Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The (British) Open. And the winner is.....

Have you noticed the word "British" has been dropped from this major golf tournament in recent times? Sure, those across the pond have always referred to it as "The Open", but for decades Americans have called it the British Open. Not any more, and maybe that's a good thing. After all, the game of golf was supposedly invented in Scotland way back in the 16th century -- or approximately the time Larry King did his first interview. They have a right to call it whatever they want and the Yanks should respect it.

But deferring to the wishes of the "senior circuit" (can you hear me Regis?) is one thing. Total revererance and awe are quite another. The Open is a great event but let's not get carried away. It's not Moses coming down from the mountain with a new politically correct pair of tablets (scary thought), the Second Coming, or a Kardashian being elected US President in 2016 (REALLY scary thought). It's a golf tournament. There's one every week. They come and they go.

One would think Jordan Spieth would be a favorite to win, given his triumphs at the Masters, US Open, and even the Green Tractor Classic last week -- but not according to Andy North, the former PGA player turned "expert" talking head. Andy has ruled him out, along with several other players for his own reasons.

[It should be noted that Andy North played on the PGA tour for 30 years and chalked up a grand total of 3 -- count-em -- THREE victories during his career. That averages out to one a decade, so what the hell does he know anyway?]

Nevertheless, North has laid out Andy's laws of who shalt and shalt not win the Open.

First, the player has to be over 30 years old. That wipes out a whole bunch of guys like Spieth, Jason Day, Ricky Fowler, and a couple of notable Johnsons to name a few. Geez, I thought they had a chance. Guess not. North's logic is a player must have years of experience playing the Old Course to appreciate it and be competitive. Hey, it's still only a golf course. An inanimate tract of land. It's not like it has a mind of its own and will destroy young linksters Terminator style. Drive it in the fairways, stay out of those ridiculous pot bunkers, and make a few putts. This is hardly rocket science much less trying to sort out all the problems in the Middle East so everybody is happy. It's 72 holes of golf, just like every other tournament. Whoever shoots the lowest score wins. Pretty simple.

Oddly enough, North eliminated Phil Mickelson from contention, even though Lefty won the Open just a couple years ago and is 45. He certainly has the experience, so go figure.

Andy said only a golfer ranked in the top 8 in the world has a shot. That rules out a few more prospects.

So who is left? Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, and Louis Oosthuizen? All worthy players indeed that meet his criteria.

But after his presentation of old school flash-card sabermetrics while drawing on his infinite expertise about an event he was never remotely competitive at for 30 years, Andy North has boldly predicted a winner.

One Henrik Stenson. The Swede is 39, ranked 7th in the world, and has racked up 17 professional tournament victories -- though only 4 in PGA events. For the most part, Stenson has made his dough and fame on the European circuit.

Wouldn't it be something if Andy North was right and Stenson actually won The Open? Could happen.

But yours truly still thinks the young guns will be there on the back nine on Sunday slugging it out for the Claret Jug. Times, they are a-changing, and quickly.

We'll see.....

As a footnote, here's to Tom Watson -- a 5 time winner of the Open and an all around class act over the decades. He's playing in his last Open. The chances of him winning it are not good, but it would be great to see him not only make the cut, but be in the hunt on Sunday for his last go-round where the game began. If there's any justice in the golf world, Tom Watson will be able to doff his cap, smile and wave at the throng of fans surrounding the 18th green that know how to show their appreciation for greatness.

One can only hope.

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