Sunday, July 22, 2012

British Open Wrap-Up

The NoVA desk of the HP was out of pocket for most of the weekend, and the general dreariness of the golf season discouraged us from blogging on the British Open as we normally would. We thank Eric for his excellent coverage of both the 1975 and 2012 British Opens.

The big story for today, of course, was the utter collapse of Adam Scott. After 68 holes of golf, Scott was at 10-under par -- four shots ahead of Ernie Els, the only man of the course who could catch him. Scott then bogeyed 15 and 16, while Els birdied 18. So with two holes left, Scott was at 8 under par, with Els at 7 under. Scott then bogeyed the last two holes to lose the tournament outright. We are living in an age of dramatic golf collapses -- Jason Dufner blew the PGA last year, Jim Furyk blew the U.S. Open this year, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson both threw away the PGA in 2010, and I'm sure there are other recent examples if I wanted to take the time to look them up. Even by these dreary standards, however, Scott's performance -- he played the first 68 holes in 10 under and the last four holes in four over -- is extraordinary. Perhaps that silly long putter he uses is really cursed.

In terms of the history of golf, however, the big story was the victory of Ernie Els. For one thing, Els finally ended that silly streak of first-time major winners. Furthermore, today Els picked up his fourth major -- two U.S. Opens and two British Opens. Few men have won four majors and even fewer have won two U.S. Opens and two British Opens. (Partial list of golfers who did not win multiple U.S. Opens and multiple British Opens: Watson, Palmer, Snead, Player, Faldo, Ballesteros).

I think almost everyone will be happy for Els, who has been a great player for years, and who would have surely won more major titles if he had not had to compete with Tiger Woods for most of his career. Els has also now matched Phil Mickelson with four majors. Here is a comparison of these two champions, who are both in the twilight of their careers:

PHIL MICKELSON (born June 16, 1970) (42 years old)
Major wins: 4 (3 Masters, 1 PGA)
Top-10's in Majors: 33 (Mickelson has finished second at the U.S. Open five times)
PGA Tour wins: 40 (tied for 9th all time)
European Tour wins: 7 (most of these are majors or other events that count for both the PGA and European Tours)

ERNIE ELS (born October 17, 1969) (42 years old)
Major wins: 4 (2 U.S. Opens, 2 British Opens)
Top-10's in Majors: 33 (he was probably due to back into one like he did today)
PGA Tour wins: 19 (but he spent a lot of time in Europe)
European Tour wins: 27 (7th all time)

Their records are remarkably similar. My own feeling, after watching both of them for about 20 years, is that Mickelson is the more spectacular golfer, that Els is more dependable, and that both of them were really hurt by having to play Tiger when he was at his peak. If they had been born 10 years earlier or 10 years later, their records would look even better.

Speaking of Tiger, he did manage to come in third place -- his 36th top-10 finish in a major tournament -- and he tied for low American. Tiger is not as great as he used to be, but he may still be the best player in the world. He has three victories this year, and is first in the Fed Ex Cup standings. I also have the feeling that he's been getting better as the year has gone on. Of course he hasn't won a major since 2008, but he has played well in most of them. Since winning the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger has missed four major tournaments -- so he has played in 13 majors since his last major title. In those 13 tournaments, he finished in the top 10 seven times. I would be surprised if anyone else has seven top-10 finishes in his last 13 major appearances.

One comment should be made about Graeme McDowell. If he had shot par today, he would have tied Els for the lead and forced a playoff. He shot five over. If he had shot par in the final round of the U.S. Open last month, he would have won by two shots. He shot three over, and lost by a stroke. McDowell is 32 years old, and is probably at the peak of his career. But he could have really built a name for himself by winning those two tournaments.

Finally, I have no idea what's happened to Rory McIlroy, who finished 8 over. To me, his recent struggles underscore just how amazing Tiger Woods's career has been.

Here is the final leaderboard for today:

1. E. Els (RSA): -7 (67+70+68+68=273)

2. A. Scott (AUS): -6 (64+67+68+75=274)

T3. T. Woods: -3 (67+67+70+73=277)
T3. B. Snedeker: -3 (66+64+73+74=277)

T5. L. Donald (ENG): -2 (70+68+71+69=278)
T5. G. McDowell (NIR): -2 (67+69+67+75=278)

T7. N. Colsaerts (BEL): -1 (65+77+72+65=279)
T7. T. Aiken (RSA): -1 (68+68+71+72=279)

T9. G. Ogilvy (AUS): Even (72+68+73+67=280)
T9. M.A. Jimenez (ESP): Even (71+69+73+67=280)
T9. I. Poulter (ENG): Even (71+69+73+67=280)
T9. A. Noren (SWE): Even (71+71+69+69=280)
T9. V. Singh (FIJ): Even (70+72+68+70=280)
T9. D. Johnson: Even (73+68+68+71=280)
T9. M. Kuchar: Even (69+67+72+72=280)
T9. M. Calcavecchia: Even (71+68+69+72=280)
T9. T. Olesen (DEN): Even (69+66+71+74=280)
T9. Z. Johnson: Even (65+74+66+75=280)


  1. Excellent wrapup, although I do think, Go Heath, you ought to show a little gold love for Brandt "Vandy '03 " Snedeker.

    And I think now that it's over we can announce to HP nation that the blog went a little quiet over the last few days because of the giant staff retreat that the management family hosted. What a blast that was.

  2. It was, indeed, a blast.

    Brandt Snedeker shot 147 over the last two rounds -- so he was seven over par once people started paying attention to him. I don't think that's a particularly praiseworthy performance.

  3. Woods is now up to number 2 in the world. Here are the latest rankings:

    1. L. Donald (ENG)
    2. T. Woods
    3. R. McIlroy (NIR)
    4. L. Westwood (ENG)
    5. W. Simpson
    6. A. Scott (AUS)
    7. B. Watson
    8. J. Dufner
    9. M. Kuchar
    10. J. Rose (ENG)

    Tiger is also still number 1 in the FedEx Cup standings.