Advice to the British Open
Of all golf tournaments, major or otherwise, the British Open is the most eccentric, and to my mind, the most entertaining.
Usually, reliably awful weather, weird bounces and less-than-pristine course conditions make it unpredictable and exciting.
This year's Open, held at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's Golf Club in Lancashire, was unusual in the lack of some of its normal attributes. The weather was bucolic. There was no rain, and the wind was nonexistent for three days. It blew up a bit on the final day, and though still quite modest by Open standards, it wrought havoc with the field.
The course was green and soft, relatively speaking, allowing players to fire at pins with uncustomary abandon. There were odd bounces, and the rough was horrendous, due to the same rains that had greened things up. The wind and final-round pressure brought scores back into a normal range by the end of the tournament.
This Open will be remembered as the Adam and Ernie show. I can't recall ever watching two players with essentially perfect swings appear as awkward and uncomfortable as those two did on the greens with their long putters and fabricated strokes.
Still, Ernie slammed his firmest putt of the day into the hole to birdie No. 18 as Adam dribbled away the last four holes with bogeys. They were not awful bogeys; they were the result of a couple of loose shots, a bad bounce and two putts missed at the wrong times.
The tournament was a battle of attrition, as it so often is, with various contenders falling victim to terrible lies and lost balls. Tiger made an ugly triple bogey, which, depending on your disposition, was either disastrous or delightful.
I have to say I wasn't very impressed with Royal Lytham and St. Anne's. Oh, it's plenty hard, but it looks like it sits on about 70 acres in an industrial suburb. Why isn't Royal Dornoch in the Open rotation? Aren't esthetics worth something?
I do have some ideas for speeding up play and reducing maintenance costs, if anyone is interested. Those bunkers, for example, all 200 plus of them, require a lot of work stacking sod and raking sand. I say, get rid of all of them. Just flatten them out and make them into fairway.
But wait, you say. That would eliminate the most difficult feature of the course; the bunkers are basically a one-stroke penalty. Exactly. My idea is to mark circles on the fairways where the bunkers used to be, and add a shot to a player's score if his ball stops in a circle. It's sort of like pinball.
You could also just designate all gorse and grass over a foot tall as out-of-bounds. That would save time looking, and scores would be the same since all balls hit there are lost anyway.
These changes would move things along and cause less embarrassment to the players, who wouldn't have to get on their knees to hit bunker shots backward. I don't expect the R&A to pick up on any of this, but if they are really interested in improving their tournament, they should think about it.
There have now been 16 (I think) different winners of the last 16 majors. Tiger has uncorked the bottle, and just about anybody can now win anything any day. Maybe variety in the Sunday mix of players will generate some enthusiasm and popularity for the old game.
That, and leveling out those bunkers.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at fwolferman@ sbcglobal.net.
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