The 2014 Open Championship is upon us. Golf’s third major of the year appears wide-Open even with Tiger wood’s return. Was it really eight years ago when he intricately carved his way around the rumpled, crusty turf that was Royal Liverpool in winning his eleventh major? How things have changed in professional golf since then. One thing that hasn’t changed is the nature of this examination.
Comparing links golf to its counterpart in the U.S. is akin to the difference of playing basketball in Madison Square Garden or Rucker Park. Surely they are not the same game. There are more elements in the British Isles to contend with than usually found stateside. Jack Nicklaus once commented that the key to winning the Open Championship was simply avoiding the bunkers, play short of them. He claimed the U.S. Open was a better test, requiring players to use every club in the bag. While I’m not going to debate Mr. Nicklaus’ view, many of the U.S. Open tests in his day were gauge festivals featuring putting surfaces harder than granite countertops. Options for recovery were limited.
The Open Championship in my view is the complete examination of a player’s ability, creativity and fortitude. Weather conditions can change in the time it takes a spectator to get through a concession line. There will be bad bounces and good breaks. Old math, in the form of long division will be a key component in negotiating the routing. There are several ways to “divide” a 450-yard par four in the Open Championship. Long irons will back in the bags. Golf balls will roll for extended periods of time. While the NFL measures a punt by hang-time maybe the broadcasters will put a clock on the ground-time movement of balls as they run like rabbits across the linksland. It is the opportunity to play the course as it is presented. You could very well say it is PurePlayGolf on the highest level.
The other consideration of this major is that it is truly “Open”. Look at the 2009 event at Turnberry. Tom Watson had the Claret Jug in his grasp at age 59. Darren Clarke’s win in 2011 came as a surprise. Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews? Try Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis. The list of contenders also requires a viewer to scratch his head when Kiradech Aphibarnrat climbs onto the first page of the leaderboard. It is an international spectacle.
So as the players are introduced by Ivor Robson on Thursday to start their trek around the humps, bumps and fescue that define Hoylake, look for their imagination and patience to put solid numbers on the board. Run it up, hit the low stinger, get on one knee in a bunker, or flail it out of the fescue, there are sure to be plenty of executions that receive “Ahhhs” and “Ohhhs”. Yes, it might be a game of chance but it seems in most instances this championship wins the player rather than vice-versa.
We’ll see who Hoylake selects this year.