Open Championship Preview.

AKA, The Clusterbang at Sandwich.

Leave it to the R&A to continue returning to a course that many of the players in the field strongly dislike. Golfers whine on the level of NBA players after committing a foul, it’s just not the type of whining that is so easily identifiable.  Golfers take shots off the record, they make subtle jabs after their round, but if they don’t like a course–you’ll hear about it.  It’s usually the fodder for good quotes, because while spoiled, the PGA and European Tours certainly employ a few sharp wits.   Royal St. George’s, or Sandwich, is probably the most derided of all major venues.  Asked where he’d put the course in the Open Rota, Mark Calcavecchia said, “Dead Last.”  Steve Elkington once famously said that Royal St. George’s was his 10th favorite Open course.  They only play nine.  Even Jack Nicklaus, depending on the story you believe, may have taken a quick shot at Sandwich over the years.

Why do they keep playing it?  I’d imagine because the R&A isn’t particularly interested in what a couple of players have to say about the course.  The Open Rota seems to be a combination of tradition, suitable golf courses, suitable venues in terms of infrastructure, and the right connections.  For now, Royal St. George’s still has the bases covered.  So, this week they’ll return to Sandwich to play a baked out links course that might award a major championship with all the discretion of a Mega Millions jackpot.  The last time the R&A visited Ben Curtis beat a distinguished throng of challengers and temporarily earned the nickname, “Ben Who?”

The course will get a lot of the attention this week.  The gripe with the layout seems to be its propensity for punishing good shots and the numerous blind holes.  The area is also in  a two-year drought so expect the rough to be wispy, and the fairways to be like concrete.  Of course, there is always the chance it could rain buckets and blow up a gale too (according to, the forecast actually looks decent).  But, if we can get past the course, what else is there to talk about this week?

The obvious answer is Rory McIlroy, who cruised to a victory in the U.S. Open last month and hasn’t played since.  The media took a win that hardly needed hyperbole and put their fingerprints all over it anyway, essentially claiming that on the Monday after Father’s Day we all woke up in what was now the “Rory Era.”  Apparently one dominant win (the THIRD of his entire career) on a course tailor-made for his strengths erased all doubts.  McIlroy is installed as the betting favorite for the championship, and apparently this is a position he’ll hold for the next dozen years while he runs down Tiger and Jack.  The only one managing expectations seems to be Rory’s manager, Chubby Chandler, who warned that Royal St. George’s doesn’t quite suit Rory’s game.

Well, if doesn’t suit the game of the kid who is going to win 10 of the next 20 majors, who could it possibly suit?  What about Americans?  The Americans may have a good chance to end their major drought at Atlanta Athletic Club next month, but the task of winning at Sandwich seems almost insurmountable.  Tiger isn’t playing.  Phil has a new “attitude and approach” this week, but he’s piled up exactly 1 top-ten in his British Open career.  Expect more head scratching from him. In the usual suspects category, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar seem more likely to post a T-11 than a win, and the young guys (Watney, DJ, Mahan, Bubba etc) will likely hate the place and blow up.   If an American wins they’ll likely come from the anonymous chase pack.

From a European standpoint, I think a lot of people expect this will finally be Lee Westwood’s major.  Or perhaps, World number one, Luke Donald’s.  What if Italy’s Matteo Manassero were to hoist the Claret Jug?  Would that start the Matteo era?  I think it would also be his 3rd worldwide win.  Perhaps we have to stretch a bit further than Europe.  Jason Day?  Is there another South African we don’t really know about out there?  Is there any way a veteran like Ernie Els could make a last stand?  Doubtful.  I fear this week could produce a leaderboard only a golfer could love, but there will still be novelty of waking up and being able to flip on the live golf telecast.  Everyone still loves doing that, right?

If I’m picking a winner, I really don’t know where to start.  Maybe the Americans will end the drought when you least expect it.  What does Robert Garrigus think of links golf?  In Ben Crane in the field?  Maybe there’s a Ben connection.  I need this year’s Curtis.  I think I’ll settle on…

  1. Brandt Snedeker
  2. Lee Westwood
  3. K.J. Choi
  4. Robert Rock
  5. Freddie Jacobson
  6. Matteo Manassero
  7. Chris Wood
  8. Luke Donald
  9. Justin Leonard
  10. Nick Watney

Snedeker is 125-1, so go ahead and make a nice little nest egg on that one.  I’ll just be rooting for David Duval until he makes quadrangle on the 3rd hole and then I’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out.  Enjoy the festivities, and remember she starts early, ESPN tomorrow at 4 am.  Set your devices.


22 thoughts on “Open Championship Preview.

  1. No Rory in the top 10? Don’t let your hate get the best of you.

    The kid’s had the lead in 7 of the 8 rounds in a major this year.

    I fear a no-name winning this thing as well. Perhaps Sean O’Hair? Sorry, had to toss that name out there as is tradition.

    Here’s a name: Simon Edwards. Why? Because I randomly scrolled through a list and picked his name. Don’t know a thing about him or where he’s from. Not eve sure if he’s a pro.

    I’ll be up tomorrow morning watching Mike Tirico, who oh by the way, may be one of the most underrated commentators.

  2. As a general rule, always predict the nightmare scenario, because that is how major championships inevitably turn out. Here’s my final leaderboard in the spirit of “least watchable weekend of British Open (sue me) golf”:

    1. Fred Jacobson
    2. Robert Allenby
    3. Y.E. Yang
    4. Paul Casey
    5. Zach Johnson

      • I could see that happening with the possible exception of Robert Allenby. This doesn’t quite feel like an, “Oh no, Robert Allenby might win,” Major.

        Fred Jacobson wouldn’t surprise me one bit, though. He’s a terror around the greens and it sounds like people aren’t exactly going to be knocking it stone dead all week.

  3. After seeing a picture of a sandwich that immaculate, I was a little disappointed to find out the post was actually about golf. Just sayin…

    I think you owe us a top 10 sandwich list now.

  4. Hah, you’re probably right. I’m just driving traffic with BLT porn.

    I’d ask for your list but 1-9 is probably peanut butter.

  5. Is john daly playing? I’m betting on him as the American to pull it out. Whether he’s playing or not, I figure that’s even money with all the other American players.

    Anthony Kim?

  6. What is wrong with blind holes then? A good number of ‘Great’ courses have blind holes.

    I can think of another another ‘Major’ course that punishes good shots, how many times have we seen a perfect pin high approach with just a little backspin end up off the greens at Augusta!

    As a certain famous golf author once wrote, “Without the occasional bad bounce or blind shot, is the game nearly as fun?”

  7. Yep, it’s quite the board.

    I’m not really going to touch on comparing Augusta to RSG. That’s like comparing Jessica Biel and Kathy Bates because they both have brown hair.

      • Did I say anything critical of links golf? You are the one that brought up Augusta. It’s an idiotic comparison. And, I was not offering a view of RSG in the first place, simply reiterating the complaints and comments made by the players. Go ask them why they dislike it.

        I am quite happy playing man-made courses, but if you’d like to spring for an international flight and golf package for me, I’d be happy to accept.

        Go try to drum up the trite Americans and their target golf argument somewhere else. I’m not interested in it, or your patronage to be honest.

      • AmateurDouche, is it still a “true” golf course when they lengthen it and lower par for the Open? I think its comical that the chief executive of the R&A defended having the open there as “it’s a lovely venue and our only in the south.” OH, a ringing endorsement! Well then, by all means, proceed…..

      • I was commenting on the ‘punishing of good shots’ part of your post, something that Augusta does regularly, so I don’t see why that was an Idiotic cmparison?

        To quote another part of your post I think you are dead right about the R&A not caring what a couple of players have to say about the course, why should they?

        I am not having a go at the US players here, I also thought Ian Poulter was stupid in saying he did not like the changes Els made to Wentworth, if he had shot 63 he would have been applauding them.

        Crow, just one thing to say to your reply, technology has come a long way since 1887.

      • I don’t agree about Augusta. I’m not aware of a hole at Augusta where if you hit the ball down the middle the fairway you’ll catch a knob and get kicked into fescue. It couldn’t be further from a links, it’s the epitome of a course you play through the air.

        Augusta is risk reward. You take your chance with the false front on 9, for example, but it’s right there in front of you. You’re perfectly aware of the danger there or on your 2nd to 15, or on 12, wherever. There’s a difference between a solid shot and a good shot. Hitting a ball pin high is not necessarily a good shot, and that’s not really the complaints the players have about RSG as far as I’m aware.

        You know there are links courses, and courses with a lot of links characteristics in the U.S. Picking Augusta out makes no sense to me, sorry.
        If you said Donald Ross greens, or something like that, maybe…

        And, it’s the U.S. and their predominant style of course that you are being derisive of by saying true golf and using the term plodding along. That’s negative phrasing.

        Thinking Links golf in Europe is “true” golf is just as ignorant as someone dismissing Links golf because they’ve only seen parkland layouts. But, again, that’s not what I did. I have no problem with links golf, or RSG. The quality of the course is simply a point of discussion for the tournament brought up by the players themselves, not anyone here.

        If you’re asking whether or I think I think a bad bounce should part of the game, I’d say within reason. RSG seems to push that line in the opinion of the players, but I have not played there, so I wouldn’t really have an opinion. Maybe I’ll get a better idea by watching this week.

      • The only reason I chose Augusta as a comparison is because you so often here the commentary say what a good shot that is only for it to end up in the water or way off the green.

        I am a lover of natural looking courses you see, thanks for the healthy discussion, you have gained another reader to your blog.

      • Honestly, I can’t remember an announcer ever saying that about a shot at Augusta. I certainly don’t remember a professional ever suggesting that Augusta has unfair bounces. On the contrary, my understanding has always been that Augusta is SO predictable that everyone knows exactly where they have to hit it on every shot, and it’s simply a matter of whether they hit their mark or not. Hence the stories about Jack Nicklaus sitting down with Charl Schwartzel and telling him how to navigate the course. I mean it’s to the point where it’s remarkable when a shot DOESN’T bounce exactly the way everyone expects it to, e.g., Fred Couples’ ball not going in the water on 12.

      • Those shots are “cruel” because mistakes are magnified by the incredibly small margin for error at Augusta. It is not a situation where a good shot results in a bad outcome.

  8. 3putt- what course in America do you think is the equivalent to ST Jorge? In terms of hosting majors, but the players hate playing it?

  9. Tough question. The courses in the US that get criticized are usually changed or booted from the rotation. The first time they played Hazeltine, the great Mike Hill said, “They ruined a perfectly good farm when they built this place.” Or something along those lines.

    I don’t think anyone loves Hazeltine now, but it’s gotten a lot better. Same for a place like Valhalla, which was originally just the PGA jamming their own course down people’s throats.

    Whistling Straits takes a lot of heat from some people, that might be one, but nothing else is jumping right out at me. The players usually get their way in the U.S.

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