Welcome to the roundup of must-see sports news from Wednesday, highlighted by a look at the players to watch at the golf season’s final major, the Open Championship, which kicks off today at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
Spanning the sports headlines, we’ll also take a look at the San Diego Padres coming close to having their first no-hitter in franchise history and Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso’s titanic home run that traveled halfway up the upper deck in Minnesota.
All this and more as we get you up to speed with the sports world on this Thursday!
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Players to Watch for at the Season’s Final Major
The final golf major of 2019 is already upon us, and it will be a special one for Northern Ireland as it hosts its first Open Championship since 1951. The Open was previously slotted into the third position of the year’s four majors but with the schedule implemented this year, it now follows the U.S. Open to conclude the season’s majors.
The Open will get underway on Thursday and most likely by the time you read this article, will be deep into the first round, with the first tee shots scheduled to be hit at 6:35 a.m. local time in Northern Ireland/1:35 a.m. ET.
The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush will be a true test for the world’s best players, which most hadn’t seen until this week. The par-71, 7,344-yard course layout will feature extremely thick rough that players will be punished for if they can’t find the fairways and approximately 60 bunkers – the fewest of any Open course.
The big question mark for the week, as it always is coming into an Open, will be how will the weather play a factor in the competition. Temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s will certainly be a shock to the PGA TOUR players’ systems, as they leave behind a sultry summer back in the U.S. Rain is in the forecast for all four days this week and the winds on this seaside course will add a huge variable to the players’ strategies.
Who will become this season’s champion golfer of the year? Here are the players to watch for this week at the Open:
Northern Ireland, World Ranking: 3, Age:30
This week’s betting favorite will also be the fan favorite, as he will tee it up on home turf in Northern Ireland. McIlroy won the Open in 2014 and finished T-2 last year at Carnoustie behind champion Francesco Molinari. You’ll be hearing a lot this week about the course record 61 he shot at Royal Portrush as a 16-year-old in 2005.
United States, World Ranking: 1, Age:29
Golf’s number one ranked player in the world can become the first to finish first or second in all four majors in a single season. Koepka won the PGA Championship in May and placed second in both the Masters and U.S. Open.
Spain, World Ranking: 8, Age:24
Rahm’s time for a break-through major feels like it’s right around the corner as he has been playing hotter than almost anyone right now. The 24-year-old Spaniard finished T-3 at the U.S. Open and then shot a final-round 62 to win the Irish Open at a links course a couple weeks ago.
United States, World Ranking: 5, Age:43
Even though we haven’t seen him on a golf course since the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach a month ago, you can never count out the 15-time major champion. Woods made a huge statement last summer at Carnoustie when he held the lead for a moment on the back nine before a few mishaps lead him to a T-6 finish.
United States, World Ranking: 10, Age:27
Cantlay has been on an absolute tear this season, picking up a win at the Memorial Tournament, while finishing T-3 at the PGA Championship and T-9 at the Masters. He is currently ranked second in strokes gained overall and it feels like he’s on the verge of a major break-through victory.
Sweden, World Ranking: 37, Age:43
The 2016 Open Champion has been as consistent as can be lately, hitting fairway after fairway, and finishing T-4 at last week’s Scottish Open which followed a T-9 at the U.S. Open and a T-8 at the Canadian Open.
More from Heavy.com: 2019 Open Championship Odds
MLB ROUNDUP: Padres’ Rookie Chris Paddack Loses No-Hitter in 8th Inning; Home Run Derby Champ Pete Alonso Hits One Halfway Up the Upper Deck
Paddack comes close to delivering Padres’ first no-no
Rookie right-handed pitcher Chris Paddack came within six outs of making history for the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, as he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning of their game against the Miami Marlins. Paddack, who had been drafted by the Marlins, gave up a leadoff home run in the 8th inning to Starlin Castro that broke up the no-hitter.
The 23-year-old pitched 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday night, striking out eight batters and allowing only the solo home run, in the Padres 3-2 win.
The Padres are in their 51st season and have yet to throw a no-hitter.
MUST WATCH: Pete Alonso hits moonshot into upper deck of Target Field
The 2019 Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso was mired in a 1-for-17 slump since his Derby title last week but broke out in an epic way on Wednesday when he hit a ball halfway up the upper deck at Minnesota’s Target Field.
The titanic blast that traveled a whopping 474 feet was the New York Mets’ rookie first baseman’s 31st home run of the season, which trails only Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich, who both have 34 long balls.
The Mets completed a two-game sweep of the first-place Twins, with a 14-4 blowout.
DON’T MISS THESE STORIES: Rounding Up the Top Sports Headlines
WHAT’S ON TAP IN THE SPORTS WORLD
GOLF: The Open Championship
Golf’s final major of 2019, the 148th Open Championship kicks off today from Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The Golf Channel has all-day first-round coverage beginning at 1:30 a.m. ET.
When: Today, 1:30 a.m. ET – 4 p.m. ET
TV: Golf Channel
MLB: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays
The top two teams in the American League East face-off in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium today after their game was postponed due to rain last night.
When: Today, 3 p.m. ET