The Open Championship originated in Scotland in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club.  The first playing of the  tournament was restricted to professionals, (mainly who were caddies, greenskeepers, clubmakers or ballmakers by trade)  and attracted a field of eight who played three rounds of Prestwick’s twelve-hole course in a single day. The winning score of 174, was shot by Willie Park Sr. who beat Old Tom Morris by two strokes. The following year the tournament was opened to amateurs; eight of them joined ten professionals in the field to make a huge field of 18, and the Open Championship was on its way.

Prestwick Golf Club administered The British Open from 1860 to 1870. In 1871, it agreed to organize it jointly with The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and Honourable Company of Edinbourough Golfers based out of Musselbourough – preclude to Muirfiled one of the best of all Scottish Courses. The event was lengthened to  72 holes, four rounds of what was by then the standard complement of 18 holes. In the same year the prize fund reached £100.

In 1894 the Open was the first one held outside Scotland, at the Royal St Georges Golf Club in England. Because of an increasing number of entrants, a cut was introduced after two rounds in 1898. In 1920 full responsibility for The Open Championship was handed over to The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

The Open returns to Royal St Georges this year after a long layoff.  In today’s age of golf there are only a small number of courses that typically host the Open Championship on a rotation basis.  These courses do not change very often.  The tournament was last played here in 2003 when virtual unknown, Ben Curtis, took home the Claret Jug.

Fast forward to 2011.  Tiger Woods in sidelined with knee, ankle and some would argue, brain issues.  Phil Mickelson, one of the most gifted golfers of our time, and lock to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame has never really contended in an Open.

Rory McIlroy who has lead at the 54 hole point of each of the last majors blew chances last year at St Andrews, then in the PGA, earlier this year at Augusta, and now has a United States Open to his credit.  He is the overwhelming favorite at Ladbrokes – the prominent British Betting house as a Tigeresque 7-2 betting favorite.

The Open has a history of two things. 1) Great players across the history of golf usually have a win in this championship to their credit and  2) there are just as many if not more “one hit wonders”  golfers that win this major and really are never heard from again.

So this weekend, set your clocks early, tune into ESPN, and catch Renton Laidlaw announcing Match 42 on the tee in his high pitched voice that is often imitated, but never duplicated.

Watch quirky holes, bad bounces, lucky bounces, horrible lies, strong winds, maybe even rain, and weather that can change faster than it does where I live in Nebraska.

The Open is golf at its finest.  Golf as it was meant to be played – over sand dunes, humps and hollows -not on overwatered and perfectly manicured greens, fairways, bunkers and tee boxes.
My pick this week – Matt Kuchar…it is about time he won something big in terms of a tournament.

Until next time, enjoy your haggis, neeps and tots!

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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