There are a lot of things to take from this year’s British Open (The Open Championship to the rest of the world). First, they play some pretty good golf around the world, not just on the PGA Tour. There’s no question, as a whole, the best golf is played in America where the money is better, the golf course conditioning is better and three of the four professional major championships are held. But The Open Championship brings more elements into play.
The weather, for certain, is a factor. Played along the coast (usually) in the UK, one day it can be 50 and raining, the next 68 and sunny. Saturday and Sunday this year are perfect examples.
The courses are different, allowing the game to be played as it was intended, along the ground if necessary. No forced carries, just lots of risk and reward. Muirfield was just over 7,000 yards long, yet the score that got four players into a playoff was just six under. How does that happen? Through good planning and a solid setup, the Royal and Ancient created a scenario that rewarded solid ball striking, good chipping and bold putting. The greens weren’t overly fast, yet if you missed on the wrong side of the hole it was difficult to two putt. A wayward drive was penalized whether it traveled 275 or 350 yards. The penalty was the same for not hitting it in the fairway. Subsequently, guys who were playing well were rewarded, regardless of how long they were.
Augusta, USGA, were you watching?
Extending the “hazard line” makes a lot of sense. Saturday’s weather equalized the field. Guys who were hitting it solid survived, guys who weren’t paid the price. I thought it was funny how the players all just shrugged their shoulders and said “that’s just the British Open.” They would have howled if that happened at a regular tour event. And the R&A was right to continue play. The course wasn’t holding water, and the ball was staying on the green so why stop playing?
The fact that Tiger Woods shot 81 was shocking because he’s never done that before. At one point, he was on track to shoot the highest score of the day. Tiger? The one with the perfect swing and the mental toughness and focus to overcome anything? It just proves it can happen to anybody, no matter how together they are and how tight their game is. When it goes, especially when the weather is bad, it goes.
Woods is a tremendous player, the best in the world, and a contender for the best of all-time but he’s neither infallible nor invincible. He’s also the most commercially successful golfer of this era, and his game is tailored to the way courses are currently built. Would he be as dominant if all courses were set up like Muirfield? Tiger might win as often, but there would also be more contenders.
Ernie Els victory has to give him some confidence. Even though he’s won four times this year all around the world, have you ever heard somebody who seems to fight demons so often? It’s like he has a little devil standing on his shoulder saying, “you can’t do it,” followed by an angel on the other saying, “it’s OK Ernie.” They guy is a fabulous player who was doubting he would ever win (meaning beat Tiger) in a major again. David Duval also said he found hope and confidence playing at The Open Championship. If that’s the case, it should be a fun finish to the year.