Thoughts on the 2018 Open Championship from Martin vousden

Thought for the Day
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact

What an Open that was
Once the dust settles and we are able to look back with a little more objectivity, the 147th Open Championship just concluded at Carnoustie will be remembered as dramatic, exciting and tremendous to watch but not quite up there with the all-time greats. For that accolade, you need a titanic head-to-head clash, such as Watson and Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977, or Stenson and Mickelson two years ago at Royal Troon. Alternatively, you could cite Jordan Spieth last year, whose cool thinking and astonishing brilliance at the death saw him play four holes – the 14th to 17th – in five under par.

Nevertheless, the 2018 Open will be remembered for many good things, not least of which are:
A Reminder that good guys don’t always come last

Franceso ‘Frankie’ Molinari is rightly one of the most popular players on the European Tour, even if he will now spend considerably more time in the US. Quiet, unassuming but with a wry, cheeky sense of humour, he is unfailingly courteous. Always a superb ball-striker he was previously held back by a dubious putting stroke – his brother Edoardo was much better on the greens – but he has turned himself into one of the most reliable golfers with a flat stick that there is. Also, his coach Dennis Pugh is another of the nice guys and to see one of his players capture the claret jug will bring pleasure to just about everyone who knows him. Not to be forgotten, either, is that on the last day Frankie was paired with Tiger but did not allow that to faze him in the slightest.

Tiger is (almost) back
After five years of physical and mental anguish, and eight without a major on his CV, it was heartening to see the old boy, formerly known as The Man, back in the frame on a majors Sunday. He made a couple of mistakes on the inward nine that he wouldn’t have done in his pomp but then, chasing down a front-runner has never been his style; he likes to lead from the front and watch others self-destruct in his wake. This week, though, he demonstrated that he still has the game to win majors, even if his former swaggering confidence in himself is not quite there yet.

A good golf course doesn’t need to be tricked up
All credit to the R&A which, recognising that Carnoustie offers a stern challenge, allowed decent width fairways, a substantial area of semi-rough to the side of them, and watered the greens. We were fortunate that this spring and summer’s glorious sunshine has not been followed by heavy rain to thicken up the rough but nevertheless, the R&A sets up a course that is demanding but playable and is completely unfazed by the fact that 27 golfers finished under par. We could but hope that the USGA would take note when setting up courses for the US Open but those numbskulls wouldn’t recognise common sense if it bit them in the backside.

Nothing beats the sight of the best in the world slugging it out
Okay, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson et al missed the cut but at various stages of the final round Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth all led or were within a stroke of the lead and that’s not a bad rollcall of talent.

‘Unknown’ Americans always make a mark
Every year, it seems, frighteningly talented American golfers, virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic, make a real run at snatching the claret jug. This time around it was Xander Shauffele, Kevin Kisner and Kevin Chappell, the first two of whom finished tied second. Not bad for unknowns.

There isn’t just one way to do it
Eddie Pepperell started the last round at one-under par knowing he had no chance to win, bearing in mind the superb array of talent ahead of him. Hungover – not, he says, because he drank copiously the night before but because he’s a bit of a lightweight – he freewheeled around The Open’s toughest challenge, shot a best-of-day four-under par 67, hauled himself into tied 6th and trousered £247,000. Way to go Eddie.

There can be redemption
A disappointing two-over par 73 was not how he wanted to finish, but following rounds of 69, 71 and 70, Danny Willett has hopefully shown that he is almost back to his best. After the miserable two years he has endured since donning the green jacket at The Masters, which has been almost as painful to watch as it must have been to endure, it is good to see him performing again as we know he can.

Quote of the Week
Golf is the only game that pits the player against an opponent, the weather, the minutest details of a large chunk of local topography, and his own nervous system, all at the same time
Mike Seabrook

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