Archive for the ‘British Open’ Category

Harry Vardon Gives Way to Bobby Jones

October 12, 2013

Below is an excerpt from a book I am writing called Never Despair: Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Great Champions.

In  1927 the British Open was played over the Old Course at St. Andrews, never one of Harry Vardon’s favorite venues.  Bobby Jones won that year, with a record score of 285.  “What a dramatic little episode that must have been on the third green at St. Andrews,” recorded the Literary Digest,

when Bobby Jones, with his retinue of 5,000 hero worshippers, met old Harry Vardon, who was playing the homeward nine. The correspondent draws a graphic picture of Vardon, conspicuous for his loneliness, swallowed up the milling mob which swarmed in Jones’s wake. What thoughts must have burned through Vardon’s brain as he stood…above his ball, arms outstretched to fend off the rabble which threatened to trample him.

Perhaps Harry recalled the day at Prestwick in 1914, when the thundering herd cheered him to his 6th Open championship.  Vardon knew his time had passed, and when he looked at Jones, he realized here “was one so young and yet who had the game at his finger tips,” innately knowing that “he would be one of the very best golfers ever seen.”  This precocious Jones boy was the vanguard of change, noted the article:

The old order changeth, yielding place to new. Sport can be mercilessly cruel. There is pathos in the picture of Vardon struggling to save his ball as the man-pack surges around the latest Caesar. Few in that thrill-drugged crowd noticed Harry Vardon. Fewer still recognized him if they saw him. Some day even Bobby Jones will know that stilly quiet, the silence that roars with the echoes of vanished ghosts.

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Phil is “The Man”

July 27, 2013

Four years ago my heart was broken when Tom Watson lost the Open after hitting two perfect shots on the last hole.  Last year Ernie soothed some wounds and last Sunday Phil Mickelson made me realize more than ever that golf is a game of fate, and when it is your time, you can’t stop whatever is going to happen from happening.  A month removed from a crushing defeat at Merion, Phil came from 5 back on Sunday to win going away.  After his bogey on #11 he was still four shots back – then the wheels fell off everyone else’s train and he didn’t miss a shot.  Birdie at #13 after a perfect tee shot, birdie at #14 with a long putt, then a fantastic up and down on #16 when a pitch hit just a hair heavy would have left the ball back at his feet.  The guy has nerves of steel.  Then, by his own admission, two of the best 3-woods he had ever hit to the 17th, setting up a 2-putt birdie.  It was all over, except it was Phil.  Would he go all Winged Foot on the 72nd?  No.  A pure hybrid off the tee, then an iron that came five feet from landing in a bunker, but instead bounded up 15 feet from the hole. It was the bounce Tom Watson wanted in 2009.  Then, like Watson on the 72nd at  Pebble in 1982, Phil rolls the putt into the dead center of the cup.  He was the Champion Golfer of the year, and his exploits will now live alongside those of the greats, so dramatic was his charge on the closing holes.  That is what makes the game so great and why I love it’s history so much.  Champions rising to the occasion and forgetting past mistakes.  Good for you Phil.  Well done!

Ernie Wins Another Open Championship

July 23, 2012

Ernie Els shot a great 68 in the final round – including a 32 on the back side, to grab his second Claret Jug.  Adam Scott lost, but he didn’t choke it away.  He was more like Ed Sneed at the 1979 Masters, who bogied the last 3 holes but really didn’t hit terrible shots, he just could make any putts.  I feel badly for Adam, but Ernie has had a lot of his own trials, and he is such a deserving champion –  he hit the ball the best from tee to green and made it happen when he had to.  Ten years between majors and wins in three different decades.  That is truly Hall of Fame stuff from a Hall of Famer.  Way to go!

The Shark’s Bid For History

July 23, 2008

Greg Norman came up short in his attempt to win this year’s British Open, but one has to appreciate what he accomplished.  Here is a guy who has not played competitive golf in years, who last lead a major after 3 rounds in 1996, when he suffered his famous meltdown against Nick Faldo in the Masters.  Twelve years later he shows up and found the talent still inside him, as it is in all great champions, to muster one final hurrah.  What makes it remarkable is that he is semi-retired from the game.  It’s kind of like Byron Nelson winning the 1955 French Open, ten years after retiring from the game, but that was against a lesser field in benign conditions.  On top of that Nelson was only 43. 

The oldest man to win a major was Julius Boros, who caputred the 1968 PGA at the age of 48.  The oldest British Open champion was Old Tom Morris, who was 46 when he won the last of his four Opens – in 1867!  Sam Snead was 52 when he won his last tournament.  So for a golfer over 50 to be so close in this day and age to winning a tournament of any kind is remarkable, let alone the oldest championship in golf.   Norman hung in, leading going into the back nine. 

You have to go back to the 1920 U.S. Open to find such an old warrior ahead at that late stage.  Harry Vardon was 50 then, and nature did him in, as a gale blew across the course and his putting betrayed him.  Norman experienced something of the same fate, but he didn’t shrink from the pressure.  He just succumbed to age and history.  I take my hat off to him, and appreciate his guts to even be there, after all the diappointments in his past.  I wish he could have won, for history’s sake, but his four days at Royal Birkdale will live on, and in that sense he did make history.  Thanks for the great ride.