The British Open Championship returns to Muirfield near Edinburgh for the first time since 2002. Ernie Els won the Open that year so he returns to the East Lothian links as defending champion and course defending champion. Els has won four majors and his wins span the years from 1994 to 2012.
Last year at Lytham when the South African birdied the last hole he probably thought it was to finish the event as runner-up. However, Adam Scott bogeyed the last four holes which mean Els won by 1 shot. At the time there were concerns about how Scott would react to wasting a great opportunity to win a major. He responded in the best possible way by winning the US Masters earlier this year.
The Open Championship is the third of four majors on the global golfing schedule. The Masters is always held at Augusta in April. The US Open is the toughest test of golf and Justin Rose’s winning score of one over par indicates that bogey avoidance rather than birdie conversion is the key skill in the national championship of the United States. The PGA Championship takes place in Augusta and like the US Open is rotated around the best courses in America.
Each of the major championships is unique in its own way. The Masters is the only one played on the same course every year, the US Open puts a premium on accuracy over distance, the PGA provides “glories last shot” and the British Open is always played on a links course. The Open is rotated around courses in Scotland, the north west of England and Sandwich on the south coast.
The Open Championship is the oldest of the majors in professional golf. It is the only major held outside the United States and is administered by the R&A, which is the governing body of golf outside America and Mexico. The Open is traditionally played in the third week of July but even during high summer poor weather conditions can play a part in the outcome.
The Open is a 72-hole stroke play tournament with the usual cut after 36 holes which allows the top 70 players and ties to play over the weekend. The US Open has an 18 hole playoff if two or more players are tied after 72 holes, while the Masters and PGA championships are decided by sudden death in the event of a tie. The Open features a four hole play after regulation play which seems to be a good compromise between the extremes in which the other majors are decided when players return the same score over four rounds.
Since 1980 there have been seven multiple winners, the latest before Els being Tiger Woods who has won this championship three times. Harry Vardon is the only player to win the title six times but Tom Watson was a short putt away from emulating that feat when he lost in a play-off to Stewart Cink in 2009. The last English winner was Sir Nick Faldo at Muirfield in 1992 but with Justin Rose winning the US Open the home contingent may feel more confident of breaking that run of non-English winners.
Back next Friday.