The 147th Open Championship
First played by 8 pro golfers at Prestwick GC, Scotland in 1860, the oldest of the majors will take centre stage again at Carnoustie for 2018 for the 147th Open Championship. Willie Park Snr was victorious over Old Tom Morris at that first Open by 2 shots. The original prize for winning the tournament was the Challenge Belt but the now famous Claret Jug was started in 1872. In 1892 the original 36 hole event was made into a 72 hole event comprising 4 rounds of 18 holes, because the tournament had become so popular, the first cut was introduced in 1898.
Although The Open was, like it's name suggests, open to amatuers, only 6 have ever taken out the title and the last did so in 1930 when Bobby Jones took out his 3rd. Old Tom Morris is the oldest winner here at 46 and Young Tom Morris the youngest at 17, he also holds the record for the most consecutive victories with 4. Harry Vardon owns the most victories with 6, but most of the other records belong to current day players. Branden Grace has the low round at 62, Henrik Stenson the low final score of -20 and Brandt Snedeker has the low 36 hole score with Nick Faldo at 130.
Those are the facts of The Open, but what the statistics will not show is just how special this golf tournament is to professional golfers. For years golfers from around the world have been making the pilgrimage to play in The Open. The best of the best from America once thought of The Open as a tournament they could afford to miss, but all this changed when players like Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and our own Peter Thomson decided to make this tournament unmissable on the calendar. The much hyped "Big 3" of Player, Palmer & Nicklaus came to play in 1960, but were upstaged by our own Kel Nagle who took out the Claret Jug by a single shot over Palmer.
Australians have been very successful at The Open over its history. Thomson, of course, won 5. Nagle just the one. Greg Norman was victorious in 1986 & 1993 and Ian Baker-Finch won in 1991 over Mike Harwood in second. Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby, Wayne Grady, Rodger Davis, Jack Newton and Peter Thomson, three times, were all runners up as well. The great Jack Nicklaus was runner up here 7 times and won it in '66, '70 & '78. Seve, Player, Faldo and Tiger Woods all won 3, Bobby Locke 4 and Tom Watson won 5.
Carnoustie is the course that will host this year's Open. It has been dubbed "CarNasty" by many over the years and it always seems to put up a great tournament. Carnoustie has broken many a spirit, pros and amateurs alike and it’s often described like drowning in honey – you’re drowning yes, but it’s a sweet experience. There has been drama over the 18th hole here just about every time The Open is played here. Appropriately named “Home”, this par-4 tips out at 499-yards and has been the scene of many broken dreams.
Who will ever forget Jean van de Velde making 7 here and losing the playoff to Paul Lawrie in the playoff? Or how about Harrington making double and hitting 2 shots into the famous Barry Burn, almost handing the tournament to Garcia, only to see him make bogey and lose the playoff? With such great finishes to The Open here, it makes you wonder why it has only been staged here 7 times. The golf course is tough and 4 of the 7 winners final scores were well over par, but it all depends on the wind. The greens will not be super quick because the R&A really know how to stage a tournament and they know the wind plus quick greens equals a USGA US Open style fiasco. Phil will not have to run after any putts this week, I hope.
Carnoustie was designed by Allen Robertson and opened for play in 1842 and consisted of only 10 holes. The other 8 were added by Old Tom Morris in 1867, then re-designed in 1926 by James Braid. It hosted The Open Championship for the first time in 1931 and Tommy Armour was the winner with a score of 296(+8). He won 100 pounds for the victory. Padraig Harrington won the last time here in 2007 and he received $750,000. How the times have changed. Its 6,786m long, which makes it the longest course to host The Open and the course record holder is Tommy Fleetwood with a 63. Of course, like all Scottish courses, every hole has a name and the holes at Carnoustie have some such as Jockie's Burn, Hogan's Alley, Southward Ho, Lucky Slap and Barry Burn. The rough is always deep and tough so expect to see plenty of frustration from players who find it throughout the week. The fairways are narrow and the bunkers are deep. It's said to be the toughest course in Britain if the wind is blowing and the toughest when it isn't blowing as well. It sits on the coast of the North Sea, 25 miles from St.Andrews and 12 miles from the city of Dundee. It will be tight and windy and will test the best in every way.
To the players in this years Open Championship and firstly, the Australians. Two will play their first Opens, Lucas Herbert and Cam Davis. they will join Matt Jones, Brett Rumford, Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and of course, Jason Day. Hard to say which of these guys will be near the top of the leaderboard although you would probably lean towards Leishman. His prowess in the wind as well as his all around game make him a better chance, but all here this week deserve to be here.
Often overlooked, the amateurs this week are always great to watch. There are 4 that have worked their way into the field this week, most notably Jovan Rebula. The nephew of 2 time champion Ernie Els. Wouldn't it be great if they were paired together in the first 2 rounds? Jovan will celebrate his 21st birthday on the final day of the championships. The other 3 in the field this week are Yuxin Lin from China, Nicoli Hojgaard from the Netherlands and local boy Sam Locke who was the only amateur to survive the 36 hole qualifying on July 3rd with rounds of 69 & 66. All these young amateurs will be striving to win the Golf Champion Trophy which for them, is a silver replica of the winners gold medal.
So, who will win the gold medal and the Claret Jug and be named "Champion golfer of the year?" Well, if you believe the bookies, Dustin Johnson is the favourite. He is paying $12 with McIlroy and Speith just behind on $15. The next line of betting has Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and our own Jason Day at $17. If you are after more of a value bet though, Phil the thrill is at $51, Ian Poulter at $67, Danny Willett or Lee Westwood at $151, 2 time champ Padraig Harrington at $201, Long John Daly is $1501 and the rank outsider is Sandy Lyle at a whopping $2501. Tiger Woods is at $21.
So, how will this years course play? Jack Nicklaus calls it the toughest golf course on the Open roster, but has it been tricked up? The fact is, the yardage this year is a little less than before because the first tee has been moved up to accommodate the grand stands. The 3rd has been widened and bunkers re-positioned. The dry spell in the area will see it very brown and running very fast. The rough grass will be shin high, not knee high. If players can shelve their need to pull out driver, this course can be tamed, but it is going to take patience. It is all about positioning from the tee. There are 111 bunkers in total and there is out of bounds creeping into play on 6 of the 18. There are only 2 par 5's and one of them is not what you would call a birdie hole. The 6th plays into the wind most days and the out of bounds in right on the edge of the fairway. The run home of 15, 16, 17 & 18 is the tough stretch here, so don't look for many players to be under through here. Most will be holding on to the finish. This golf course can show it's teeth. Paul Lawrie's +6 winning score in 1999 was the highest since 1938. The cut was +12 that year and the scoring average was over 78. For the last word on how tough Carnoustie is, remember this, Tiger Woods in 1996, a month before he turned pro, shot 85 here. Enough said.
There is nothing like a major and there is no major like The Open. Just enjoy the week.
One of the better final days of a major that I can remember for some time. There were so many players that were in the mix on this final day and during the day many of them took center stage, but there could only be one winner and it was Italy's Francesco Molinari.
The day started with 3 leaders, all Americans and all looked in great form. The challenge that lay ahead of them was simple, get around one of the toughest golf courses in the world just a little bit better than everyone else. Carnoustie would not go easily though. The wind had finally arrived and by the time the leaders hit off, they were hitting into a 28mph gale.
The first casualty was Kevin Kisner. Hitting into the bunker off the 2nd tee, he hit the top of the lip on his first attempt, but failed to get it out and took a double. This was followed by another bogey on the next when he 3 putted and although he had a birdie on the 6th, 2 more bogeys followed at 7 & 8 and he turned with 40. He made a few back on the back nine and finished tied 2nd at -6.
Jordan Speith and Xander Schauffele were both cruising through their first 4 holes, but both imploded at the same time on the 5th. Trouble off the tee resulted in bogeys for both of them. Xander took bogey on the next and double on the 7th, but a stronger back nine with birdies on 10 and 14 had him right back in it. His bogey at 17 was enough to have him needing eagle up the last to tie. He could not. Jordan had his moment at the 6th. Like last year, he needed an unplayable after hitting into a thick bush. His resulting drop made his group 19 minutes behind as he went through the motions of taking his time to drop. He even sent his caddy to pace out the 125 yards just to make sure his yardage book was correct. So slow! This meant that his group was put on the clock for the rest of the round and he looked rushed. His putter deserted him and he shot a final round +5, 76.
The other reason that most of the leaders were coming undone was because Tiger was on the leaderboard and rising through the ranks to the top. Jordan Speith said he wanted to play against Tiger and today, he got his wish. Tiger looked like he was going to win this tournament for the first 10 holes. He made birdies at 4 & 6 and was hitting fairways and greens and had that look in his eye like he was hungry for his 15th major. His second shot at Hogans Alley was huge. After hitting the fairway with the driver he had 299 yards to the front of the par 5. As the commentators said, he had "no chance", but Tiger was firing and he hit the front of the green, made the 2 putt birdie as others were failing. Tiger was in the lead walking down the 10th. He hit into the fairway bunker and again was being written off, but his 150 yard bunker shot was amazing and he made par. It was on 11 that it all came undone. He hooked his second into the crowd and although he got a great break, he tried a flop shot that did not come off. He made double. Another bad swing on the next hole and he was 3 behind. A birdie on 14 would not be enough and he finished tied 6th at -5. What he did today was show the world that he is back. He made the others on the leaderboard nervous and now the younger guys on tour know what it feels like to see Tiger chase down on the final day. It was awesome to watch.
There were a few others that were almost there. Rory started terribly and finished strong, but it was never enough after his 37 on the front. He just seems to not be able to read the greens at the moment. The rest of his game is strong, but his putting costs him. He finished tied 2nd at -6. Justin Rose was the other notable on day 4. Out with 8 pars and a bogey, Rose made an eagle on the 14th and with others around him going backwards, Rose was on the charge. For the 4th day straight, he birdied 18 and was the clubhouse leader at -6. It wasn't enough and he was tied 2nd. Tommy Fleetwood was cruising along until he hit his 3rd shot out of bounds at Hogans Alley and he never recovered either.
For the Australians, Jason Day had a 68 on the last day and was one of the few players under par for the day. Adam Scott shot +2 and finished tied 17th with Jason Day. Cam Davis was tied 39th, Lucas Herbert tied 51st, Leishman 60th, Rumford 61st and Cam Smith 78th. It was a disappointing week for all of the Aussies. Marc Leishman continues to let his chances slip and nobody really mounted a challenge except for Jason Day on the final round.
All of them were chasing the solid play of Molinari though and his bogey free weekend showed the rest of the field that you don't have to go for the flashy showy shots at tournaments like this one. Slow and steady wins this race and his round on Saturday, followed by his 13 pars in a row, birdie, 3 more pars and a birdie at 18 won him the 147th Open Championship by 2 shots. He finished at -8 and was the only player in the field who was rock solid. His swing is just simple. Up and back without any problems and when you combine it with his short game and putting, you begin to understand why he was so many people's pick this week. Molinari becomes the first Italian to win the Open. Constantino Rocca almost got there in 1995, but was beaten by John Daly in a playoff.
It was a fantastic Open and the R & A showed once again, how to stage a tournament. The USGA can manufacture golf courses and green conditions all they want, but nothing really compares to a magnificent golf course and mother nature. The greens didn't have to be like glass to have a great tournament. For some reason, Mark James wants to call everybody incorrectly and seems to really dislike anybody that is not English. He called Xander Schauffele, Schauffeler every time and just has no respect. There were also too many idiots yelling out and one guy screamed at the top of Tiger's swing on 18. This was never at The Open, but it has crept in and it sucks. Grow up!
Carnoustie has jumped to the number 1 place I now want to go and play golf. If only the weather was a little bit better, I'm sure everybody would feel the same. A great 4 days. Congratulations Francesco.