Royal Porthcawl is lighting up eyes this week as it hosts an event that the R&A is using to weigh up the possibility of the south Wales venue being added to its rota for the game’s oldest major.
The Coral Welsh Classic, a European Tour event, was held here from 1980-82, when the winners were Sandy Lyle, Des Smyth and Gordon Brand Jnr respectively. All three, incidentally, are in this week’s field.
It also hosted the 1985 Walker Cup, which featured Tiger Woods, although his American team went down to a Great Britain & Ireland line-up that featured four Scots – Stephen Gallacher, Gordon Sherry, Barclay Howard and Graham Rankin.
Encouraged, no doubt, by Royal Portrush, last used in 1953, being invited by the R&A to host The Open again, Royal Porthcawl has made an official bid to stage the Claret Jug joust.
It already had the backing of the Welsh Assembly, now, thanks to the course hosting the Senior Open for the first time, it also has some notable names throwing their weight behind it.
“I think it’s a very underrated and underplayed golf course,” said Montgomerie. “The first five holes are particularly tricky, the eighth hole [measuring just 122 yards] is a particularly good hole while the 15th is a super par-3.”
Given his affection for links golf, it takes something special to get Watson’s attention, especially at the age of 64, but he has already made his feelings known to the R&A about this week’s venue.
“I talked to [chief executive] Peter Dawson about The Open being played here and said that, in my opinion, it would be a great course for that,” revealed the five-times champion.
“I played my first practice round on Monday and, from the first hole on, it was just one great hole after another and one great green complex after another. I really fell in love with it immediately. It’s a great golf course.”
He reckons the overall test is “tougher than Hoylake” and likened the contours of the greens to those at Muirfield.
“They have movement in them, meaning that the elevation changes – some fall away while others step up,” added Watson. “Muirfield also has some contours to their greens, but not as much movement as here.”