By: Pro From Dover
The Masters Tournament is special. It’s played on familiar, fabled, hallowed ground at a time of year when we in the Northeast are beginning to believe we have survived another winter. It gets the juices flowing for the upcoming season. The British Open is historic, cranky and fun to watch and the PGA Championship tends to be an afterthought.
But the United States Golf Association Open Championship is by far our favorite major for many reasons that are almost impossible to rank. So, in no order of importance, here’s a smorgasbord of wonderful things about the Open.
- The first one was played just down the road at Newport (RI) Golf and Country Club in 1895. It’s old and steeped in tradition.
- Four of the next 13 Championships were played at Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, MA on the north shore. Myopia remains a wonderful golf course and there are some who contend the par 3 9th is one of the finest short holes in the world.
- Brae Burn in Newton, The Country Club in Brookline and Worcester Country Club have hosted the tournament so it has deep local roots.
- Public access courses host the Open which means anyone can play a championship venue. The 109th Championship is being played on Long Island, NY at Bethpage. Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines are in the rotation and other “munis” are coming.
- The USGA is making a concerted effort to stage the event a public courses and has partnered with locals to invest in the redesign and rebuilding of some sites.
- Anyone, amateur or professional, with a handicap index of 1.4 or better can enter qualifying. There were close to 9000 entries this year.
- There are only two rounds of qualifying. An 18 hole local event and a 36 hole regional tournament. Get hot for 54 holes and you’re in playing with the best.
- Rocco Mediate, who took Tiger through a 19 hole playoff in the 2008 Championship at Torrey Pines, made it into the tournament by virtue of winning a playoff in his regional qualifier.
- The importance of the Championship to the competitors, and thereby the pressure, is reflected in startling collapses. Arnold Palmer played 32 Opens and won only once in 1960. In 1966 he lost a six stroke lead at Olympic in San Francisco on the final day, was tied by Billy Casper and lost by five strokes the next day in a playoff. Both Colin Montgomery and Phil Mickelson have gagged away championships on the 72nd hole.
- The final round is usually played on Fathers Day which earns men automatic immunity to watch for as long as they want!
- $7,500,000 prize money. $1,350,000 for the winner versus $150 to the winner in 1895.
- Even par is a terrific score and it would have won three of the last four Championships.
- After some embarrassingly low scores, the USGA began to toughen up the courses in the past decade and it’s entertaining to watch top players butcher the occasional hole. Fairways are narrowed, rough is grown and greens are quickened. The players actually look like us sometimes.
- Because of its popularity, television is coverage is almost door to door for all four rounds and any playoff. The 19 hole playoff last year drew 7.7 million viewers…on a Monday!
Alas, nothing is perfect, including the Open. We wish they would abondon the 18 hole playoff and adopt the system used in The Open (that’s the British Open Championship) with a four hole, cumulative score playoff followed by sudden death, if necessary.
It starts today. The forecast is for wet weather which means Bethpage will be in full growl. Enjoy.