I just love the British Open Golf Championship.
I love it so much I am learning to refer to it by it’s proper name, The Open.
I love the links courses it is played on, and I love the accent of the starter when he announces the players on the first tee.
At Carnoustie, Scotland this past week, we saw the ever-changing weather conditions, the way the ball would run 100 feet after it landed on the brown fairways, the spacious greens where players would land their shots in front as the ball would roll toward the pin.
There’s always the gorse, the high, nasty shrubs where errant shots disappear.
Once you’re in it, all you can do is hit a wedge and pop out if it.
The very definition of a hazard where golf is played across the pond.
How proud is all of Italy.
They finally have a golf champion. We all know the name, Mark Calcavecchia. He plays on the champions tour (the senior tour, as we know it), and at 58 is still playing well. Calcavecchia is from Nebraska, and won the Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, Scotland in 1989.
But last weekend, a native Italian won a major golf championship for the first time history.
Francesco Molinari, a 35-year old from Turin, captured the Open with a flawless final round which was devoid of bogeys.
That speaks to his marvelous consistency.
He scored par on every hole except for two, which he birdied, including the climactic 18th.
Molinari was paired with Tiger Woods for the final round. Woods had a one-shot lead at one point and it appeared the 42-year old comeback king might be headed for his 15th major title, more than 10 years after his last. But Tiger faltered on two holes, with a double bogey at 11, and a bogey at 12, and poof! there went his chances.
There are those who will say, “why are we always talking about Tiger Woods?”
I’ll tell you why.
The final round of the 2018 Open tied the highest overnight television rating in 18 years.
The last time, in 2000, Woods won The Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland and became the youngest ever to win all four major championships, passing Jack Nicklaus by two years. Woods was 24, he’s now 42, and there were serious doubts Tiger Woods would ever play competitive golf again, much less contend down the stretch for another major title.
But here he was, challenging for a championship. It is truly a fairytale return for Tiger, after a three-year absence, including four back operations which came close to ending his career.
There is an unmistakable sizzle when Tiger Woods is playing well, especially in a prominent tournament, particularly, in a major.
The other players feel it, and they appreciate it. They know what a healthy and competitive Woods means to their sport.
Television ratings soar when Tiger is in the mix, and it sure did at Carnoustie.
I’m aware that there are Tiger detractors out there who will never give him an inch.
There are those who will still point to the fact that he ultimately stumbled and faded.
If you call finishing tied for sixth, three shots back, a fade.
But the proof is in the pudding. When Tiger Woods is a factor in any tournament, that tournament shines brightly. And that was the case in the Open last week.
A few thoughts on other subjects.
Terrell Owens will not be on hand in Canton, Ohio for his induction with the rest of this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class. He says he’s staying away for the others, like himself who had to wait to be inducted.
Being selected to the Hall of Fame is not automatic for most.
Other than the greatest of the great, everyone has to wait.
I say, who cares if T.O. is there or not? If he doesn’t want to experience the moment when he wears the gold jacket for the first time amidst the other living Hall of Famers, that’s his problem.
And it’s sad.
I think someday Terrell Owens will regret his decision.
I will go deeper on the subject in a future essay, but I’m not enamored with what I’m seeing in baseball.
More strikeouts than base hits. Home run or bust. Batters swinging for the fences on virtually every pitch. The lost art of bunting, moving runners along, and in general, the “little things” that made the game so unique.
Hitters admiring long drives and then settling for one base when they could have had a double when their fly balls miss going out.
That’s just some of it. More to come.
Finally, it’s funny when you see how various sports try to modernize, either by different styles of play, or rules to speed up games.
For example, the advent of the three-point shot in basketball, or putting a clock on players in baseball.
The two major sports I can think of, that basically haven’t changed other than the use of overtime shootouts and penalty kicks, are hockey and soccer.
Those sports are basically the same as they’ve always been.
And the Stanley Cup playoffs and the World Cup still grab the attention of the sporting public in a big way.
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