Here is the latest version of Hooks and Cuts as we’re on the cusp of the 141st Open Championship, at Royal Lytham & St. Annes:
• When the number of bunkers begins to approach the total weight loss of a contestant on “Biggest Loser,” you know you’re on a tough layout. Two hundred five is a big number.
• I get that Tiger Woods' recent major record is not what we’d grown accustomed to seeing five years ago, but to question whether or not he’s back is preposterous. Three wins for anyone else by mid July and we’d be throwing around terms like superstar, career season and player of the year.
• With its banks on trial, economic austerity measures a grim reality, and Andy Murray’s Wimbledon fairytale fizzling, the Kingdom could use a ray of sunshine, which in July in England is rainy and 55. Welcome to the Open.
• When Rory McIlroy whined about the wind and rain last year you thought, hmmm, the youngster needs a stern lecture from the godfather of golf in Northern Ireland, Darren Clarke, like Don Corleone barking to Johnny Fontane in the epic movie, “You can act like a man!” Rory had said there’s no point in changing your game for one week a year. Well there is, if you value winning the oldest trophy in the game. To his credit, Rory admits his attitude was born of frustration and that he’s now prepared to embrace the elements.
• Phil Mickelson went almost two decades at a loss on the links, but now seems to grasp that to really burnish his legacy he needs to win a British and he came close a year ago by reveling in it. Suddenly the guy who grew up in weather paradise in San Diego loves the nasty stuff. Maybe he should’ve bought the Seattle Mariners instead of his hometown Padres.
• Trying to figure out who will win is futile, since Louis and Clarke - as well as that other tandem of unknown explorers Tod Hamilton and Ben Curtis - were on no one’s radar and radar’s especially hard to decipher in bad weather.
• Let it blow, let it lash at them and we’ll see who’s stout of heart. Rain at the British is as good as snow at Lambeau. It defines toughness.
• Padraig Harrington’s a fashionable choice. I always recall what he said three years ago: “I have never been the most naturally gifted golfer but I have a strong mental capacity to compete."
• Round 1 at a British usually delivers the unknown Scandinavian to the top of the manual yellow and black scoreboard, like a Lars Skundelgard or a Sven Stunstublorv.
• Tiger tees off just after 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. That’s perfect, just when those of us men of a certain age are bouncing out of bed for our first Avodart moment of the day.
• Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are currently the best without a major, but no one needs one more than Sergio Garcia.
• With brutal rough in spots and those 205 bunkers, your average 15 handicap shoots what at Lytham? Do they break 150? I’m not so sure.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are competing for the first time together in Asia, part of a 78-man field that includes 15 of the top 20 players in the world ranking. Read More
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