SOUTHPORT, England – Last year, two veterans of the sea fought for the Claret Jug at the opening of the British Open, launching haymaker after haymaker until one of them was the biggest at the end.
At the Firth of Clyde, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson unleashed an extraordinary show of brilliance at the former Royal Troon, separating from the field with a spectacular game that left their peers in awe. Stenson triumphed by three points with a record performance. He finished with the lowest score in a major championship (264) and joined Johnny Miller as the only player to shoot 63 goals in the last round of a major tournament. His total against the under – 20 is an open record. 267 from Mickelson tied for the second lowest total of the 145 Open contests.
Meanwhile, J. B. Holmes was third with 14 shots.
It was not unusual with the instant classic, it was the age of the fighters. Stenson was 40 years old. At age 46, Mickelson was trying to become the oldest Open winner since Old Tom Morris in the 19th century.
While golf is experiencing a youthful movement – 18 players in their twenties have won 22 of the 36 PGA Tour events and six of the top 10 players in the world are not yet 30 – the commitment of young people have not yet taken the British Open.
The oldest major golf championship, which celebrates 146 years with the departure of Thursday at Royal Birkdale, has recently been dominated by the elders.
Since Charl Schwartzel won the 2011 Masters, the five oldest winners of a major came to the Open – Stenson (40), Zach Johnson (39) in 2015, Mickelson (43) in 2013, Ernie Els (42) in 2012 and Darren. Clarke (42 years old) in 2011.
In the last 12 openings, only three have been won by players in their twenties: Rory McIlroy was 25 when he won in 2014, Louis Oosthuizen 27 in 2010 and Tiger Woods 29 in 2005.
Over the past 25 years, the British Open has at least 38 winners. At least in Birkdale, the last two winners were Padraig Harrington, who was 36 in 2008, and Mark O 'Meara, who was 41 years old. 1998.
And let's not forget those who did not win – Tom Watson was 59 when he bogeyed for the last time in a losing playoff game in 2009, and Greg Norman was 53 when he led by two with 18 to play before finishing tied for third in 2008.
"The type of golf you have to play is totally different from what we see in the other three major leagues," said Jordan Spieth, two-time major champion, before his fifth start at the Open. "It takes a lot of imagination and a lot of flight control."
It's a type of golf that requires rehearsals. Links golf requires shots rarely seen in the United States and allows the field to be your friend. It is essential to rely on all your patience, not necessarily the clothing of the younger generation, to arrive at the Claret Jug. Surviving the bad weather that can hammer the soul and the shots is a must. It is crucial to avoid casemates that could ruin the scorecard. It is necessary to get used to slower green speeds, which can be confusing.
In simple terms, the experience at the Open can not be overstated or overestimated and is the best equalizer.
"You can be an excellent young player, but if you have not been tested in these difficult conditions many times, I think you have less chance of succeeding," Stenson said. "That being said, it is not necessary that this be the case, but I guess the age of the winners somehow speaks that language."
The Open, says Johnson, takes a while to get used to.
"The more I play more and more, the more I realize what he needs and what he demands from me," said Johnson, who missed the cup the first three times he played l & # 39; Open. "I have embraced the fact that it is not necessary to be perfect. You just have to try to hit that solid ball. Solid plans usually take place. They may not be phenomenal, but hit solid shots, solid shots. You learn to play golf links. And the more you can play, the better.
Johnson, who won at St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, is the perfect example of a length that is not a requirement to win the Open. This is certainly not as important as in the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships. Walking on the tee and simply pulling the driver and swinging it is not advisable on the links courses. The success of the Open includes other elements in motion, and players wishing to play the game of power are victims of the decor that offers heather, gorse, shrubs, rough and thick bunkers.
Younger players, especially with today's equipment, are a fearless group with a lot of firepower. They were not very often called to shoot in the United States. And they are not used to watching the ball roll 40, 50 or 60 yards on tee shots as they do on the hard sand-based links course.
"An Open Championship can be played by a shorter hitter," Harrington said. "And by suggestion, as you age, you shorten yourself in relation to the terrain. But a guy who hits the right ball will hit him further in the wind. A guy with an efficient flight at 160 mph will go farther than an inefficient flight at 180 mph. That's why an older guy can compete with the youngest.
"Many young guys are physically talented, but they do not have the golf links experience. Assuming decent conditions and hard enough, this is an experience tournament. Everyone can compete.
"This is not a dimension."
The weather can also eliminate half of the field. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the draw and play your first two rounds in bad weather, you have a long chance to win. Conversely, it increases the chances of the other half of the group and the old group if they are on the right side of the board.
"I think it's the most frustrating part of this tournament, given the first few days, in my experience," Spieth said. "Because if you're on the right side, you're almost putting pressure on yourself. "Hey, I have to jump in front." And it's frustrating if you're in shape and you're on the wrong side. It's a mind game that you play with yourself. "
Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, dazzled the crowds in 1998 when he scored a 50-yard goal on Birkdale's last hole for an avatar in the final round as a 17-year-old amateur. The great things of the Open were meant for the Englishman. But it did not work that way, his tie in fourth place this year remaining the best result of the tournament he loves.
"It surprises me after all these years, it's still the best finish. Yes, there are pending cases, of course, "Rose said. "I do not want to say that if I do not win, it will be a huge hole in my career, but doing it would somehow close the book somehow in my Open Championship story.
"I have a lot of years trying to tick. Nothing is urgent, but I am certainly in the development phase of my career. "
Well, at 36, he's a good guy.