The Weight of The Open ChampionshipWednesday, July 13, 2011 12:00
“So, who’s going to win The Open this year?” It was a simple question from my friend, Mike, as we were lining up putts waiting for our tee time. “I like McIlroy’s chances,” I said, as I pushed a putt outside a thirty foot breaker. ”Not even close,” chipped in Tom who was the third in our foursome. ”If the wind is blowing and the rain falls, I think Royal St. George´s puts the brakes on Rory’s game. I think that Luke Donald or Ian Poulter has an excellent chance this year.” I nodded; intent on getting the feel of the greens with another putt that this time curled to within two inches of the cup.
“You’re all wrong!” Geoff exclaimed. He was picking his ball from a cup nearby; his confidence embolden by the fact that his game this year has been spectacular. “This year’s winner is going to be an American. Remember 2003 when Ben Curtis won at St. George. He was ranked what… 390-something? It’s America’s time to shine. I’m thinking Jeff Overton.”
I thought about that for a moment and quickly dismissed it from my mind. I’d love to see Overton become the next Ben Curtis but he is ranked 58th in the world, not 390-something; for that matter, I like to see Phil win the jug. But then, Phil always struggles at The Open.
Americans have been taking it on the chin lately. It’s been the young, Euro-South African guns that have shot their way onto the winner’s platform with regularity and it seems that, for the majors, the trend is growing. Maybe Bubba or Dustin has a chance. Steve Stricker or David Duval would make for a great story; however, nothing like the Shark’s win in 1993 – that was four rounds of golfing magic. Maybe Sergio’s got it in him this year… Martin Kaymer? Doubtful… Nick Watney? Could be… he is American.
Mike said he would like to see Luke Donald or Lee Westwood claim this year’s prize. Graeme McDowell is another favorite of mine. One thing about all three, they learned their trade on the American collegiate circuit; so, can we call them American-Europeans? I shook my head and grinned inwardly.
“Is Rory taking Tiger place?” I offered up, as I headed towards my bag. ”No way!” Geoff said emphatically . “His win at Congressional was nothing compared to Tiger’s at Pebble Beach; and while I’m not a big Tiger fan, McIlroy still has a long way to go to catch Tiger.” “He has the potential,” I replied, as we all started walking to the first tee. ”All those young guys have potential,” said Tom. ”You’re right; it looks like Rory has the best chance this week.” All eyes turned towards Mike as he looked up from his iPhone. ¨The bookie´s odds are 8/1 that he´ll win.¨ Yes, there is a lot riding on Rory’s shoulders this week – the money, the media, the pressure of being in Tiger´s shadow – the weight of another Open Championship.
We all stood there contemplating the possibilities. Mike broke the silence, “Gary Player said McIlroy’s going to be the next one to capture the Grand Slam.” I took my driver out of the bag and walked toward the tee box. ”Maybe,” I replied. ”However, I don’t think Mr. Jones is too worried about that; nor, for that matter, is Jack worrying about Tiger anymore.” I paused, put my ball and tee in the ground, turned to my fellow brethren, and asked with a big smile, “Now, how many strokes are we talking here?”
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