Frustration, delays par for the major courses in 2015

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2015, 8:56 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Remember when the biggest worries at a major championship were slick greens and thick rough?

Good times.

As players, fans, officials and media waited out a wind delay that stretched for more than 10 hours, one could be forgiven for pining for the days of old fashion, Grand Slam brutality.

Instead, this major championship season has been defined by variables. At Chambers Bay it was the nuanced intricacies of growing grass – or in the USGA’s case, killing the green stuff – while at this week’s Open Championship it has been an almost nonstop meteorological nightmare.

Torrential rains dampened Friday’s early action, turning the iconic Valley of Sin fronting the 18th green into the Loch of Sin and postponing play more than three hours.

When officials tried to get things back on track on Saturday, the proceedings were again sent sideways, literally, by winds that gusted to 40 mph, sending balls dancing across greens and players into a feeding frenzy.

“I wasn't going to play. I really wasn't,” said Brooks Keopka, who had his ball blown backwards not once but twice on the 11th green as play began.

For those who were sent out at 7 a.m. into the teeth of the gale to finish the second round it was cold and harsh and unforgiving.



A “wee breeze” as they say here in Scotland is part and parcel with the Open Championship. Let the rain lash and the winds howl and be done with it.

This, however, was something else. This was raw and unruly and eventually unplayable, although the R&A should add a stroke for slow play given how the entire affair unfolded.

When play was halted at 7:32 a.m. (BST), officials said it was because of a 15 percent increase in the wind, as if political polling was to blame. But 15 percent would not seem to be within the margin of error. Not at a major championship. Not at this major championship.

Your 36-hole front-runner Dustin Johnson bogeyed his first hole back early Saturday in the tempest, while Koepka was told to play on as his ball danced around the 11th green. He declined, the official walking with his group persisted and finally – after a lengthy wait, a second opinion, and a similar scenario on the 13th green with Louis Oosthuizen – officials relented and pulled the lads, however disorderly, off the windswept links.

“We shouldn’t have played,” sighed one caddie. “It was basically a two-shot penalty.”

Peter Dawson, who is making his final turn at the Open as the R&A’s chief executive, endured the slings and arrows of players and media alike in the wind’s aftermath.

“Every R&A official in player dining is getting yelled at. Lots of players pissed in here. #GaleForceWinds #StAndrews I love this place,” Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott tweeted.

Hours later, Dawson explained to the media that at 6:45 a.m., 15 minutes before play was scheduled to resume, the course – or more to the point the exposed 11th green – was deemed to be game ready.

“We spent a great deal of time out at the far end of the golf course,” Dawson said. “While it was very windy, we did not get one ball moving at that time of the morning right up to [6:45 a.m.], so we took the view that the course was playable, although difficult, and play began.”

Most players had no quarrel with the R&A’s decision to start the round, it was more an issue with how long it took them to pull the plug; but after the damage was done that all felt like semantics.

There will be a chorus of concern that perhaps St. Andrews, now the site of two wind delays in its last two men’s Opens, may be too exposed to the elements to remain in the championship rota.

Bollocks.

With apologies to Augusta National, the Home of Golf is the most enduring and endearing major championship venue in the game and if an occasional “hoolie” causes the random Monday finish, then so be it.

Others point to green speeds that have steadily risen, particularly at major championships, as the culprit. Had the Old Course been rolling at, say your average municipal course green speeds, Monday’s finish might have been avoided.

But this isn’t really about Stimpmeter readings or St. Andrews’ place in the major championship landscape. This is about golf being an outdoor sport that is subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

“I think what we've seen today is too strong a wind, not too fast greens to be honest with you,” Dawson explained.

While the R&A is certainly not without a degree of blame for how things have transpired this week, it seems to all be a part of the 2015 Grand Slam status quo, much like long rough and lightning fast putts used to define the majors.

What may be even more intriguing is that, given how things transpired the last time the PGA Championship was held at Whistling Straits (see Johnson, Dustin 2010), one can only imagine what’s in store for the last six rounds of this major championship season.

Getty Images

Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Getty Images

The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.