Thursday, July 19, 2007

If It's Not Scottish, It's CRAP

The baseball trip is over, and the Great American Posting Bash can commence. I'll have a big post about the trip ready in a day or two, once I get a bit of time to look back and collect my thoughts. This post will have it all --- sports, comedy, celebrity encounters, wistfulness, and much more. I may even provide a few pictures if I get them from my tripmates in time. I really need to break down and get a camera one of these days. I used to take pictures all the time back in my student newspaper days. I once took a shot of the world longest nipple-hair record holder and a fellow editor shirtless and comparing their respective chesticular strands. For the record, I wasn't shirtless during this photo shoot. Was I pantsless? I plead the fifth.

But in the meantime, I'm turning my attention to another sport. The British Open begins today, and while I love the Open, this year will be particularly interesting due to the venue. Carnoustie. a.k.a. Car-nasty. a.k.a. Potentially The Hardest Course In The World. I say 'potentially,' since the R&A seem to have decided that the 1999 British Open (the last one played at Carnoustie) was too difficult and have listened to too many complaints from the players over the last seven years. Ergo, the R&A are going out of their way to make sure Carnoustie is more 'fair' this time around, with wider fairways and rough that isn't deep enough to lose a midget.


I'm not one to jump on the 'major championships should be a grueling chore for the golfers' bandwagon. The U.S. Open is becoming increasingly less fun to watch each year as it is devolves into a contest to see who can swim underneath an outhouse and surface with the least amount of feces attached to them. The barons of Augusta National are toughening up the Masters to remove the course's ability to surrender those three or four-birdie rushes that made past tournaments so exciting. Only the PGA Championship remains as a major where more than a few players might actually get into the red numbers.

But the Open Championship is different. For one, Carnoustie is difficult because the course itself is naturally very difficult. It isn't like one of these U.S. Open courses like Winged Foot or Oakmont where you have a pretty tough course and then the USGA swoops in to turn it into a near-death experience. You could leave Carnoustie alone and it would still be a tough challenge on its best day. It only becomes easier if the effort is consciously made to make it easier, and if the R&A does that, it is removing bullets from the most dangerous weapon left in its arsenal. The Open rota is far from being the toughest challenge to the modern golfer. St. George's, Birkdale and Muirfield still have some teeth to them, but only if the weather acts up. Troon, Turnberry, Hoylake, St. Andrews and Lytham are all on the verge of being overwhelmed unless those particular course-keepers get more creative in making the courses into more of a test. Carnoustie is the last bastion of the truly difficult Open venue. Winged Foot and Oakmont think they're tough with their +5 and +6 scores? Ha! Carnoustie had a +6 winner in Paul Lawrie in 1999, and that was before it was even fashionable. That tournament was fun to watch because unlike the U.S. Open slogs, it was the course and weather that was doing the beating, not an overzealous groundskeeping crew. It took two days for anyone to shoot under par. Sergio Garcia left the 18th green literally in tears after missing the cut by approximately 230 shots. Rod Pampling was the first-round leader and he ended up missing the cut. It was awesomely chaotic. Jean Van de Velde's historic collapse on the 72nd hole seemed less stunning than it was fitting to such a bizarre tournament.

Now, apparently the trouble in 1999 was that extra-wet weather in the spring had made the rough grow just unforgivably thick. Perhaps in the interest of protecting nervous breakdowns, the R&A can make sure that nothing ridiculous happens to the course. The goal should be to make sure Carnoustie remains at its baseline of difficulty, rather than having nature conspire to make things just too outside the pale. But any talk of making it easier or less demanding should be forbidden. To paraphase Leo McGarry, let Carnoustie be Carnoustie. I don't want to read an article about Phil Mickelson playing a practice round and Carnoustie and gushing about how 'he didn't know what a great course this was.' I want to read an article about how Phil is whining about how he doesn't know if his bad wrist will hold up under such harsh conditions, and he'll have to take another few weeks off to rehab it by lifting burgers to his mouth.

Now, onto the Open picks. Tiger Woods. That is all. He's won the last two Opens, he finished in the top 10 at the last Carnoustie Open and he's got to be kind of pissed off after finishing second in the last two majors. I have to love how sportswriters interpreted those last two finishes as Tiger being 'off his game,' or perhaps 'missing his killer instinct.' Haven't sportswriters figured out yet that there is never anything wrong with Tiger Woods and he's just much, much, much better than any other golfer? Maybe he was a little distracted since he had a baby on the way. Woods is the massive favourite to win this week. And if he doesn't win, then he still has a chance to become the first man to finish second at all four majors in the same year. That'd be one for the history books.

Other possible picks include Justin Rose (playing as well as anyone, a Brit has to win this tourney again one of these years), Jim Furyk (has done everything but win this year, his grinding style can work well at Carnoustie), Lucas Glover (the sort of semi-anonymous American pro who has done well in British Opens as of late, as USAers have won all but two of the last 12 Opens) and Paul Lawrie (ok, no chance, but the poor schmuck deserves a chance to actually bask in the glory of being Open champion, rather than being known as the guy who was handed a major by a zany Frenchman).

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