The Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews is less than two weeks away, and already the storylines are mounting . . .
Tom Watson, (Sir) Nick Faldo, and Ivor Robson.
The first two names are familiar to even the most casual golf fans. Both have announced that this will be their final year of participation in the Open, and have between them carried off the Claret Jug eight times. It will be interesting to see who gets the bigger ovation.
Faldo, of course, is an Englishman, which could play either way to the Scots. His relationship with the UK press has always been frosty (after one Open victory, he famously announced at the post-championship presser, “I’d like to thank you all from the heart of my bottom”), but he’s won twice on the Old Course and, now that he is on the other side of the microphone on CBS broadcasts, has at least outwardly softened his demeanor.
Watson, on the other hand, has practically become a Scot by assimilation. He’s won the Open five times (although, ironically, never at the Old Course) and, in 2009 at the age of 59, came within an overcooked 8-iron on the final hole of winning a sixth. He generally sports a very Scottish look during the Open, topping off his wardrobe by wearing a tam. Arnold Palmer was responsible for re-establishing the Open as an important championship for the American professional golfer, but no one has embraced it more than Watson. It says here that when “Toom” crosses the Swilcan Bridge and makes his final walk up the 18th fairway, there won’t be a dry eye in all of Scotland.
As for Ivor Robson . . . since 1975, Mr Robson has stood at the first tee of the Open Championship to announce each pair in his unmistakable tenor voice. This year is rumored to be his last Open, as well.
Having blown away the field at Augusta and outlasting both the course and the field at Chambers Bay, Jordan Speith has the opportunity to climb another rung on the ladder to completing golf’s Grand Slam. So one would think that young Speith would already be in Scotland; at minimum playing at the Scottish Open in Gullane to acclimate himself to the weather and the peculiarities of links golf?
Nope. Jordan is honoring a commitment he made to play in the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities, where he obtained his first tour victory. Apparently his preparation to date for the Open has been to play a few Old Course holes on his at-home golf simulator, which may show preferred lines of play but does nothing to prepare one for the rumpled fairways, severe greenside undulations, and deep pot bunkers that permeate the course. On the other hand, he’s two for two in major championships this year, so who am I to judge?
Rory McIlroy is out; a victim of a injury suffered while playing a pickup game up soccer.
Look, I get that the vagrancies of life can intrude on one’s being. Also, shit happens. But really, Rory? Couldn’t you have gone to Wimbledon and razzed Carolyn Wozniak instead? Or hung out with your hot new girlfriend?
There’s been an outpouring of sympathy from other golfers, including Phil Mickelson, who once famously lost half a season due to a skiing accident. My own take is that sympathy is somewhat offset by a secret relief that McIlroy won’t be in the field. Call me a cynic.
SPEAKING OF PHIL:
He was recently linked to a money-laundering scheme, although he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. This is the second time in just over a year that The Lefthander has been linked to a financial investigation (previously, the FBI had questioned him in regard to an SEC matter); Mickelson’s response was pure gold:
“People are going to say things good; they are going to say things bad; they are going to say things true; they are going to say things not true. The fact is I’m comfortable enough with who I am as a person that I don’t feel like I need to comment on every little report that comes out.”
Chutzpah, thy name is Phil.
To give some pizazz to the three Tour events between the two Opens, PGA Tour players can qualify for the Open Championship with victories and/or high finishes in those tournaments. Last week at The Greenbrier, Danny Lee scored a trip to St Andrews by winning in a sudden-death playoff over three other players.
Danny lives in our neighborhood in DFW, and plays out of our club, so my friends and I were quite pleased to see our “homeboy” do well (for the record, he is of Korean decent, but emigrated here from New Zealand). One would think that winning $1.2 million and qualifying for the Open would be enough, but no:
“I love it here. My one wish is that I had a girlfriend. It wouldn’t be so lonely in my room.”
Ladies, operators are waiting.
WHO WILL WIN:
Who the hell knows? Great players win at St Andrews . . . as do some long shots, like John Daly. The last Open champion at St Andrews was a then-unknown Louis Oostheizen, who anhialated the course and the field in 2010. Much depends on the wind, which is truly the Old Course’s major defense. When it blows, the winning score runs around 6-under (Nicklaus, 1978, and Daly, 1995 come to mind). When it doesn’t, it can go deep into the red numbers.
So . . . some predictions:
Watson: Makes the cut
Faldo: Doesn’t make the cut
Tiger: Squeezes into the top 20 if he remembers to aim left.
Bubba Watson: Pisses off Ivor Robson by constantly calling him “Ian.”
Ian Poulter: Effusive in his praise of St Andrews (while still steaming about the condition of the greens at this year’s US Open). Top Ten finish, doesn’t win.
Ricky Fowler: Unveils special Old Course Puma clothes lines. Makes cut.
Danny Lee: Finds true love; heart-broken when he learns that his intended has visa issues.
Speith: Experience with wind play helps, makes decent run, but doesn’t win.
Louis Oostheizen: Your winner.