By the time this hits the web-stands on Tuesday morning, practice rounds for The Open Championship to determine “The Champion Golfer of the Year” will be well under way at Royal Lytham & St Annes outside Liverpool in England and Tiger Woods will no doubt have endured approximately 127 versions of the same question… “So Tiger, do you feel as though, with 3 important wins this season, you are now BACK?” Every reporter, blogger, TV commentator and bobble-head who poses a version of that particular sentence at a presser this week should be taken by his colleagues to an area behind the Superintendents' shed and subjected to some Jack Nicholson 9-iron road rage while being forced to listen to a books-on-tape version of “Everything I Know About the Fall Line and Other Incoherent Ramblings,” by Johnny Miller… on a loop. It’s a tome, believe me. However, should you be looking for the photo-op of the dismissive, withering, Tiger stare that says something to the effect of “I wouldn’t give you the 10% I tip a Perkins waitress,” then by all means, ask away intrepid one, Woodward wannabe and join the ever-increasing ranks of the corps whose fedora-tucked press credentials just don’t seem to get them through the security gate for that particular zoo.
Of course, if you are from that bastion of the misquote, the Daily Mail - which is to quality journalism what Paul Azinger and Sean Hannity are to global warming – then you are no doubt already rooting through on-site rubbish bins for your Headline Du Jour. “Unplayable” they screamed this week when Tiger deigned to suggest that the traditionally wispy fescue rough had a 6-inch lush under-layer which made it “almost unplayable.” Yup, pretty sure that’s what the 14-time Major Champion meant… another proud moment of tabloid editing! Of course, Royal Lytham & St Annes had already lauded the USGA’s set-up at Olympic Club and the Open Championship was promising players; “You cannot overpower Lytham, you need to plot your way round it carefully, ever mindful of the errors that await any errant shot.”
Oh, yippee was my immediate reaction… just what we need, a repeat of the snooze-fest the USGA created for our viewing pleasure at US Open last month – there was plenty of room left on the edge of my seat. What Tiger most likely meant is that the addition of the deep under-layer to go with The Ampersand’s 206 bunkers is specifically designed to protect the 7118-yard, par 70 lay-out and will most likely have players bunting hybrids and 4-irons off the tees and leave the early morning West Coast viewers wondering why they set their alarms for the 7 a.m. wake-up call. I really want to be wrong and rise and shine Sunday morning to Phil, Tiger, Bubba, some European Tour guy no-one’s ever heard of, a drunken Irish guy, a sober John Daly, Tom Watson and a 16-year old Japanese amateur slugging it out for the Claret Jug. I know I’ve got a better chance of seeing The Beatles original line-up reunite at The Cavern Club or of crafting a successful career as a sun-brella salesman in the UK but one can always dream. Thankfully, we will at least be without the riveting Miller/Hicks discussions of “muffins in the green” in favour of the delightfully quirky, somewhat insane, recent Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, Peter Aliss who in his brief respites from the BBC, will remind us that Curtis Strange is only surpassed by Nyquil and warm milk as a sleep aid.
Much has been made of the continued inclusion of Royal Lytham & St Annes in The Open Championship rotation because, despite its rich history dating back to the present course’s inception in 1897, many feel its distance from the water and the fact that it is surrounded on 3 sides by housing make it a very poor representation of true links golf. Sigh… Technically this is probably true and for all the basement dwellers who continue to subject the message boards with their whining on this issue… let us move on… and you may now spend every waking hour considering the fate of the ill-named but brilliantly confusing Boston Cream Pie and its position in the pastry-sphere. The Ampersand has produced a litany of great Champions over the years including Bobby Jones (1926), Peter Thomson (1958), Tony Jacklin (1969), Gary Player (1974), the one and only Seve twice (1979, 1988) and most recently David Duval (2001). It is a shot-makers golf course that, despite taking the Driver out of the hands of the big dogs, rewards those with great imagination from the fairway on in. In truth, it didn’t take the Driver out of Seve’s hands but the fact remains – he never saw a temporary car park that he didn’t feel he could make birdie from!
Next week Kelowna, we’ll take a look at the winner, the weather and the week that was at The Open. For now, let me throw my neck out there and put my three picks for the week on the line so we can enjoy a costly guffaw at my expense in 7 days time. The time has finally arrived… Lee Westwood (12-1) wins his first Major and succeeds in not becoming Colin Montgomery… fireworks subsequently explode in a London gets the Olympics, Diamond Jubilee day of National Celebration! Or he misses the cut and I never pick him again. Others for your consideration – Phil the Thrill is great value at 33-1, coming off of 2 solid rounds at Castle Stuart in Inverness and Charl Schwartzel at 50-1 would not be a misplaced $1… assuming one liked that kind of thing… Until next time Kelowna, just remember… no-one is paying good money to see you lay up.