Thursday, July 19, 2007

TSE Week in Golf - The [British] Open Championship

The British Open Championship is well on its way as I type this, a fact that I only recently figured out, what with Carnoustie being five hours ahead of us here in the States. That said, I probably should have written this yesterday. But I was too lazy to do work, both here and at work so here we are.

Awfully boring tangents aside, The British Open is the year's third Major championship and we're coming off of two majors that have left a lot of people, myself included, wanting. First it was Zach "Jesus Jesus Jesus" Johnson winning at Augusta. Then it was the collapse of the field and the lone, chain-smoking Argentine on tour besting The US Open. So here we are, at Carnoustie for the first time since 1999's debacle (more on that later). Needless to say, things have changed a little bit in the last 8 years.

The fairways that seemed about as wide as my arm in 1999 have been widened. The rough that was about as high as the television tower has been cut. The wee burn that gave way to the greatest collapse in golf history is still there but after 1999, I doubt we'll ever see the kind of cringing delight that was Jean Van de Velde's demise 8 years ago. Simply put, it looks like the biggest factor, as is the case with most British Opens, will be the weather.

On Wednesday, it was sunny, calm and perfect golf weather, especially for the links-style of course that lay ahead of this year's participants. For round one, however, the classic weather of the British Isles, of which all golf fans are aware exists during late July, has returned. Cold and rainy was day one at Carnoustie, requiring the golfers to layer their clothing and even forcing Tiger into a pair of mittens between shots. This weather is supposed to continue into the weekend: welcome to Scotland in July.

Van de Velde's collapse on the 72nd hole in 1999 is still one of my favorite moments in golf history and provided some of the more lasting images from the tournament. Imagine, needing a double to win the Open and you card a +3. I still get a kick out of Rick Reilly's take on the end of the 1999 Open today, which is why the Open is such an important tournament. 8 years later we're still talking about Van de Velde. We still remember Daly's win at St. Andrews in 1995. Duval getting his major before his career went to hell in 2001. And Ostrander, Ohio native Ben Curtis in 2003. Tom Watson's utter domination of the Open in the 1970s and 1980s. Jack at St. Andrews...golfers and golf fans alike remember all of these things from this tournament.

So who's your winner this weekend? The obvious choice (go ahead and read any preview that's been published recently) is Tiger Woods, in search of his third consecutive Claret Jug. He has consecutive runners-up this year so a win certainly seems like it's due. So save for Tiger, who else can win this thing? To the leaderboard we go.

As of 1:00pm EST, your leaders are Paul McGinley (in the clubhouse with a 67) and Sergio Garcia who's matched McGinley's -4 through 12 holes. Both of these players are capable, but let's face it: you always see a name like McGinley's or Marcus Brier's (-3, 68) on the top page this early. Of those three, I'd stick with Sergio, unless he starts trolling for gallery ass again.

As for El Tigre? He's sitting pretty with a 2-under 69 (giggity), right where he wants to be. Though he's gotten some help in the form of a free drop early in the round and a 90-foot (!!) birdie toward the end of the round. Lephty is also under par on his round, at -1 so far.

My pick for the week is K.J. Choi. So far this year, he's won tournaments hosted by the likes of Jack Nicklaus (The Memorial) and Tiger Woods (The National), so it makes sense that his next win may be hosted by the Royal and Ancient. In round 1, Choi matched Tiger at -2.

The weekend at Carnoustie awaits...

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