Genesis Scottish Open
Rookie trying to play his way into the British Open is leaning on a special links-golf whisperer for help
GULLANE, Scotland — This week’s Genesis Scottish Open represents Eric Cole’s first visit to the home of golf and the often hard-to-figure intricacies of playing the game by the seaside. Well, for most people anyway. But Cole, armed with some advice from a close and well-qualified family member is doing rather well.
A third-round six-under 64 at the Renaissance Club has the 35-year-old Floridian well in contention for the title. He’s also trying to secure a spot in next week’s Open Championship, with the three highest finishers on Sunday not already in the field at Royal Liverpool earning 11th-hour exemptions.
It was in 1966 that Eric’s father, Bobby, won the British Amateur at Carnoustie, the course where, nine years later, he would finish one-shot out of the playoff for the title between Tom Watson and Jack Newton. Indeed, it was an agonizing loss for the South African native. The long-time leader, his closing 76 was the worst score shot by any of the top-10 finishers.
Bobby Cole acknowledges the crowd during the 1975 British Open.
No matter, Cole senior clearly knows a thing or two about links golf in Scotland. And yes, father and son had chatted before junior made the trip across the Atlantic.
“I talked to my dad quite a bit coming into this week,” said Eric, who earlier this year lost a playoff to Chris Kirk at the Honda Classic. “Carnoustie was clearly a good course for him. So yes, it’s been cool to come over here and experience links golf for the first time. My dad told me not to pay attention to what anyone else is doing. The balls don’t necessarily bounce like they do in the States. Anything is possible, both in terms of distance and eventual location. So it was ‘just try and hit the best shot you can.’”
Cole has been doing just that quite often over the first 54 holes. So far, he has visited only two bunkers—always a key to scoring well on any links. And his putting has varied between sound and outstanding.
“The course isn’t quite as firm as I’m guessing other links can be,” said the PGA Tour rookie who has missed just two cuts and had two top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts. “It’s an American links, rather than a true links. It’s a lot of fun though. I’ve enjoyed battling the elements and I hear more bad stuff is coming tomorrow. I’ve coped for the most part. I’ve never been too far off-line, which is a big key. And I’ve chipped and putted well.
“I’ve also loved the concept of landing shots somewhere other than by the pin,” he continued. “The bounce and the roll of the ball after it lands are things I don’t normally have to think about. The main thing is paying attention to what the ball is going to do on the ground and making sure that the shot you're trying to hit matches the playing surface. So I have an extra two or three steps to work through before I actually hit a shot. All shots actually. The yardage is just a starting point. It’s a long way from ‘point and shoot’ we see so much of on the PGA Tour. There’s just a lot more going on. All of which has been a challenge and different for me.”
But familiar too, courtesy of Dad’s voice inside his head.
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Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.