WE’RE OPEN! Pack a sand wedge

Posted: July 13, 2011 in GOLF

It’s that time of year POS fans, the Open Championship is upon us and I could not be happier. I find that the Open brings out the best in a golfer as it is a special type of golf (links vs. normal terrain). The challenges are many, including the quality of the fairways, endless thick rough, and bunkers that can feel more like abandoned mine shafts.

Royal St. George’s will be host to this year’s championship, and as usual the grumblings of the Open have already started. Both golfer’s old and new have been asked their opinions and they are not so favourable.

Jack Nicklaus was asked by ESPN about his preferences for the Open, he said he preferred the Scottish courses because “I didn’t have very good finishes at St. George’s. You always seem to rank courses on how you perform, so I like the Scottish venues better.”

Other players were quoted as saying they hated Royal St George’s, or that they would rank it at the very bottom of their lists of favourite Open locations, behind any other.

The last time Royal St. George’s was used for the Open championship was in 2003, where unsuspecting Ben Curtis claimed the Claret Jug, with a score of -1. Yes, one under par was the winning score and he needed to shoot a two under par to win it. Three under par was the lowest round of the day shot by three other players.

The scores are always around even par or better, but it is usually talked about that if you shoot at least one round under par before Sunday and stay around even par you’re always in the hunt. I don’t think the same can be said for any other PGA tour event, especially the majors.

It is surprising that with all the advancements in golf club technology, strategy and the time that can be put into course study, that the Open Championships prove so tough. It was not that long ago that one of my favourite players, Padraig Harrington won two consecutive Opens, including one in his Native country of Ireland.

The courses must take a toll on the body, with the tough terrain and the sloping hills and endless gusts of wind that seem to make Tornadoes look like a cool summer breeze. But there is a mental toll as well that I don’t think everyone understands.

Golf, like any individual sport, preys on the weak minded and those who lack in confidence. Padraig was in danger of becoming another victim of his own mind games suffered from results and challenges faced in his first Open Championship victory.

When talking about his win, he had this to say about the stunning yet deadly 18th hole at Carnoustie golf course: “If I’d lost after what happened on 18 I don’t know what I would have thought about playing golf again.”

For those of you who chose foolishly to not watch this tournament, you missed a spectacular finish to the regulation rounds full of drama, great shots and horrible breaks. The toughest moments came at the end of the day on the 18th hole which has two stretches of ravine, Barry Burn, winding through it with straight vertical banks.

The ravines are placed just so, that if your ball doesn’t completely clear them it’s in the water and that’s a penalty. Also, they are located just at the worst spots that most golfers lay up on the second one meaning they won’t get to the green in fewer than three shots.

To think that a three time major winner would have quit the sport and game he loves over the results of one hole is remarkable. This man had been playing for years and had varying levels of success, but one hole could have changed his life forever, and not in a good way.

Every year the Open produces moments that captivate us, forcing us to put the remote down and not dare change the channel for fear of missing something special.

Many golf fans still remember the heart break caused by Greg Norman in 2009 when he had the lead going into the final round, being the oldest 54-hole leader at an Open Championship. I was really pulling for “The Shark” to pull if off, as I was a big fan through my dad as a child.

Then the next year we had Tom Watson, seemingly out of nowhere coming within strokes of being the oldest major champion in PGA history. He had the win at the end of his putter on the final hole, but missed and was forced to play in a playoff with long time veteran Stewart Cink, who eventually won his first and so far only, major championship.

When asked by ESPN what this win would’ve meant to him, Watson replied “It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn’t it?” A positive reply from yet another victim of the gruelling tournament known as the Open Championship.

I will not go so far as to say that this year’s Open is a must watch event, but to me the weekend rounds certainly will be. The rounds start early as they are on English time, and tomorrow’s first round begins at 4:09EST. Sadly I am not that committed to golf to wake up that early on my Thursday to catch Rory’s opening round.

The weekend rounds however will certainly be must see, as the televised coverage makes it seem as though the tournament has a perfect flow and I never have to see player’s simply walking.

Rory McIlroy is the betting favourite to win it this year, and why shouldn’t he be? He will have many home fans making the short trip from Northern Ireland to cheer him on. He is not even in his prime at the age of 22 and is still fresh off a masterful performance that resulted in his first major and first U.S. Open title.

Am I picking McIlroy to win this weekend? Not a chance, there are just too many unknowns that can happen on a links course, especially in a tournament as storied and haunted as the Open Championship. The courses have no favourites and give no special favours. The winner will have to find grace, patience, and like so many other winners a little luck of the Irish.


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