Here’s a montage of my week at Hoylake covering the Open for Fox Sports Asia. It’s got a few bits that are quite comical!
Tom Watson is arguably the greatest links player of all-time. He won The Open in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, and 1983. In addition, he lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink at the 2009 Open Championship at the age of 59. He is in the field for this year’s Open, and the R&A has extended a special exemption for Watson to play in the 2015 Open at St. Andrews.
Every venue visited by The Open has a tremendous history of championship golf. In 2017, Royal Birkdale will host the Open, and Carnoustie will host the championship in 2018. The R&A made the announcement along with Tom Watson at The Greenbrier.
After Phil Mickelson’s close call at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, many assumed (myself included) that given his age (43 now), it was his last shot at finally conquering his career-long battle with links golf.
But, with all of Phil’s glorious wins and disappointing losses, we should’ve known never to count him out to pull off the remarkable — whether it be foolish or thrilling. Naturally, Phil captured the Claret Jug in style and putting on a sublime show on his way to a five-under 66, three-under total.
A baffling fact: Tiger Woods has won 14 majors, but none have come without at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Woods, who started the day trailing Lee Westwood by two shots, stumbled on his way to a final-round, three-over 74. On his way to a tied for sixth finish at the Open Championship, Tiger was never one of many that was a real factor.
From the get-go, he never looked comfortable on the greens — which several players, including Woods, said were slower than the previous days — three-putting the first hole.
Since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Lee Westwood has been in the top six after 54 holes at a major championship eight times. For one reason or another, he hasn’t managed to get over that line and win one. Once again, the 40-year-old Englishman is in that position after firing a solid one-under 70 to take a two-shot lead over Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan.
I’ve seen Westwood in the hot seat at majors on Saturdays before and I will say that he’s never appeared as relaxed and comfortable as he did today.
Hideki Matsuyama became the second player this year to receive a one-shot penalty for slow play at a major. During the third round of the Open Championship, Matsuyama, who was paired with Johnson Wagner, was put on the clock on the 15th because they were 15 minutes over the scheduled time and out of position with the group ahead.
Matsuyama took one minute, 12 seconds on his first putt on the same hole and the twosome was still four minutes out of position.
Miguel Angel Jimenez enjoys a fine cigar and a glass or five of Rioja, and he has the best pre-warmup stretching routine on the planet. He’s also leading the Open at the halfway mark. Jimenez, who teed off in perhaps the toughest conditions of the day, survived two brutally difficult tests of golf, posting an even-par 71 after opening with three-under 68 at Muirfield.
The greens at Muirfield were watered on Thursday night, so they were softer on Friday morning for the second round of the Open, but grew progressively firmer and faster throughout the day, making it difficult to adjust at times for the pros. The wind also switched directions, making the course play quite differently.
Woods, who shot two-under 69 in the first round after a shaky start, battled his way to an even-par 71. Once again, he put quite a bit of pressure on his putting, which, for the most part, was solid.
Gambling on golf feels a bit like throwing away your money, but it’s legal and almost part of the culture in the UK — and you know what they say: WHEN IN ROME.
It’s also something I’ve always wanted to do the past three Opens I’ve covered, but the stars never aligned properly for me to get into a betting parlor. Besides, I would’ve needed some guidance, so that’s probably part of the reason why I never made it. Until yesterday.