The Best And Worst Of The Open
Your guide to all things British from the man who's ready for No. 45
Here comes my 45th British Open, which is kid stuff compared to the number of Masters tournaments (63) and U.S. Opens (60) I've witnessed, but I'll go ahead and hit a few practice chips and see if the balls fly as far as the pork pies, then pull out the driver and take a vicious swing at a plate of haggis.
BEST ADVICE, MOTHER DIVISION
Adam Scott's mother, a former club champion: "It's all about the putting, Adam."
RANKING THE ROTA
The number of Opens I've covered, by venue: Old Course at St. Andrews, eight; Birkdale, Lytham, Troon (and now Muirfield this year), six each; Sandwich (St. George's), five; Turnberry, four; Carnoustie, three; and Hoylake (Liverpool), one. My favorites from the modern rota: 1. Old Course, 2. Carnoustie, 3. Lytham, 4. Hoylake, 5. Muirfield, 6. Troon, 7. Birkdale, 8. Turnberry, 9. Sandwich.
FIRST MEMORY OF PLAYING THE OLD COURSE
I was doing well until I got to No. 12. That's when my caddie said, "Aye, now comes the golf course."
The response Dave Marr got at the Old Course after he'd grabbed an 8-iron and asked his caddie if the shot was a hard 8 or a soft 8: "Just the true value of the club, sir."
Jack Nicklaus' mom to a guard who asked why she should be allowed a spot in the grandstand at St. Andrews in 1978: "My son's getting ready to win the Open, and I'd like to be able to watch it."
BEST ADVICE ON FOOD
In my experience, the best order of fish and chips at the Open is when the fish tastes like chips and the chips taste like fish.
Lytham in 1988. The first sign of trouble: the cattle out back. Runner-up: Birkdale in 1991. The house featured one bathroom for eight people.
CONGRATULATIONS. NOW LEAVE.
Just hours after winning the 1980 Open at Muirfield, Tom Watson and his party that included Ben Crenshaw and Tom Weiskopf were about to be banished from the course before they were recognized in the twilight. History records that the misunderstanding was smoothed over at the bar.
Lee Trevino, at Muirfield in 1972: "No wonder everybody over here's so wrinkled up."
A LESSON IN LANDMARKS
The Ailsa Craig is the bird sanctuary that you see in theFirth of Clyde at Turnberry. It resembles the world's largest half-sunken football. Either that or Mark Calcavecchia.
BEST RESPONSE TO CRITICISM
At Lytham in 1979, a competitor complained to R&A secretary Keith Mackenzie that the course was impossible and something ought to be done. "Well, we can't shut it down," Mackenzie said. "The members would only want to go out and play."
BEST TABLOID HEADLINE
On Sunday at the 1992 Open at Muirfield: "Robin Hood's Body Found in Sherwood Forest: Died Clutching Maid Marian's Knickers."
Ivor Robson, who elegantly introduces each player on the first tee every year, going almost 10 hours while never visiting the loo. Hold the coffee.
Prince Andrew at St. Andrews in 2010. It was a tough year for the Royals: Harry fell off a horse, and then Andy droned on at the writers' dinner until he fell off his speech.
BEST OPEN (AND BEST PREDICTION)
St. Andrews in 1970. Tony Jacklin firing eight under par through the first 10 holes in Round 1. Lee Trevino leading after 36 and 54, and saying to Prime Minister Edward Heath on the first tee, "You ever shake hands with a Mexican?" Then the Jack Nicklaus-Doug Sanders battle in the last round and playoff, and Jack dramatically discarding one of his sweaters to drive the last hole for a birdie to narrowly win, 72-73. This after Sanders had blown a 2½-foot putt on the 72nd green that would have given him the claret jug.
Gerald Micklem, a pillar of British golf, four-time Walker Cupper, a gent who seemed to have stepped out of a P.G. Wodehouse short story, was standing with Barbara Nicklaus in the gallery at 18 at that Open as Sanders hunched over the short putt for the win. "Congratulations," Micklem said. "Your husband has tied for the Open championship." Barbara looked surprised, if not confused. Micklem added, "It looks like it breaks left, but of course it breaks right." Local knowledge. Doug didn't even hit the cup.
BEST LINE ABOUT LOSING
John Cook, after losing to Nick Faldo by a stroke at Muirfield in 1992: "I was alive. Then I was dead. Then I was really alive. Then I was pretty much dead."
THE HANEY PROJECT
Swing guru Hank Haney stayed at the Golf Digest house at Hoylake in 2006 and evaluated the palsied putting strokes of golf writers. He had an easier time that week coaching Tiger Woods. That was the last of Tiger's three claret jugs, by the way.
SEVE DEFINING SEVE
Ballesteros, before winning at Lytham in 1979: "I don't aim for the rough. It just goes there."
WHEN A WINDY DAY PAID FOR THE POSTAGE
Darren Clarke saw the weather report calling for lots of wind at Troon one day in 1997 and made a sizable bet on the number of bogeys at the Postage Stamp, the par-3 eighth hole with a tiny green. The over-under bet called for 30 bogeys, and the field made 49.