For years reputed to be the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie had become somewhat of an enigma for the younger generation. It had gone 24 years without hosting a British Open, and when it returned to the rotation in 1999, the setup was so outrageous that it became known as 'Car-Nasty.'
There was nothing but high praise this time around.
The Royal & Ancient proved that a golf course that can be a strong test without rough up to the knees and fairways cut at the waist. The conditions could have not been more ideal for scoring last week. Rain all summer in Scotland made this a green British Open with lush fairways and soft greens, and the wind rarely got stronger than 10 mph all week.
The result was the first winning score all year in a major (7-under 277), and by far the most exciting major of the year.
It allowed for a dynamic charge by Andres Romero, who made 10 birdies in 16 holes before the pressure overcame him. Romero's play over 16 holes rivaled Johnny Miller at Oakmont in 1973. If not for an approach into the gorse bush for double bogey on No. 12, and a bounce off the stone face of Barry Burn that went out-of-bounds for double bogey on No. 17, golf might have had its first 62 in a major.
Train wrecks were a certainty.
One only had to watch Padraig Harrington twice hit into the burn on the 18th hole and make a gutsy double bogey, then see Sergio Garcia make bogey by playing an iron off the tee for safety, leaving him a 3-iron to the green. He went into the bunker and missed his par putt from 10 feet to set up the playoff.
Harrington twice had birdie putts inside 10 feet in the four-hole playoff, far more entertaining than hanging on with pars.
It should be a lesson that nasty rough might make it a tough test, but not a good one. Ian Poulter and Romero had good rounds evaporate because they were given a chance to advance the ball out of the rough and paid dearly for it. And the wild fluctuation in scores along the back nine, such as Harrington's eagle on the 14th and double bogey on the 18th, made for better golf than seeing who can get to the clubhouse with the fewest bogeys.
Augusta National will always be the most mystical major because of its history and familiarity. St. Andrews will always have the tradition as the home of golf. And with one week, Carnoustie was such a good show that the British Open can't return soon enough.
Gary Player was saluted by some and vilified by most for saying he knew for a fact that at least one player had tried performance-enhancing drugs, although he refused to identify the player.
Turns out at least one player at Carnoustie was taking a steroid.
'I suspect in the next year, I'll be getting more and more questions about it,' former PGA champion Shaun Micheel said. 'I'm not a doctor, but I'm married to a lawyer, so I know how to answer the questions.'
Micheel was diagnosed two years ago with low testosterone, and he has been taking a synthetic steroid (Testim 1 percent), and says he could be on the drug for a while. He said doctors told him his testosterone level should be between 700 and 800 for someone his age (38), and his is around 480. It was 260 when he was diagnosed in April 2005.
'I think people have a better understanding of it because I've been outspoken about it,' said Micheel, who wears 'Testim.com' on the front of his cap. 'I've been on it a couple of years, and I suspect I'll be on it a long time. Once you start taking something, your body stops making it. If I were to test way high ... it wouldn't benefit me in any way. I'm in the wrong sport for something like that to happen.'
He catches some flak from players, but only because of how he takes the drug. It's a clear gel he rubs into his shoulder.
'That's where I get harassed the most,' he said. 'They say I'm using the clear. I do laugh about it. But I don't want to take this stuff. I don't like taking stuff for a cold.'
ON A ROLL
John Wood sounded like a typical caddie when he said his boss was swinging well at the U.S. Open at Oakmont and could be about to break through.
Wood was only off by a week.
Hunter Mahan tied for 13th at the U.S. Open, then won the following week in Hartford at the Travelers Championship. He tied for eighth in the AT&T National at Congressional, then shot 69-65 on the weekend at Carnoustie to tie for sixth in the British Open.
Suddenly, things are looking up.
He is 16th in the FedEx Cup standings, and 16th in the Presidents Cup standings, which is determined by PGA TOUR earnings. Mahan has three weeks left to make up more ground, including his first World Golf Championship next week at Firestone.
'I'm letting myself play,' Mahan said. 'It was a struggle early in the year. I was thinking negative and using my mind as a disadvantage and not an advantage.'
Mike Weir is playing better, but finding it hard to pick up ground in his bid to make the Presidents Cup team for what figures to be the biggest event in Canada (Royal Montreal). He tied for eighth in the British Open, but was passed in the standings by Richard Green of Australia, who shot 64 on Sunday and tied for fourth. Weir has moved up only two spots the last three weeks to No. 17. ... Some players who missed the cut at Carnoustie hung around to catch a charter flight for the Canadian Open. One of them was Brett Wetterich, only he was going in the opposite direction. The Ryder Cup rookie is playing in Germany on the European Tour this week.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three of the seven British Opens held at Carnoustie were decided in a playoff.
'John Daly is on about every non-performance enhancing drug imaginable.' -- Bill Kratzert.
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