TV review: The Road To The Open was laid through hard work

Tiger Woods signs autographs during practice for The Open at Royal Portrush on Tuesday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Billy Foley

The Road To The Open - At Royal Portrush, BBC 1, Sunday at 10.30pm

Amid the negativity of Brexit and the inability of our politicians to form a government, it seems a bit bizarre that a game formalised by Victorian gentlemen may be the most positive thing to happen in Ireland this year.

The arrival of golf's Open Championship at Royal Portrush has been gloriously bereft of the normal petty squabbling of our public discourse.

The Road To The Open, the BBC's story of the years of effort behind bringing the tournament to Co Antrim, demonstrated what hard work, ambition and quiet diplomacy can achieve.

In this, the efforts of Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster, from a previous Northern Ireland government, should be recognised.

Although it was the amiable Peter Dawson, the chief executive of golf's governing body at the beginning of the process, who noted that it was the earlier “political and security climate” which prevented The Open from returning to the north since 1951.

Nonetheless, through the improved security situation, the support of a previous executive and the not too shabby success of our golfers, we've got the tournament here.

And the R&A seem to be settling in for a long stay.

The Road To The Open demonstrated the gargantuan efforts to turn Royal Portrush into a venue that can accommodate the infrastructure which comes with hosting one of the world's largest sporting events.

The list is long, but just a couple of examples demonstrate the willingness to make the event happen.

The members agreed for the original 17th and 18th holes to be levelled for a spectator and media village, while two new holes (which would become the 7th and 8th) were constructed on land taken from the second course at the venue.

And when the Irish Open was held in Portrush in 2012 a spectator bottleneck developed at the junction between the 10th, 11th and 6th holes, so the R&A and the club decided to build a 65 yard tunnel to connect the holes to allow the players and caddies to walk unhindered underneath the masses of spectators.

This is not the action of an organisation which is planning to be in Portrush for just one week.

There were plenty of other nuggets in The Road To The Open, such as meeting Graeme McDowell's brother who is a green keeper at Portrush, albeit with a slightly different accent.

And we got to see Marcus Terry, one of the famous ‘shapers' who can work magic with a digger bucket to create bunkers, run-offs, humps and green complexes.

But the central message should not be lost on us - success comes from working together.


Wimbledon, BBC 1

Cricket World Cup, Channel 4

F1 British Grand Prix, Channel 4

Tour De France, ITV 4

What a remarkable day it was for free-to-air TV sport on Sunday.

One of the great Wimbledon finals was on BBC 1, Channel 4 had the incredible cricket World Cup final which moved to More 4 in the middle of the day to allow for the broadcast of the British Grand Prix from Silverstone.

Meanwhile, ITV 4 was rounding off the first week of a brilliant Tour De France will another day of free live coverage.

For a brief moment if felt like the television world of the 1980s.

It was all the more remarkable then, that the only amateur sport among them was locked away on a subscription channel for two key GAA championship games on Saturday.

And we will have to turn to the same broadcaster to watch live coverage of the golf from Portrush this weekend.

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