The Open Championship has given us a lot of exciting finishes over the years including Tom Watson almost winning at the age of 58, John Daly’s thrilling playoff win over Constantino Rocca and of course the magic duel last year between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. What’s your favourite Open Championship memory?
Chris McNair, Director of Operations, Emerald Hills: Looking back at all of The Open Champions over the last 40 years, there are a multitude of incredible stories. Tom Watson’s five victories, could have been closer to eight when you analyze the leaderboards, and Paul Lawrie’s title was brilliantly won in a multi hole playoff, but is understandably overshadowed by the Van de Velde collapse that basically showed that Tour pro’s are human. I’m going to go with a recent victor however, as the story surrounding the player, where he came from, what he had endured, and what he went on to accomplish afterwards, put the cherry on top for this charismatic pro. The 2011 Champion, Darren Clarke, is my choice. The conditions were classically tough for the Open that year, and after 20 years of trying, the recent passing of his wife, and the upcoming captaincy of the Ryder Cup team, made this victory something special. Not to mention that he is beloved by his fellow tour mates, which gave him an even larger army of cheers when he got to hold up the Claret Jug.
Dan Fatigati, Glen Abbey Member: The 2000 Open was one of my favourites. Tiger’s dominance was incredible. To play a links style course where bad bounces can be the norm and Tiger does not hit one bunker . . . out of this world and finishes 8 strokes clear of the field.
Dave Gamble, Blue Springs Member: My favourite story line from past Open Championships is Ben Hogan in 1953. It might be a bit odd to have my favourite memory come from a tournament that was played 22 years before I was born, but I do have some rationale. 1953 was Hogan’s first and only appearance at the Open Championship. With all the anticipation and pressure to deliver at The Open, that year’s reigning Masters and US Open champion did just that and won by four shots. In the process, he left such an impression with golf in Scotland that eventually they had the 6th hole at Carnoustie renamed from “Long” to “Hogan’s Alley” – quite an accomplishment for a guy that after a 1949 car accident was thought to never be able to walk again, let alone play golf.
Stephanie Landers-Fenn, Director of Operations, Eagle Ridge: My favourite memory was Greg Norman’s Open Championship win at Turnberry in 1986. The Shark was dominant and at his best.
Howard Glassman, Humble & Fred Show, Glencairn Member: My most memorable Open moment is the Van de Velde disaster. It was excruciating and mesmerizing and unforgettable. Whenever I think of that day at Carnoustie, I’m reminded of the vagaries of this impossible game and take some solace in the fact that even at the highest level, pressure can make anyone look foolish. When I’ve seen it again over the years I keep thinking this time it might turn out differently but it never does and there he is again with his socks off trying to hit that shot from the burn and then it all goes away…slowly yet quickly and the chance of a lifetime evaporates before our very eyes.
The characteristics of classic Open Championships and links courses include firm and fast conditions and windy weather. Golf fans are split on their preferences. Some want to see benign conditions that allow the players a chance to “just play golf” while others prefer to see a survival test where players have to battle the elements as well as each other. Which way would you like to see it?
McNair: No doubt about it, I want the weather to play a role in who wins. I even quite enjoy seeing how the weather changes throughout the day, making the players pray for an early or late draw depending on course location and weather forecasts. It can be a true case of ‘luck of the draw’. Having played overseas on true links courses, it’s an absolute joy to see how these top players navigate themselves around the courses, posting scores that are thoroughly impressive. There’s almost no chance for a foreign player to have any success in this event unless they spend the time playing and practicing on these courses, in those conditions. Honestly, it’s the way the game was meant to be played, and I love it.
Fatigati: The Open championship is as much about the weather as it is the course. Not sure Britain ever really has benign weather. Watching the best players in the world deal with the British weather is what really separates the Open from all the other majors.
Gamble: Survival test all the way. I like witnessing the extreme weather in The Open, and by witnessing I mean observing it at home on the couch in HD with a morning coffee. From time to time its fun to watch guys at the top of their games just seem to have everything NOT work out once in a while, like Tiger’s 81 at Muirfield in 2002. The tee times players get can play a huge role if weather moves in for part of a day. In that respect it’s great to see who the stars align for and who can withstand the grind.
Landers-Fenn: The Open Championship is the one major that I enjoy seeing the wind gust and the course play hard and fast.
Glassman: I just came back from watching the Scottish Open and I can tell you first hand that early in the week it was a much different golf course then the one they played on Saturday. I think that was too much. 4,5 club wind and raining sideways gives over good golf to good luck. I’d like to see windy conditions with out the slashing rain then we’ll see who can control their ball versus who gets the best breaks.
Who is your pick to win the Claret Jug this year and do you have a sentimental favourite or dark horse long-shot pick?
McNair: Shane Lowry is going to win the Open this year. He’s been knocking on the door in majors for a while, and why not have another breakthrough this year to go along with Sergio and Koepka. Sentimental pick? Same as always: Lee Westwood. Come on Lee, you could be the next Darren Clarke type of champion with so many wishing you would finally win a major. My dark horse also remains the same, the once heralded Richie Ramsay. He was the brave country’s great hope as a junior; this win would make him the Flower of Scotland for many a year.
Fatigati: Picking the winner of the Claret Jug is very difficult as so much will depend on the weather and a player’s draw. Rickie Fowler has been in contention a few times and seems to enjoy links golf, so I am hoping that he finally wins his first major.
Gamble: I’ll go with Jon Rahm to win this year for the simple fact that Jon is one of the players that seem to be at the top of his game right now. My sentimental favourite is Lee Westwood. A marathon of a career that has seen him hold the world’s number one ranking by dethroning Tiger Woods in 2010. Lee has spent over 300 weeks in the world top ten rankings and now leads in a statistic that I’m sure nobody wants to have his name attached: Most Starts By Active Players In Majors Without A Victory. At this stage of his career, it is very unlikely that we will see Westwood get that elusive major but Sergio got the monkey off his back in 2017, so why not Westy?
Landers-Fenn: My pick for The Champion Golfer of the Year is Justin Thomas. My dark horse long shot pick is Lee Westwood.
Glassman: Long shot? Rapha Cabrera Bello. I met him last week and I believe he’s ready to win more and maybe even this week. Sentimental? I’d like to see Phil come back after last year’s epic dual with Stenson and win it by a couple.