Thoughts from Royal Birkdale

Club Blue Olive arranges golfing holidays

146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale

What a final round that was by Jordan Spieth! After starting the day 3 shots ahead of the field and then frittering away 3 shots in the first 4 holes of the final round the signs were ominous. Was he losing his bottle? The putts that were so secure over the first 3 days were not dropping. And then a remarkable turnaround in Hole 13 that took nearly 30 minutes to complete put the fire in Spieth’s belly once again and after coming away with a bogey 5 when most players would have re-teed and come away with possibly a 6, more likely a 7, the three times Major winner was on a roll and wrapped up his first Open Championship over Holes 14 – 17 to win by 3 shots from Matt Kuchar.

Should past Open champions be allowed to keep playing in the Open when they can’t compete?

This is a question recently put in the golfing media.

Golf as we know, is a sport heaped in history, tradition and etiquette. It is therefore no surprise to many “older” watchers and players of this great game that the R&A allows past Open champions to play in the competition each year until they are 60 years old.

But should they? Some people are questioning whether this tradition is out of date and valuable places should be given to current, competitive golfers who have “more of a chance” to do well.

Clearly a lot of golfers who know about the game and travel big distances to watch the Open each year enjoy seeing their idols from the past, or the golfer who “made them take the game up”, in action. Likewise, it must be a great experience for young golfers who have made it to an Open competition on merit to meet past champions, some who will undoubtedly be legends of the game.

But if golf is to progress with the younger generation taking up the game which in turn provides valuable income for golf clubs around the country to thrive…or in some cases survive, then surely this exemption rule could and should be modified.

Some say there should be a Senior Open championship but this denies the chance for players and spectators to rub shoulders with past champions and also dilutes the history of this great championship, the oldest and some would argue the most prestigious in the world.

There is also the question of a player’s pride in this question. There are some past champions who turn up each year and it might be their only competitive game of the year! But there are also other past champions, entitled to play, who simply don’t want their past achievements to be belittled by propping up the leader board for two days and missing the cut!

An exemption for 5 years after winning might be a more acceptable exemption period. After this, past Champions will always be welcome at the Open but if they are not qualified by way of their competitive golfing exploits on the course over the prior 12 months then access to play in the championship would be denied.

Great champions will always be remembered for their achievements and therefore will always be champions for life in the history books. But surely remembering them in their heyday is the best way to remember them…going out at the top rather than demeaning their day in the history books for the next 10 or 20 years just because tradition says they can!

The Quest is Over as Branden Grace takes Royal Birkdale apart 

There have been 442 major championships around the globe during the last 157 years and until Saturday 22 July 2017 the best score the world’s best golfers could muster was 63 shots.

Nearest over this ‘short period of time’ was Johnny Miller in the 1973 US Open who returned 63, a score that has been equalled on no less than 27 occasions since.

But Project 62 has always been just out of reach.

Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors in his career but never scored 62.

Legends of golf, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Gary Player….and a host of others too long to list here have played their hearts out but have never been able to record a 62 in a major championship round of golf.

And bizarrely Grace didn’t realise he had made history! He was so ‘in the zone’ as golfers refer to their absolute level of concentration, that it wasn’t until his caddie Zack Rasego quietly said “well done” on the 18th green amid the crescendo of noise emanating from the stands around the green that Grace took in what had just happened.

Branden Grace was so much ‘in his zone’ that he was completely oblivious to the trickle of followers he had on the outward 9, that then turned into a small army mid-way through his back 9 and then swelled into a tsunami of followers by the time he had reached the 17th hole. The roar that greeted his final 3’ putt to make history should have scared him to death but he took it in his stride until his caddie made him aware of the feat he had just achieved.

Well done Branden Grace…..and here’s to Project 61! Surely not another 157 years to go??