The Open: More Proof Golf is Fickle
Another major championship and yet again this grand auld game leaves us marvelling at just how unpredictable it is. Perhaps that old cliché which says “anything can happen in 18-hole match play golf and probably will” should be amended to omit the words “18-hole match play?”
How many thought Collin Morikawa, as good as he is, would win the Open Championship on his debut on the quirkiest of links on the Open rota? Not even the sagest of golf gurus picked him to walk off with the claret jug before the world’s best teed off at Sandwich.
They say it takes years of experience to master the intricacies of links golf. Pah? It took Morikawa just a few days not only to learn Royal St George’s, but tame it too.
It would be easy to think Morikawa will go on to win many more Opens, major championships. He might just do but to say that would be to negate the first paragraph's second sentence. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be fascinating to watch his progress.
Just as Morikawa probably didn’t feature in our list of pre-tournament favourites, not many thought Louis Oosthuizen would wilt the way he did in the final round to give playing companion Morikawa an easier passage to the gold medal.
Who’d have thought the South African would still be waiting for his next major victory with one of the sweetest swings this game has ever seen. Looking for the definition of effortless power? Look no further than Oosthuizen.
Yet he is further proof that even the best aren’t guaranteed major championship glory. As has been well documented, Oosthuizen has six runner-up finishes in the tournaments that matter. His third place finish at St George’s was his 10th top 10 in majors, and he only has one win: the 2010 Open Championship.
Seems strange to think the South African will be one and done in the blue chip events when he drives his tractor into the sunset at the end of his playing days. However, nothing is ever guaranteed in this game, even for the best.
What else did we learn from the 149th Open Championship? That it pays not to take tap in putts for granted, or what seem like tap-in putts. Watching Jordan Spieth miss from two feet on the 18th was familiar to all of us who have casually tried to brush in a short putt we took for granted only to see the ball miss the hole completely.
Ben Hogan could never get his head around a 260-yard drive into the middle of the fairway being worth the same value as a one-inch putt. However, that’s the game we play: every stroke counts. Spieth will probably never rush another meaningful putt in his life.
Neither should we.
Finally, wasn’t it great to see the world’s best taking on a course like Royal St George’s where skill and strategy were the keys to winning rather than brute strength? The Sandwich links only measured 7,189 yards to a par of 70. It was no monster like Kiawah Island, where the PGA of America had the largesse to stretch the South Carolina course to a nose-bleed 7,876 yards.
It took Bryson DeChambeau four days to figure out the links, by which time it was too late. Bomb and gouge doesn’t work around a links like St George’s. Morikawa, Spieth and Oosthuizen, for three days at least, proved strategy, positional play and the ability to shape the ball was the key to unlocking the links.
Royal St George’s gets a bit of a bashing, unfairly, for being arguably the weakest of the Open Championship tests. This Open refuted that notion. Maybe modern golf course architects would do well to study its intricacies rather than building back tees that hardly ever get used.
#JustSaying: “The course should be so interesting that even the scratch man is constantly stimulated to improve his game in attempting shots he has hitherto been unable to play.” One of Dr Alister MacKenzie’s principles of golf course design