Francesco Molinari

Johnny’s longshot to win the Open Championship.

It is one of the best weeks of the year. By that I mean it the Open Championship. It is not the British Open as we Americans tend to call it. This is THE OPEN. Sorry Ohio State, this is the only event that deserves to use the word THE before itself.

Why such strong feelings about this glorious golf tournament? The Open has been around the longest. It all started in Scotland in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club. The first playing of the tournament was restricted to professionals, (mainly who were caddies, greens keepers, club makers or ball makers 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. Before this time golf had been played and some club tournaments had taken place, but more often than not Match Play was the rule and Money Matches between top professionals from various clubs were often played before and after the actual Open Championship itself.

LYTHAM ST ANNES, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 23:  P...

Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club

This year we go to the great course Royal Lytham & St Anne’s.  The Open was last played here when David Duval won it and was still a force to be reckoned with on the PGA tour. Royal Lytham & St. Annes is not your typical seaside links golf course that is the norm for most Open Championships. This is the only course in the current Open rotation which begins with a par 3 golf hole. (this is unusual for any golf course actually, but it is something more frequently seen on the elder courses in Scotland, Ireland and the British Isles). Another unusual quirk is that the golf course has 3 par 3’s on the front 9, and just one on the back.

A lot of spectators can even get a front row seat for this one….from their houses! This is another rarity in Open golf courses in that there are residences on three sides of the golf course.

The venue has not hosted too many Open Championships when compared to places such as St Andrews, but the former champion list is quite impressive. Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Peter Thompson, Bob Charles, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, Severino Ballesteros, Tom Lehman and David Duval. Of this list, only Lehman and Duval are not members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

155 players tee it up this weekend. Many of those golfers in the field are people that even devout golf aficionados have any knowledge of. There are some European and Asian Tour players that will test your meddle in name pronunciation.

Tongue twisters such as Pryad Marksaeng, Joost Luiten, Mardan Marmat, Thongchai Jaidee, and Rafa Echenique will keep Ivor Robson on his toes while he announces the players to the first tee.

The set up seems fair, but unlike some Open sites, there is an extra premium on driving the golf ball. The rough, off of the fairways is exceptionally tall and thick this year on the heels of what is even by British standards, extra rainy conditions.

Attending the tournament in person is still one of the best deals in golf. Last I checked you could get a week long pass to watch all of the action for basically the equivalent of $250- $300 USD. Try getting in for that for the entire week at the Masters!

As always set your alarm early and get up to watch the quirky holes, bad bounces, lucky bounces, horrible lies, strong winds, maybe even rain, and weather that can change faster than it takes Kevin Na to play one golf hole.

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 – Tiger Woods. He needs to get off the snide and win another major. He seems to play pretty well when under the gun. He will be under a lot of scrutiny with unsubtle British media – especially if he is in the hunt…I think he will respond well this time.

Looking for some random candidates? Here is a short list for your fantasy golf pools – Sam Walker – Barry Lane – Greg Owen and Paul Broadhorst.

Longshot to win it? Francesco Molinari – he played well last week at the Scottish Open, might be his time to break out and win something big.

Until Next Time, Stay Classy North Berwick, Scotland

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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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