Out on the links: The 150th Open

Had a lovely time from sunrise to mid-morning up at the lake. The wind was up, and stayed up nicely, long before the summer weekend boater zoo kicked in. (There was that one barge-sized wooden boat that cut in front of me... with a wake so big spray came off of it.) I sailed to sufficient exhaustion, a closer shore than it used to be, and a good hour before the wind started to ease. Browsed on the bumper crop of ripe serviceberries before packing up my gear and heading home for a late, great breakfast of granola with homegrown raspberries.

I'd forgotten to set the DVR for the Tour de France, but was just in time to get the 15 min. high-speed recap of stage 14. Then what? I tuned into The Open, as in golf, British. The place where golf started? 150 years ago? When men were men, and grass was lush and long, and clubs had names rather than numbers. Mashie, and Niblick. (Oh wait, that's just one club, the Mashie Niblick.)

The first Championship was in 1860, some years after golf was a thing. Young Tom Morris won the 9th, 10th, and 11th events, got to keep the Challenge Belt as a result, and so they didn't have a tournament in 1871. They invented a new trophy, the Claret Jug so they could resume. World War I spoiled the event for 1915-1919. Then WWII dropped six more, 1940-1945. That makes this year's event, 162 years after the first, the 150th? Hmm, I get 151st, did they count wrong? Surely they wouldn't have counted wrong, would they? Apparently the first time, 1860, wasn't deemed "open" enought to count.

In 2022, it's been a dry summer in Fife, Scotland, up between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, and the course is part pale green and and mostly pale brown, playing hard and fast. As a one-time night waterman, it raises an eyebrow, but I like it more "natural" than not. And it's playing short with big bounces and long rolls.

Shot-tracer technology, that's cool. Speed off the tee, apex height, and the big, black arc to the target. Once you've seen it, you want it every time. Why can't I have it every time? (Oddly, I first saw it 7 years ago, at the US Open, but seem to have forgotten.)

Dynamic score boxes are cool, too. Top o' the leader board fixed, and the oversized "this player's shot on this hole" box takes up too much screen space, but it's Very Readable for the old eyes of their post-prime demographic.

"It sounded like a bag of nickels when he hit it." Apparently that sound presages the ball going into a bunker, of which there are more than a hundred at St. Andrews. A luckier swing gave this:

"That's a really smart shot, David."
"That's a grown-up shot," David affirmed.

And the enthusiastic fans, perfectly quiet up until the moment of contact, when they can no longer contain themselves. GET IN THE HOOOOOLE! they shout after the ball, which pretty much never does. (Later, somebody yells LIGHT THE CANDLE! which is a new one on me, but sounds even more stupid.)

A little featurelet about Tiger Woods, who didn't make the cut, so doesn't get to play on the weekend. Apparently his walk up to the 18th yesterday was "unforgettable."

Some dude drove the green on #9, which I guess has happened a lot this week. It's supposedly a "par 4," so what the hell? The balls should be softened up, or the club technology reined in, or something. Some of the boys are driving the 12th green, too.

Caught up in the fescue rough, that's bad. Or not? It's "wispy" fescue, very dry.

"I love the way his arms just hang, very still [he misses the putt]... heartbreaking."

"Look at how straight his legs are... The finish is just poetic!"

Somebody got "a more than audible cheer," wut.

Then Rory McIlroy wedges out of bunker and IT DID GO IN THE HOLE! on the 360 yard (are they still doing yards?) 10th, TAKES THE LEAD. "PurrFECTION at the 10th!"

He very narrowly missed a birdie put on 12, David says "that'll feel like he dropped half a shot," which is interesting for a game with no fractional scoring. Feels like he missed a whole shot to me.

Cam Smith makes a bad shot selection, "risked his whole championship on it," standing in a bunker and swinging at the ball waist-high outside it, "right into a goarse bush."

Then Dustin Johnson putts long on 14, "up and over, the last thing you want to do, and into the pot bunker." Now we're playing my kind of golf. "The putter's betrayed him today, it's really let him down all season," but somehow he's on the leader board? Maybe not a lot longer. Funky sand wedge almost put him in another of the "Ginger Beer" bunkers. He does escape with only a bogey. I would've gone snowman, personally.

Cam Smith manages to hack his next shot out of the goarse, but still in trouble. "His whole tournament could be going up in smoke right here." He made his double boge, and managed to keep his act together the rest of the way and finish one over on the day, 4 shots behind the leaders Hovland and McIlroy.


I started the viewing (and blogging of it) for a larf, but then was interested in the outcome. On Sunday, I didn't tune in in time to see any of it live, but there was a "highlights" show that distilled out the good parts, in conveniently accelerated fashion. By the time I got to that, I'd already seen who the winner was, but even without suspense, it was fun to see how it came about.

Hovland and McIlroy went from penultimate pair on Saturday to final pair on Sunday, swapping twosomes with "the Cams"; Cameron Young, and Cameron Smith. Apparently it's harder to stay ahead than it is to get ahead. The four stroke cushion between the pairs evaporated, and Cam Smith went from the verge of "his whole tournament going up in smoke," to smoking the competition with an 8-under round that featured five straight birdies to start the back nine.

Tom von Alten, July 18, 2022