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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Scotland's Around the Corner

On Sunday, we head across the pond to Scotland to play golf and watch the Open Championship up close. This will probably be the apex of my golf year, even surpassing the Masters practice round in April.

I've been intrigued by the Open for many years. The first one I really remember watching was at St. Andrews in 1984 when Seve won. But it hasn't been until the last five or six years that the Open has become my favorite major.

The Open stands out from the other three majors because of the types of courses upon which it's played, the weather (usually), the respectfulness and enthusiasm of the fans, the history, the international flavor, and the uncertainty of who will prevail.

No matter how hard we try in America to simulate the links courses in Scotland, we always come up short because of our dearth of true linksland. So, when the Open is on TV, we are treated to a game of golf that Americans rarely play or even see. Carnoustie isn't an authentic links course, but there's no other course in the USA that resembles it. Van de Velde's antics a few years back add to the allure of Carnoustie, and as the 2007 Open venue, it made my decision to book a flight that much easier.

Of course, the weather can make the Open treacherous. If the wind blows and the rain decends, anything can happen. The weather factor contributes immensely to the uncertainty of the winners. Sure, you have guys like Peter Thomson and Tom Watson who seemed to thrive under tough conditions and knew how to keep the ball down and get it in the hole in fewer shots than the rest, but given that the weather can be very different from hour to hour, how the tee times shake out can actually fiddle with the outcome. This phenomenon rarely happens in the American majors.

The fans in the U.K. are better than in America. They know the game and respect it, and I don't think going to a golf tournament is as much of a "to do" as it is here. Thus, shouts of "Get in the hole!" and "You da man!" are kept to a minimum. The Brits know when they've seen a good shot or a nicely lagged putt, whereas many people at American tournaments aren't sure exactly what they are watching. I guess after next Friday, I'll be able to confirm or dismiss this notion.

This history of golf and the towns that surround the courses in Scotland are incomparable. I don't need to explain it; it just is. In the US, many think that a course built before 1990 is old. As a point of reference, the New Course at St. Andrews was built over 110 years ago.

Without trampling on the Masters or the US Open, I would propose that the "rest of the world" covets the Claret Jug more than anything else. There is always a huge international contingent at the Open Championship, and this year will not be an exception. I have a feeling that a Euro will win it at Carnoustie, and his home country will be more gaga over the victory than Americans would be if one of our boys took home the Jug.

If the weather is normal (i.e. cold, windy, and rainy) and Tiger is not on his game, the Open will be wide open. It produces unlikely champions like Paul Lawrie, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton, John Daly, and even Justin Leonard. This year could be one of those years, especially because of Carnoustie's difficulty.

My picks for this year are as follows:
--Paul Casey
--Joe Durant (sleeper)
--Sergio Garcia
--Ernie Els
--Stuart Appleby
--Geoff Ogilvy
--Sean O'Hair
--Steve Stricker
--Justin Rose

What's the best thing about having these picks? In the UK, I can put my money where my mouth is and place a bet on almost any street corner. It's going to be brilliant!


Anonymous Benedict Arnold said...

Alright, now you've gone to far claiming the American's are ignorant about golf. You sound more and more like Johnny Miller making statements like that. Everyone knows American spectators who wear golf shoes to events are the most knowledgeable golf geeks in the entire universe. Two words: FBR Open. Nuf said.

3:44 PM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Mr. Arnold-
As you might have noted, I'm going to take a wait and see approach. However, it is unlikely that people in the UK don't rake traps or fix ball marks. And those are the ones who play! What about the ones who go to these events to be seen?

Don't you wear golf shoes to tournaments?

PS - Who are your picks to win?

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Where's my Pinnacle? said...

C'mon, everyone knows you go to horse races to be seen such as Gold Cup and other non-American events where 30 year old former frat dudes wearing ball caps and a tie can re-live their "glory days" at UVA (yawn).

As a spectator wearing golf shoes to an event is the equivalent to wearing shoulder pads to a football game. Or Underoos to a WWE event. Why don't you bring your driver - just in case. I'm sure they bring they mitt to a baseball game - just in case.

On to more important things: Mr. Arnold's picks: Jose Maria is going to get it done this year; I would've taken Angel Cabrera had he not won the US Open last month. He made a strong showing in the Open last year at that brown course they played at . . . Americans would would rather saturate their courses and ensure it was cart path only . . . I like the Stricker pick (could you pick a few more guys as your picks, BTW?) but that could be a long shot for him. I told myself I would stop picking Sergio on my fantasy squad for no other reason then he's the worst dressed player flat-out period. Terrible. What a dork. His all yellow ensemble last year said it all - he's toilet water.

4:46 PM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

How about wearing a team jersey to ANY sporting event? Donks!

I did make a lot of picks, but it's a big field. If I had to narrow it down, I would take Casey, Els, and O'Hair. Durant is a good sleeper because he hits it so darn straight and can control his ball flight. Sergio is just due to make something happen.

JMO is a good pick, but it depends on which JMO shows up. He can be very streaky. I wouldn't mind seeing him win.

8:36 PM  

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