Bizarre 2010 Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews makes Muirfield in 2013 more appetizing
I expected a long-baller to win the 2010 Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews. More specifically, a long-baller with a hot putter. Guys like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, J.B. Holmes and even Bubba Watson had a chance in my book. Recent history suggested my hypothesis: Woods (twice) and John Daly are the last three winners on the Old. I even factored in big-hitting Lorena Ochoa’s win here in the Women’s British Open.
Instead, we witnessed a major that seemed just a little off from the beginning. Day one was as calm and soft as we’ve ever seen the course, which can take a lot of the fun out of watching St. Andrews golf. It was a major letdown, followed by a Friday that went from calm to unplayable in a matter of hours. McIlroy, who I had practically handed the trophy to on Thursday, fell hard and opened the door for Louis Oosthuizen, a name only those who track the European Tour really know about.
Sunday’s action became virtually unwatchable after Paul Casey’s disastrous 12th hole triple bogey. From then on, ESPN’s commentators all seemed to repeat themselves for about two hours talking about Oosthuizen’s “poise", “beautiful swing” and “potential” - all straight out of the Department of Redundancy Department. Oostheizen rocked us all to sleep with a game that was just too dang reliable for anyone’s liking outside of South Africa.
I’m not going to go as far as ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski and pan this year’s Open as “boring” - I was tuned in every time I could between my own rounds in upstate New York. it just didn’t deliver a great finish.
But every time the Old Course has hosted the Open since 1990, only the 1995 Open has been close, when Daly and Constantino Rocca had a playoff. The other four have been wins of five strokes or higher. On GolfChannel.com, Rex Hoggard and Jay Coffin debate whether the Old should host the Open every year.
But this week’s event proves that while the Old is always a special place, it’s too bizarre of a golf course to hog such an important event yearly.
Top players overdue for their first major like England’s Casey, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose have to be licking their chops for Muirfield in 2013, where fluke or runaway winners like Oostheizen simply never prevail. Check out who has won at Muirfield since Gary Player in 1959: Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo (twice) and Ernie Els. Older winners include Walter Hagen and Henry Cotton.
And since 1966, only links master Tom Watson’s 4-shot win was the only win at Muirfield by more than one stroke - and there have been two playoffs - all the more reason for ESPN to hang onto their TV rights after a dismal Sunday viewership in the U.S. While the Old Course can be a crapshoot, the same doesn’t seem to be the case at Muirfield, whom many agree is the fairest of Open Championship venues.
While I much prefer the Old Course’s tee time policy over the more restrictive policies of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, it’s a near-certainty there will be major firepower coming down the back nine on Sunday in 2013.
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