Reverence and the irreverent collide at The Open

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 11, 2017, 11:30 am

Long before Donald Trump followed Barack Obama, The Open was the world leader in incongruences, of the irreverent and reverent. It’s as if the docent at the snobby auction house came in half-cocked and filled the room with Ansel Adams and Leroy Neiman. Elysian Fields meets W.C. Fields. One minute you’re sitting there in that anecdotal cacophony, in that half-windsored, winter-weighted sport-coat world and the periphery of gray is suddenly interrupted by a group of men dressed like bunnies, discussing who was the better teacher, Bob Torrance or Pete Cowen.

In 1985, The Open left Scotland for England (it does that every now and then to remind Britain what makes it “Great”) and was played on the southern shore near the Cliffs of Dover at Royal St. George’s. As the championship Sunday was coming to a close, when the only worry was that they might run out of champagne, and the thread of the rich tapestry of The Open was playing out once again, by cracky, a streaker appeared on the 18th green. Give the man credit, streaking in the cold of Scotland has its own shortcomings; one is more apt to be seen in his full potential in warmer climes of Royal St. George’s I’m told … and the sun was out down south.

This man had to be dealt with, but nobody really wanted to put down their shepherd’s pie and do the dirty deed and the bobbies looked reluctant as they circled the naked villain. Tom Kite and Peter Jacobsen were just short of the home hole watching this dance, when Peter (does anyone else recognize the irony of someone with that name taking hold of the situation?!) horizonalized the man and then celebrated as if he had won golf’s oldest championship. I’m told Sandy Lyle later held the claret jug in the spidered light looking royal, if not yet ancient.

Even the name of the trophy suggest confusion. Claret is a dry red wine from the Bordeaux region of France, of left bank and Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild fame, Napoleonic perhaps. A jug is, well something to put Uncle Buck’s homemade hooch in. But give a man a claret Jug, empty even, and he can hardly speak. Unless his name is Justin Leonard.

Long before Leonard had a Sunday that looked like it was authored by St. Paul and won The Open, Bobby Jones played and spoked his way onto the shoulders of the citizens of St. Andrews in that river of tweed behind the home hole at the Old Course. He held his most prized possession, his putter, Calamity Jane, above the fray. Even that scene, as perfect as it was, illustrates the anachronistic contrasts of color, sartorially and personally, present amongst all things Royal and Ancient.

Jones came to The Open in 1921 as a 19-year-old, and after 36 holes was the low amateur in the field. But in the third round, bunkered at 11, he took four to get out and then inexplicably quit. The petulant and irascible young man, when he left for America, left an irreverent impression of disdain behind. He wouldn’t return for five years and when he did he was never beaten again in The Open, winning in 1926, ‘27 and 1930. The compost of contempt that Jones had felt at first blush at the Old Course blossomed into the most florid prose, when later in his career he said, “I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St. Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life.”

Like Jones, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus know the sting of humility on links golf. Jack’s first round as a professional in The Open, in 1962, he shot 80, and in the third round of the 1987 Open at Muirfield, he equaled his highest ever round as a professional in a major with 81. Fifteen years later, Woods, also at Muirfield and also in the third round, also shot his worst round in a major – 81. Of which the great commentator Peter Alliss said, “It’s like turning up to hear Pavaroti sing and finding out he has laryngitis.” And yet, both of them completed the career Grand Slam by winning golf’s oldest major championship. Jack at Muirfield in 1966 and Tiger at St. Andrews in 2000.

Nicklaus also chose, as had Arnold Palmer, and later Tom Watson, The Open as the place to retire from major golf. The event meant that much to them, I suspect not only for its history but because those that come out to watch the championship are unlike any other spectator in sport.

Traipsing through the sand dunes, in the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them, they seem to have an inexhaustible zest for life. Jauntily headed to see Phil or Lee or Luke, they’ll stop to look out at a bit of windblown sea and then predict the coming weather with pharmaceutical precision. It is not just rain to them. It is a warm rain or a driving rain or it is a soft rain and why worry because, as they say, most of it ends up as Scotch, anyway.

And if the sun comes out, regardless of temperature, out come the shorts – from younger and skinnier days most likely – and you’ll see legs as white as string cheese and they will walk past men dressed like bunnies. And just when you think you’re at the Piccadilly Circus a positively surreal scene will unfold and there in front of you is nothing impermanent and everything is royal and ancient.

Yep, nobody does the irreverent and reverent like The Open.

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Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.