TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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July 22, 2007

The Open remains the truest test…

They say that you don’t win the US Open, you survive it, whereas "The Open" requires you to take it even further. If you’re a serious golfer, this is the tournament that you’ve been waiting for. The Open Championship, which is not to be confused with the US Open, the Vietnam Open or any other "Open" stands alone due to history and prestige.

Also, Carnoustie is where Jean Van de Velde had a memorable meltdown back in 1999, so there’s an "anything can happen" probability and when you factor in the unpredictable weather, the odds of a disaster increase dramatically, which is what we at home want…more drama.

The R&A usually doesn’t bother to trick up a golf course like the USGA does, nor do they have to. Mother Nature provides all the pain and aggravation anyone could possibly hope for and, lets be honest, a driving rain and wind which can bend a flagstick into "C" is much more punishing to a player than tricked up greens and knee-high rough.

Another factor is that, while players can complain about the unfairness of a tricked up course, they cannot possibly blame the tournament organisers for the weather.

It seems that Carnoustie and Mother Nature both have mischief on their minds as the opening round featured the usual rain and wind. Forecasts predict more of the same…which is how it should be at The Open. A bright sunny day with very little wind somehow seems sacrilegious and shouldn’t even be uttered in the same breath as "The Open."

As I cannot resist rubbing salt into the wounds, allow me to remind everyone that Van de Velde had a three shot lead as he stood on the 18th tee. A six or under would secure him The Open Championship and, like many others, I was watching this event and when Van de Velde stood on the 18th tee, I figured it was all over and prepared to go to bed, but a little voice in the back of my head said "wait" when I saw him pull out the driver.

Many people have commented that his caddie should’ve tackled him the moment he pulled the driver out of the bag, while others claim it was correct to let him make the decision as to not rattle his confidence.

My view is that you cannot rattle cement, especially when it is wedged between someone’s ears. His drive flew to the right and things when rapidly downhill from there in a classic example of "the wheels coming off."

He then lost control of a two-iron and the shot careened into a grandstand and then bounced back into deep rough. His third shot landed in the burn. After much discussion and wasting of time while deciding whether to play the ball as it lay in the water, which was most likely a vain attempt to try and regain his shattered composure, Van de Velde opted for the penalty drop and promptly sent that shot into the bunker. He finally found the green and holed a seven foot putt to put an end to his misery and his hopes.

His infamous seven put him into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie.

Unlike the US Open where the sadistic maniacs of the USGA force the player to match skills the next day over a full 18 holes, or other Tour events which use "sudden death" to decide the tie, The Open is more pragmatic about it citing that a full 18 holes is torture and sudden death doesn’t do the players justice. Thus, they opt for a more practical three hole playoff.


To sum it up, the playoff began at the 15th hole. Lawrie and Leonard both took bogey fives and Van de Velde a six. They all parred the next hole and at the 17th, Lawrie birdied to take the lead, Van de Velde also birdied the hole. Lawrie gave the other two no second chances with a birdie at the 18th to win The Open.

It just seems natural to me that, the winner of golf’s most prestigious event should be required to triumph over, not only the course and the other competitors, but Mother Nature herself.

This is the nature of a true championship.


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