Two weeks ago the world’s greatest golfers gathered in a small town in the United Kingdom. They made the journey to take on one of golf’s toughest tests, The Open Championship. This year’s venue was Royal St George’s Golf Club — a premier course hosting golf’s oldest major for the 14th time in the event’s 140 year history. Located in a town named Sandwich, Royal St George’s offers this year’s field a tough test of links golf.
For American players, the conditions could not be more foreign. Nestled by the coast amid dunes, minimal water hazards, and barely any trees, links golf takes the players back to where the sport originated. Facing gale-force winds and crisp temperatures, the field will be challenged to use their imagination and creativity from tee to green. The Open does not require a golfer to be long, but accurate, creating more of a level playing field, so much so that in recent years, past champions such as Greg Norman and Tom Watson have been able to display some of their old magic and contend for the title. In 2008, at age 53, Greg Norman led after each of the first three rounds, and only one year later, on the final hole, at age 59 Tom Watson had a putt to win his 6th Open Championship. While he would go on to lose in a four-hole playoff, the tradition of an unexpected challenger continued.
Still, it has not just been the likes of crafty veterans that have seemingly come out of nowhere to contend. Unforeseeable wins by John Daly (1995), Paul Lawrie (1999), last year’s champion Louis Oosthuizen, and the man to last hoist the trophy at Royal St George’s, Ben Curtis (2003), have only added to the event’s unpredictability. As technology within the game of golf continues to advance, and new drivers and irons appear faster than smart phones, The Open gives golf enthusiasts the rare opportunity to annually reflect on how far the game has come. It forces players to put away their scientific calculations and rely on touch and feel. For a sport built around tradition, there is no greater celebration.
Indeed, the 2011 Open was won by Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland. Clark turned pro in 1990 and has a lot of success on the European Tour but is not well known in the U.S. He is not considered one of the longer drivers among male pro golfers. He does, however, possess the local knowledge and touch required to succeed at links golf, which is the style of play that nurtured the game.
About the author
This guest contribution was submitted by Lenore Holditch, who specializes in writing about top online colleges. As a friend of the United States Sports Academy she will occasionally contribute pieces to The Sport Digest. Questions and comments can be sent to: holditch.lenore @ gmail.com.