There’s Phil Mickelson. Here’s Shane Lowery coming up to be clubhouse leader. Over there Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are chatting walking up to the 13th and what’s that huge crowd coming over the horizon? That’ll be Tiger.
The sport is central to what is happening and the facilities to watch it are immense. The Grandstands and pavilions around the course have been built to house the population of a small city. Part of the appeal of the biggest tournaments is their ‘clean’ look and feel. There’s no bare scaffolding on show. Everything is pinned down and swathed in the right Pantone reference Navy Blue of the Open brand.
All of the Marshalls are kitted out in a matching sky blue set of tops and jackets created by Hugo Boss. Everything is planned and executed to within a single millimetre of perfection, and you get the impression they are working on closing that gap year on year.
The price of association with The Open is high and is reflected in the quality of the brands that were on site yesterday.
HSBC had customer lounges dotted around the course and as one of the first points of contact as they walk in through the 40-metre wide entrance created by Galway based Eventus.
The Open Water bottles made from stainless steel were also flying off the shelves. The Open Water initiative which the R&A, as organisers of the Championship introduced this year as a major step hosting a sustainable Championship for years to come, was very much in evidence with Water stations dotted around the course and no plastic water bottle allowed.
It’s an initiative that at a stroke removes 100,000 bottles from circulation. Philip Russell, the R&A’s Assistant Director of Sustainability spoke at the Sport for Business Sport for Social Good Conference as part of the Open Championship activities at Ulster university yesterday and features in our 2019 Sport for Social Good Report.
Rolex had their trademark clocks around the course and they were as much of a photo opportunity for fans as many of the players.
While BMW has a long-standing partnership with the European Tour the Open is the preserve of Mercedes who had all the support vehicles bringing players and officials to and from the course and were visible throughout the course as they also are at the US Masters.
This is, for the most part, an audience that is in the sweet spot of marketeers targeting at the higher end of consumption.
The price to be seen as a partner of The Open is high but so too is the reward. The next major market for golf is in Asia. There are eight Japanese and eight Korean players in the line up as well as others from Thailand, China, Taipei and the Philippines. By comparison, there are six from Australia, three from France and two from Italy, the last and next European hosts of the Ryder Cup.
Korean multinational group Doosan are one of the key partners of the Open as well with NTT Data the official statistics partners and drivers of the scoreboard technology online for the watching world and around the golf course.
It is an epic undertaking to build this sporting citadel for one week of action. It will be seen though by billions around the world. The fact that it is taking place in Ireland will reap enormous benefit for both Failte Ireland and Tourism NI.
It is something we can be very proud of.
Image Credita: Inpho.ie and Rob Hartnett