Enjoying the Open Experience

By Mercer BaggsJuly 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
Im not a movie man. At least when it involves going to a theater. Theyre noisy, disruptive and uncomfortable. Cell phones ring; people chatter; its devoid of decorum and manner.
Or maybe Im just old.
Id much rather sit at home with my fiance, in peace and quiet, and simply watch the movie unfold ' unfettered to enjoy.
Of all the elements that comprise the cinematic movie experience, nothing is more irksome than sitting in the vicinity of a restless soul ' one who must know the Who, Why, What and How five minutes into the flick; one who cannot enjoy the Experience.
The best movies dont give everything away early. They establish the characters, but present plenty of plotlines and possible scenarios. You wonder ' to yourself ' what will unfold, but, if youre willing, you can sit back and suspended disbelief for a few hours and just enjoy the Experience.
Golf, at times, is good theater. The British Open, more often than not, is good television. When you wake up, the final few groups are nearing the first tee. Its not like, say, the PGA Championship, where the most exciting action over the first two hours of coverage is watching the top players on the leaderboard exiting their rental cars and traversing the parking lot to the clubhouse.
The 133rd British Open had all the makings of a classic drama. It had the setting: the true links of Royal Troon, perfect for a black-and-white noir. It had the cast: four of the top six players in the world within four shots of one another, and a few intriguing, shadowy figures. It had the payoff: winner gets the Maltese Falcon of golf (the gold and jewel-encrusted one, not the one made of lead).
Wake up, tune in, and enjoy the Experience.
It started slowly, allowing us to wipe away the sleep from our eyes and ease into the championship.
Then, Bang! Crank the dimmer to the right and shed some serious light on this baby.
Thomas Levet pitch-in eagle; Tiger Woods hole-out bunker birdie; Barry Lane eagle putt. All within minutes of one another.
Thank you, boys, weve got some Major G, as a buddy of mine likes to say.
The plotline was thicker than a Scottish fog. The scenarios were multiplying like Gremlins, bouncing around like a candy-eating kid without Ritalin.
Phil Mickelson chips-in for eagle on 4. Ernie Els birdies 3 and 4. Todd Hamilton birdies 4 and 5. Tiger adds another birdie at 6.
Major G! (The G stands for Golf, if you're wondering.)
A great movie doesnt continually add new characters to the mix. That gets too convoluted. Instead it narrows down the cast to the principal few. That allows you to maintain a focus while further developing the featured players.
As this drama unfolded, some of the cast was cast aside. Retief Goosen played only a small role this Sunday, and his character surprisingly exited early. It was like watching an actor who makes $10 million a movie catch a bullet a half-hour in. Woods played one of those Alec Baldwin roles, where he added some interest and excitement. But he proved to be just a supporting figure who didnt really affect the outcome.
Levet hung around until a bogey at 15; Lane disappeared and no one noticed.
In the end ' to write the ending ' there were three.
Here was the thing, though: the three principals were two A-list actors and a guy with only one staring role on his resume ' save for a handful of B-movies.
Hollywood might write this script ' its a good one ' but Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington dont get upstaged.
This isnt Hollywood, however; its Major G! Where reality TV is real and the players write the script themselves.
And we get to sit back and enjoy the Experience. And what an experience it was.
Mickelson with his multitude of pars, his birdie at 16, his near-flawless round.
Hamilton with his birdie at 11, his chip-in birdie at 14, his birdie at 16, his hold-your-breath missed opportunity at 18.
Els with his what-are-you-kidding-me? par from the bushes at 11, his 50-foot birdie at 13, his must-make birdie at 16, his must-make birdie at 17, his hold-your-breath missed opportunity at 18.
Final hole of regulation, no idea how the story is going to end ' and it doesnt end. It keeps going.
More Major G!
Sometimes movies tend to extend themselves a tad too long. A great 2-hour movie is stretched, and yet reduced to a pretty good 2-and-a-half hour version.
That's what happened here.
If Els makes birdie on 18 in regulation: Instant Classic! If Hamilton makes par on 18 in regulation: Instant Classic!
Instead, Hamilton makes four pars in the playoff; Els makes three pars and a bogey.
Not the greatest script ever written, or the most appealing visual ever witnessed. But, overall, well worth watching. And a pretty good exeperience.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 133rd Open Championship
  • British Open Photo Gallery

  • Full Coverage - 133rd Open Championship
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”