There are not many things that frustrate me more than Americans calling the 'US Open'; "The Open."
Yes, maybe they use it as an abbreviation, but it is just wrong.
The Open Championship was first played in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. A few years later a prize fund was introduced for the humungous sum of £10.
This year the winner will pocket; £975,000.
Let's look at why the Open is the most special golf (or of all sport, oh alright maybe a bit far) tournament there is.
Firstly, it is the most democratic tournament there is. Not usually a word that gets associated with sporting tournaments. A brief glance at the Open Championship website outlines their various qualification events that occur all over the world. From South Africa to Japan, and Malaysia to Australia, players can qualify for The Open. Very unlike the US Open, there are only 32 home players in the field. There are no wildcards, or undue favouritism to British players, the R&A (the golfing body responsible for The Open) wants the most broad field it can muster.
Secondly, anyone can win it. In recent memory we have had some real fairytales. None more so than Darren Clarke in 2011. At his twenty-third time of asking, the Northern-Irishman won his home Championship by managing the conditions better than anyone else. It was widely reported how lubricated with Guinness Clarke was after winning the Ryder Cup in 2006 at the K Club in Ireland.
But it was by his own brilliant admission that during his 9am press conference the day after his Open victory he had not slept and had "had a few beers." Onwards from that, who did not enjoy Louis Oosthuizen's near perfect final round at St Andrews the year before Clarke, or 59 year-old Tom Watson almost winning in 2009? It is spectacular entertainment and Royal Liverpool will not disappoint this year.
Thirdly, it is held on 'links' golf courses. For those not clued up on their golfing terminology, the term 'links' comes from the name given to the land that 'linked' the sea with more fertile land further toward the mainland. Traditionally, this is where golf courses were built and played on. The Open Championship is only held on these type of courses, alternating between Scotland and England year on year for location.
Accompanying the tougher, tighter ground to play your ball off than usual, comes the potential for wet and windy conditions. This, according to purists of the game, is what the game is truly about.
When discussing the John Deere Classic with a friend of mine, I was asked the question; "why is the winner twenty-two under par?" I attempted to explain that some courses are easier than others and that with modern technology the ball flies further than ever. But in truth, these are excuses rather than answers. Par is there for a reason and the Open Championship firmly attempts to keep in that way. The past three winning scores have been -3, -7 and -5, all far more reasonable.
Whereas, Paul Lawrie famously won at Carnoustie in 1999 when the conditions were absolutely abysmal. This tournament requires that you control your golf ball in the same way Willie Park Snr. did in 1860. In sum, The Open remains the only true test of golf.
The 2014 Open Championship
Onto this year's Open where Tiger Woods is stealing the headlines by making his long-awaited return to Major Championship Golf. This has grabbed the golfing world's attention. However, regular readers will hopefully be looking elsewhere for a
Eight of the nine previous Open Champions have played in ten or more Opens previously. This highlights that experience goes a long way in aiding your tournament performance. This brings into the frame golfers such as; Phil Mickleson (last year's winner), Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, and Graeme Mcdowell.
As for the golf course, it is being held at Hoylake, also known as Royal Liverpool. There is a real premium on hitting fairways and positioning yourself well off the tee. It is very well bunkered and can punish errand tee-shots. However, compared to other courses the greens are relatively flat so if someone putts well, there may be a low score out there over the four days.
A winning pick you ask? Henrik Stenson, the ice-man's time has come.
The author will also have the pleasure of playing this wonderful course 9 days after Stenson (haha) will be lifting the famed Claret Jug. I am sure I will have a very different perception of just how well-bukered the next day.
Happy Open watching everyone
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