The magnitude of the Open

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Open ChampionshipRich Lerner is at Royal Birkdale this week for the 137th Open Championship. Enjoy Rich's insight and perspective from the season's third major:
 
SOUTHPORT, England -- Pick up any newspaper, from the New York Times to The Times of London, and its plain to see there are far more pressing problems on both sides of the Atlantic than the absence of Tiger Woods.
 
This, the worlds oldest championship, has played on through depression and war, a pleasant diversion passionately contested.
 
But golfs economy at the professional level has never been so tied to one man as it is now -- Tiger a 10-year fire and force of nature thats nearly eviscerated everyone in his path.
 
From Sergio to Phil to Ernie to Retief, stature and value has been diminished. The game could use an alternative energy source, but not all is lost.
 
While he rests, the restless assume the still awesome challenge of tying four worthy rounds together in a winning package across Birkdales storied English links.
 
Here in 1961, Arnold Palmer stitched his singularly American brand on the major that Yanks would then resolve to take a fresh look at.
 
Here, at the 1969 Ryder Cup, Nicklaus and Jacklin affirmed that this is a gentlemans game.
 
Here in 1971, Trevino and the inimitable Mr. Lui stirred golfs melting pot.
 
Here, the world first watched wide-eyed, a raging 19-year-old Spaniard named Seve, runner up to Johnny Miller in 1976.
 
Here in 1983, Tom Watson took his place among the immortals with a fifth Open title.
 
Here a decade ago, Mark OMeara capped an unforgettable spring and summer in the autumn of his career.
 
And by this Sunday, while those interested only in glimpsing a once in a lifetime speeding comet named Tiger are likely to be engaged in some other leisure pursuit, the rest of us who love the sport will again be fully drawn in, knowing that the collective energy produced at a championship of this magnitude is powerful in its own right.
 

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