It was a thrilling Open Championship. Golf fans were treated to a Tiger run and a historically great Sunday leaderboard. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from another week in golf. Honestly, almost everything about the Open was great. So here we go…
The Good: The Open Championship
The Open Championship is the best golf tournament of the year, yes better than the Masters. It’s been building momentum over the last decade and this year’s thrilling Sunday was its coronation.
The essence of the Open’s greatness is more about what they don’t do than what they do. Their rota courses have delivered for decades and for the most part aren’t tampered with. The course that tourists play in the spring is the same course the world’s best see in July. What you see is what you get. If the wind blows, scores will be high, if it’s calm, scores will be low. Greens are kept at reasonable speeds, allowing for more interesting pins, and the golf courses allow for a wide range of players and skills to thrive. It’s pure golf, the way the game was intended to be played.
Good: Carnoustie and its presentation
Before this year, Carnoustie was my least favorite Open venue. Memories of 1999 jaded me. The bowling alley fairways surrounded by thick fescue led to chip out after chip out. This year’s presentation was spectacular in every way. The summer drought led to beautiful browned out fairways that rolled nearly as fast as the greens. The rough was wispy, balls were easy to find. The rough allowed for recovery but was unpredictable. We saw spectacular shots from it, but also saw its teeth when players tried to do too much (Tiger’s Sunday back 9). It resulted in a championship test that required supreme precision and thought to score. We saw players trot out different game plans; some tried to overpower it, others tried to lay back. A combination of both proved to be the right formula. Power was still a tremendous advantage, but it came with penalties for misses. The green speeds were kept at a speed that allowed for interesting tucked pins and a palatable pace of play. Carnoustie’s pot bunkers proved to be real hazards. They struck fear in players’ minds, their faces telling the story when a wayward ball bounded towards one. What’s sad is that the appearance and conditions of Carnoustie would send American tournament directors sprinting for the irrigation boxes.
The most admirable aspect of Carnoustie is its simplicity. It doesn’t have the ocean views or jaw dropping sand dunes of many of its neighbors, it’s relatively flat, simple architecture. It’s remarkably hard for the world’s best players while remaining playable for the regular Joe. Carnoustie’s conditioning and course should be what every American golf course strives to be, not Augusta National.
Good: Red hot Frank
With Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in contention, Molinari wasn’t the winner most fans (myself included) wanted, but he was the most deserving. He played flawless golf on the weekend, 36 holes of bogey free golf en route to a two shot win. Every aspect of Molinari’s game clicked like we saw a couple week’s earlier at Quicken Loans. What I find most impressive about Molinari is his development as a player. He has transformed his biggest weakness, short game and putting into a weapon. Getting better gets harder at every level and Molinari has been able to do that in his 30’s.
Good: Tiger Woods’ comeback
Sunday was the first time since 2013 that I believed Tiger Woods was going to win a golf tournament. The bunker shot on the 10th hole brought back all the feels and belongs with some of his greatest of all time.
Unfortunately, Tiger was undone down the stretch by some poor tee shots and decision making. Long term, Sunday was a huge step in Tiger finding the winner’s circle. For most, you learn in golf through failure. Tiger never really had this problem in the first part of his career, he just won. After essentially 4 years away from the game, he is having to regain his competitive chops. Falling short yesterday with the tournament in his hands was an essential step to his comeback. My guess is that the next time he is in the lead on the back 9, he triumphs and is able to draw from yesterday’s failure. And yes, there will be another back 9 on Sunday lead.
The Bad: The Ryder Cup venues
Watching the Open made me sad about the European Ryder Cup venues. The Ryder Cup is the most captivating event in golf. The team format allows it to be successful despite dismal golf courses. Running down the recent list of European host sites is disturbing: 2016 Gleneagles, 2012 Celtic Manor, 2008 K Club, 2004 Belfry. This year’s venue bears a closer resemblance to the TPC Southwind than Carnoustie. Better host courses would only make it a better event. The commercialization of the event is probably to blame. Looking back at the 60’s, the host courses were Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s, Royal Birkdale and Muirfield. Why doesn’t that happen anymore?
Good: The Ryder Cup teams
Both teams are absolutely stacked. You could go 20 deep on each and not find a weak link. There are a few lingering questions heading into the season’s stretch run. Rankings
Will Furyk go young or old?
Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau certainly have played their way into the discussion, but Tiger, Kuchar, Mickelson and Zach Johnson are on the outside looking in.
Will someone make a 2016 Ryan Moore-like run through the FedEx Cup?
With so many names to choose from, a run from a player off the Ryder Cup radar could bump a superstar from this year’s team. If I had to pick one player that could make a strong run the remainder of the season it would be Kevin Kisner. Until this week’s Open it had been a tough 2018 for Kiz, look for the strong play to continue.
The Euro vets, who makes it and who doesn’t?
Right now, longtime European stalwarts Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson are on the outside looking in. Who makes it? I can’t imagine any way that Garcia, Poulter and Stenson don’t make the team.
What to do with Thomas Pieters?
The star of the 2016 Ryder Cup has had a tough 2018 campaign. His play has been trending up, but will it be enough to warrant a captain’s pick?
The Ugly: The professional golf schedule ahead…
Nothing like coming off the high of a spectacular Open that played firm and fast and backing it up with Glen Abbey to Firestone to Bellerive. These golf courses are pretty much the opposite of everything I just wrote about Carnoustie and the Open.
The Good: Morning Golf
Porath has hammered this point on the pod, but it needs re-stating: Golf in the early morning is great. Love turning on the TV shortly after waking up and concluding by noon.
The Bad: Blade collars.
Look, I love Tiger. But blade collars need to make like a tree and leave.