Tuesday, July 17, 2012

British Open Preview

This year's British Open is at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in the northwest of England. I have never liked this course -- I think it's ugly and boring. It starts with a par-3, there are only two par-5's on the course, and it ends with six consecutive par-4's. Here is the list of holes:

1. par 3, 206 yds
2. par 4, 481 yds
3. par 4, 477 yds
4. par 4, 392 yds
5. par 3, 219 yds
6. par 4, 492 yds
7. par 5, 592 yds
8. par 4, 416 yds
9. par 3, 165 yds
Out: par 34, 3,440 yds

10. par 4, 387 yds
11. par 5, 598 yds
12. par 3, 198 yds
13. par 4, 355 yds
14. par 4, 444 yds
15. par 4, 462 yds
16. par 4, 336 yds
17. par 4, 453 yds
18. par 4, 413 yds
In: par 36, 3,646 yds
Total: par 70, 7,086 yds

Of course, the big story about this British Open -- as it is for all major golf tournaments these days -- is the interminable list of first-time winners through which we have suffered in recent years. Since Phil Mickelson won the Masters in 2010, here are your major champions, with their current world ranking in parentheses:

2010 U.S. Open: Grame McDowell (NIR) (12)
2010 British Open: Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) (18)
2010 PGA: Margin Kaymer (GER) (15)
2011 Masters: Charl Schwartzel (RSA) (19)
2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy (NIR) (2)
2011 British Open: Darren Clarke (NIR) (84)
2011 PGA: Keegan Bradley (24)
2012 Masters: Bubba Watson (6)
2012 U.S. Open: Webb Simpson (5)

As you can see, these are all fine golfers -- Darren Clarke's ranking doesn't reflect the overall quality of his long career -- but none of them has been able to establish himself as a consistent threat in major championship golf. Remarkably, Webb Simpson won't even be at the British Open -- he's by-passing his chance at history for the birth of his second child.

So there's not a lot to look forward to -- although it's always nice to see British clouds and rain in a hot Kentucky July. Basically, this tournament is going to be judged by whether one of the four top-ranked golfers -- Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, or Tiger Woods -- can break through and lift the cup. That would be a big deal and would matter in the history of the game. Americans would also be interested to see a sentimental favorite like Phil Mickelson win. Otherwise, this tournament -- no matter how dramatic it appears -- will quickly be forgotten.

Here are the latest odds out of Britain for the top favorites. The bookies, at least, expect a fan favorite to prevail.

Woods: 15 to 2
Westwood: 14 to 1
McIlroy: 16 to 1
Donald: 14 to 1
Padraig Harrington: 16 to 1
Kaymer: 28 to 1
Mickelson: 28 to 1


  1. ESPN Classic earlier this week aired a very entertaining hourlong film on the 1975 British Open, played July 9-12 that year at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrew's in Carnoustie, Scotland ...

    1. Sorry ... tripped over my words there ... the tournament was played at Carnoustie Golf Links; the film that ESPN Classic aired was jointly produced by Saint Andrew's and Carnoustie, which I thought was pretty cool.

  2. The winners of the last three "Open Championships"--Gary Player (1974), Tom Weiskopf (1973) and Lee Trevino (1971 and '72)--had all played their first rounds in over par and never much threatened in the 1975 tournament ...

  3. It was odd that those three so struggled early because the story through two rounds was about how easy the course was playing. The tournament leader was Scottish homeboy David Huish of North Berwick, who was 8-under through 36 holes ...

  4. South African Bobby Cole had come in Friday with a course-record 66 on Friday to join a four-way tie for second place. Then Cole matched that score on Saturday. And yet for all of that history-making evidence over the weekend, Cole's lead going into the final 18 holes was a mere one stroke over Australia's Jack Newton, who on Saturday reset the one-day-old course record with a 65. Plus, Johnny Miller of San Francisco--the 1973 U.S. Open champion and a three-time winner on the PGA Tour already in 1975--had carded a 66 of his own on Saturday to creep within two holes of the tournament lead ...

  5. In this movie that ESPN Classic showed this week, they interview various players on Sunday morning about who they like to win the tournament. A few mention Cole or Newton or Miller, but the name most frequently brought up is that of Jack Nicklaus--part of a big group four off Cole's lead after his third-round 68. When Nicklaus won the British Open in 1970, it was his first major-tournament championship in three years. But since turning back Doug Sanders in a playoff at Saint Andrew's, Nicklaus ticked off victories at the 1971 PGA Championship, the '72 Masters, the '72 U.S. Open, the '73 PGA and the '75 Masters ...

  6. Birdies suddenly get significantly tougher to come by on Sunday, and Nicklaus's even-par 72 in the final round is enough to bring him in with the clubhouse lead.

    Miller has a chance to one-up Nicklaus but--"Oh, tragedy! Tragedy for Miller!"--bogies No. 18 and comes in with a matching tournament total of 280. The 28-year-old will have to wait until next summer for his British Open title. ...

  7. Meanwhile, the leaders are sliding back to the pack. Newton and Cole both drop three strokes to par over 15, 16 and 17. By the time the final pairing reaches the 18th tee, the new clubhouse leader is Tom Watson of Kansas City, Mo., who birdies the final hole to finish 9-under for the tournament. Newton suddenly needs par and Cole birdie to match the American.

    Cole pars out to join Miller and Nicklaus's tie at 8-under. Newton has a long putt to win the tournament outright but comes up two-and-a-half feet short. He does, however, hole what the ESPN Classic movie narrator describes as a "horrid putt to tie" ...

  8. And so the tournament extends to Monday and a playoff between two 25-year-olds: "flamboyant" Newton and Watson, who carries "the air of a college boy" and the "reputation for being the promising loser," per the narrator ...

    1. Sunday. The playoff was played on the Sunday. The tournament started Wednesday.

  9. The two staged an 18-hole playoff through steady rain, followed by a "vast, mobile hoard" of fans, and the verdict wasn't decided until the final hole. Watson parred; Newton's long putt to tie and force sudden death rolls an inch to the left of the hole--bogey ...

  10. And so Watson--the son of a country-club pro, a four-time Missouri schoolboy-golf champion and ping-pong player/psych major at Stanford--goes on to, of course, one of the all-time-fantastic careers of anyone in any endeavor ever. Now 62, Watson shot a 73 today at the British Open, which currently has him in a tie for 77th. That 3-over performance today looks pretty enviable at the moment to the British Open's current leaders ...

  11. Meanwhile, while you won't find him playing in northwest England this weekend, Jack Newton of Australia has gone on to a remarkable life of his own ...

  12. Current leaderboard:

    1. Adam Scott (Australia) 9-under through eight holes today
    2. Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) 6-under through eight today
    3. Ernie Els (South Africa) 4-under through 10 today
    3. Brandt Snedeker (Nashville, Tenn.) 4-under through 10
    3. Tiger Woods (Cypress, Calif.) 4-under through 10

  13. And caucasian, liberal-Christian Kentucky gets out of church to find the Australian (Scott) walking up the 18th fairway needing par to match the South African (Els) at 7-under and force a playoff and Woods birdie-ing 18 to finish with a 73 today (like Watson) and, with Snedeker, 4-under for the tournament, tie for third ...

  14. Scott--as countryman Newton did 37 years ago--gave three strokes back to par over Nos. 15, 16 and 17 ...

  15. After a very ugly fairway bunker shot, Scott lands a beautiful pitch about six feet from the cup. As countryman Newton did 37 years ago, Scott needs to sink a not-easy par putt to force a playoff ...

  16. But unlike his countryman Newton did 37 years ago, Scott misses his putt and fails to force playoff, and 42-year-old Els, instead, wins his fourth major and second British Open.

  17. "It's always nice to see British clouds and rain in a hot Kentucky July." So true!