Scott looks ahead to the Open Championship in Scotland
NOT THE BRITISH OPEN
Just to clarify one more time, it is not the British Open, it’s the Open Championship. Our inability to get the name right on this side of the pond stems from our desire to distinquish it from the U.S. Open, but this is the 142nd time the Royal and Ancient has staged this event, giving it grandfather status over the U.S. Open. At it’s inception it was THE Open Championship, and remains so to this day. All the majors come with dramatic story lines, so it would be an overstatement to overplay the drama of this one, best that I just fill you in on what some of those story lines are. Two good starting points are currently together on the back nine of the opening round. For his success at the Masters and all those bridesmaid finishes at the U.S. Open this is the one major no one would have given Phil Mickelson a chance of winning. His relationship with links golf, the standard of the courses in Great Britain, has been love-hate, emphasis on hate. In 19 previous starts at the Open Championship “Lefty” has just two top 10 finishes. The dynamic changed considerably last week when he won the Scottish Open on a course very similar to the Muirfield links, host of the Open Championship. For all the hate in his relationship with links courses in the past, Mickelson comes into this weekend with a lot of love. He’s a player. No player in the field this weekend will feel more pressure than Mickelson’s playing partner, Rory McIlroy. Galleries at every course in the British Isles treat the kid from northern Ireland like a home town favorite no matter which course he’s playing on which isle, and, as the only golfer with more than one major victory in the last five years, the expectations are high. But he comes into this one struggling, trying to find new levels of maturity in both his professional and personal lives. His struggles continue early in round one. How Rory responds the rest of the weekend will be an indication of how close he is to finding that maturity level. Tiger Woods is always a story, even when he hasn’t sniffed a major championship in over five years. The story of Tiger has been well chronicled since he won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open, in a playoff, on a broken leg. From the marital discourse and the damage to his reputation to the sore elbow that hampered him throughout last month’s U.S. Open and gets it’s first taste of competition since, this weekend, the questions will swirl around Tiger as long as he continues to pursue, but fails to get, that 15th major championship. Once he gets it he may be right back on the fast track to Jack Nicklaus’ all time record. Every time he tees up in one of these a new story line is being written. Any event played on one of these courses gives any star on the European Tour a slight leg up as they all believe it’s their’s for the taking, Miquel Angel Jimenez, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney and Rafael Cabrera Bello already staking an early claim. It’s THE Open Championship, and it’s wide open. The story lines are no more or less dramatic than those for any major, just different. All good reasons to play close attention all weekend. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.