The Open Championship

July 17, 2012

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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.


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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Darren Clarke Wins, USA Women Lose

July 19, 2011

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It is no secret that I am a big fan of the Open Championship. If you read my article last week you already picked up on that idea. It was another great tournament with European Tour favorite Darren Clarke, getting lucky bounce after lucky bounce in the final round to hold off an incredible early charge by Phil Mickelson (aka Flopsy McChokenstien) and a late but belated surge by Dustin Johnson.

Mickelson made a major move in the first 10 holes, picking up 6 strokes relative to par to get in a tie for the lead. He missed a short putt and then the oil spewing began.

Major disappointment of the day part II was the women’s US soccer team. Many would argue that the team has staved off defeat a couple of times and was lucky to get this far in the World Cup. Others would argue that Japan, with all the horrific events of the past year, was the team of destiny. I would argue that poor execution and lack of focus was the reason for the defeat.

Once the Americans took the lead (both times matter of fact) they exhibited ole’ defense near the goal and looked nervous…a case of “not losing a late lead” This turned into goals by Japan late in regulation and in extra time, which allowed the Japanese team to win in a shoot-out. Maybe the worst excuse I head was Abby Wambauch explaining that Japan had “already watched the USA team penalty kicks against Brazil, so they pretty much knew where we were going.”

WHAT???? Seriously , that is your comment??? You are world class soccer players and you only have one place to kick the ball when it comes to shoot out time? That would be comparable to Lebron James saying he can’t shoot the ball from the right side of the floor, only from the left side…. Get back to me when you can admit that you just blew it.

Speaking of blowing it, Johnny played in member guest tournament at a local club this past weekend. Turns out the pressure cooker got to Johnny G as well. I missed a 3 footer on the 17th hole that cost me and my partner from making the playoff for the title of the tournament. We still finished 3rd overall – and made some money in the process. It was a real rush to get the competitive juices flowing again. Just too bad that I could not come through in the clutch.

Changing gears……

College Football is just around the corner. Many schools have “fan days” where the fans and kids have a chance to meet the players and coaches, take a few photos, get some autographs, run around on the field, etc.

The University of Nebraska has one of the craziest fan days around. Since the announcement of Bo Pelini as head coach, the Fan day crowds have likely been around ten thousand or more in attendance for the 90 minutes allotted for the players to sign autographs for the fans.

This year the University has moved fan day from the tradition late Saturday morning start time to the middle of Friday afternoon. Why? My guess is the University has had problems controlling the massive crowds, and hopes that moving to a time when many more parents will be at work, will lower attendance to a more manageable level. As a parent who has taken their kids to the event the last couple of years I can speak for the sheer mass of people that are present at the stadium for the event. Some will applaud the decision (such as me) and others will be unhappy as it may affect their ability to attend the event at all.

I am betting that many fellow Big X schools wish they had to deal with such a problem….

Until next week, stay class Ames Iowa.

We’re Open

July 14, 2009

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Most of you know after reading my column week in and week out that it is no secret I am a golf fan. This upcoming week holds one of the best tournaments of the year in the Open Championship.

Now we as hearty Americans call it the British Open, but truth be told there is no need to throw the first word of that sentence out there. This is THE OPEN. Not the United States Open, the Canadian Open, French Open, Scottish Open or Australian Open.

THE Open Championship.

The oldest of what is considered golf’s majors first played out over the great course at Prestwick, just a wee bit south of Glasgow on the Ayshire coast. It was held the first time in 1860.

Willie Park Senior edged out Old Tom Morris that year. The prize was the Challenge Belt, purchased by the members of Prestwick Golf Club. There was no prize money, but the winner received custody of the Belt for the year. If a player won the Belt three years in succession, it would be his to keep.

This was eventually done by Tom Morris’ son Tommy Jr., or as he was more popularly known, Young Tom. In 1870, just 10 years after this tournament began, Young Tom won for the third straight time and the Moroccan red leather belt was his to keep.

No Open was held in 1871 mostly in part as no replacement award for winning had been commissioned.

Finally in late 1872 an agreement was reached between three clubs that were to host The Open — Prestwick, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (now based in Muirfield) and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (more commonly referred to as St Andrews) They decided that the winner would receive a medal and that each of the three clubs would contribute £10 toward the cost of a new trophy, which was to be a silver claret jug, instead of another belt. Its proper name was to be The Golf Champion Trophy.

Today the winner each and every year hoists the Claret Jug after being announced as the champion golfer for the year.

This year my pick and nearly everyone else’s pick will be Tiger Woods. A host of others will be looking to win – can Padraig Harrington do it a third straight time?  Can Sergio Garcia break his string of top ten finishes and break through to win?  Will it be the hot hand of a player such as Martin Kaymer or Paul Casey?  What about one last hurrah for Colin Montgomerie?

That is what makes this so special,  many players, most of which the casual golf fan has never heard of, representing a variety of countries.  A diverse International field … This is

The Open Championship.

Tune in this weekend to early morning coverage each and every day, and see golf as it was meant to be played, in its purest form, among the links of it ancestral home on the Scottish Coast.