144th Open Championship – Reflections

 You’ve had all the golf analysis so this is not a report but a reflection on all that took place at St. Andrews last week.  The curtain has closed on another Open Championship, the 144th in fact. It has been a historic championship in so many ways and finally won by American Zach Johnson over the Old Course at St Andrews.
156 players began the quest for the prized Claret Jug on Thursday. Gary Player once said of the jug: “if I had to choose between this and my wife? Well, I’d miss her.” 
 It has always been on my bucket list – to watch the Open begin. It was a special moment to witness as Rod Pampling got the Open underway in front of the R&A Clubhouse at 6.32am. A healthy crowd gathered in perfect weather conditions to watch the opening 3-ball. 

 It was the 29th time St Andrews had hosted the championship and it was clear to see why we return to the home of golf so frequently. The picturesque auld grey toun is unique. It’s a golfing Mecca. As a golfer you haven’t lived until you have been to St Andrews. 

The rebranding of the Open was a huge success. It was unfortunate that the defending champion Rory McIlroy was not able to play given how heavily he promoted the event. But perhaps he wasn’t missed as much as we thought given Monday’s incredible drama. The extra capacity blue grandstands looked magnificent across the vast links. Spectators were given the best experience of the Old Course yet. The only disappointment was of the empty seats in the lower half of the sensational 18th grandstand at points throughout the championship. 

 St Andrews is a very special place. Bobby Jones once said: “If I had ever been set down in any one place and told I was to play there, and nowhere else, for the rest of my life, I should have chosen the Old Course at St. Andrews.” Unfortunately for the record number of spectators the Old Course does not offer many good viewing spots. The double fairways and greens make it almost impossible to see a golf ball roll over the hallowed turf. Following a group around the 18 is simply not possible. The ever increasing media entourage reduces spectator viewing further. No one to the right of the first green witnessed Spieth’s opening birdie because of the school of media personnel. 

 That said the improvement of on-course technology at the Open is to be welcomed. The wifi hotspots to access the Open app and promote the championship as a spectator is exciting. The televisions in the tented village enhance the spectating of those away from the course. Although there are now fewer jobs available on the leaderboards the electronic scoreboards around the course are fantastic at providing up-to-date coverage. 

 Goodbyes were said to Nick Faldo and Tom Watson at the 144th Open Championship. Faldo’s birdie birdie finish made for a grandstand exit after an opening round to forget. He wore his Sunday special cashmere jumper from his victory in 1990 as he took to the Swilcan Bridge. It is yet to be seen whether he will play at Troon and Birkdale before his exemption runs out. One thing is for certain – it’s goodbye to St. Andrews. Tom Watson leaves the Open Championship completely. If anyone deserves a lifetime exemption it’s Tom. Five time winner alongside Peter Thomson, Watson, sits one Claret Jug behind Harry Vardon. He came within a putt of that record at Turnberry in 2009 at the age of 59. He was cheered and applauded all the way from the first tee on Thursday to the 18th green on Friday night. And in the darkness before 10pm he made one final stroke. Nobody wanted him to leave that night. He is the Open Championship’s American Ambassador. 
   
And let’s not forget the official starter Ivor Robson who leaves the first tee after 41 consecutive Open’s. Having announced over 8,000 players on to the tee in the Open Championship he leaves a void in one of the most treasured roles. Hopefully a suitable replacement will be sought to continue the his fine style.

The weather did not oblige leading to a Monday finish for the first time since 1988. Sergio Garcia tweeted asking if he could play the championship for another 360 days. Judging by the Monday crowd they would have obliged. Irish amateur Paul Dunne lead going into the final round alongside Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day. His status was short lived as he fell under the pressure. 
The Spieth slam ended at St Andrews. Costly mistakes at the 8th and 17th ended his quest to win all four majors in the same year. He came within a few inches of a playoff after a magnificent putt from the Valley of Sin on 18. Jordan Spieth was visibly disappointed along with playing partner Jason Day after both men missed chances to force their way into a playoff.
A four hole playoff between Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen and eventual winner Zach Johnson was played over the 1st, 2nd, 17th & 18th. 

 Peter Dawson leaves his role as R&A Chief Executive in September. On his final prize giving he presented the cherished Claret Jug to Zach Johnson. 

 

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