Next week, the world’s top golfers, and Tiger Woods, will meet at Carnoustie, Scotland for the 147th edition of the Open Championship. The Open, as it is simply referred to, is the third Major of the year, following the Masters in April and the US Open in June. The PGA Championship, played in August is the last Major of the year.
While all other golf Majors change venues from year to year, the Masters is hosted exclusively at Augusta National in Georgia, Atlanta. The Open has been hosted on 14 different courses, 10 of which remain on the “Open rota” and it is regarded as a privilege for a golf course to be included in the rota.
The Old Course at St Andrews has played host to 29 Open championships and while it is a great honour to win the Open at any course, winning it at the “home of golf” and at the Old Course at St Andrews is extra special.
The Old Course is widely considered to be the oldest golf course in the world; it is a public golf course.
Carnoustie Golf Links first hosted the Open in 1931 and again in 1931, 1953, 1968, 1975, 1999 and 2007. The 1999 event was immortalised by the misfortunes of French golfer Jean van de Velde who arrived at the 18th hole on the final day needing only a double bogey to win the championship and became the first Frenchman since 1907 to win a major golf event. What followed was a comedy of errors; Van de Velde unwisely hit driver off the tee and promptly found trouble right. He then went for the green from a poor lie and found deep rough instead. From there he hit his third shot into a water hazard, and the pictures of the poor Frenchman, without his shoes and socks, knee deep in water, sizing his fourth shot, are now part of the Open folklore. Van de Velde elected to take a penalty shot and eventually made a triple bogey sending the tournament into a three-way playoff against Justin Leonard and the eventual winner, Paul Lawrie.
Asked why he took driver from the 18th tee, Van de Velde said he stuck to his strategy to be aggressive off the tee. “A lot of people hit irons to try to keep it in play,” he said. “But really, with the conditions that hard, it was as difficult to keep the ball on the fairway with a 2-iron. I decided to be quite aggressive and play drivers off the tee,” he told golfweek.com.
In that 1999 edition of the Open, the R&A were accused of making an already tough golf course even tougher by allowing the rough to grow knee high. Following the controversy surrounding the 2018 US Open, the R&A are unlikely to present an impossible course at Carnoustie next week.
According to golf legend and two-time Open champion Greg Norman, “hitting fairways is like driving the ball through the door of a hotel bedroom.” Padraig Harrigton who won the Open at Carnoustie in 2007, describes the course as the toughest. “It is the toughest, not only because of all 18 holes, it has the toughest finish in championship golf. You’ve got a very tough 14 holes and an extremely difficult last four,” golfweek.com reported.
Past champions in the field next week include Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods.
SA’s Branden Grace, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and China’s Haotong Li are the in field courtesy of a top-10 finish at the 2017 Open.
Charl Schwartzel, Kiredech Aphibarnrat, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter and Joh Rahm make the field as a result of their top-50 ranking on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Amateurs include the winner of the 2018 Amateur Championship – SA’s Jovan Rebula, winner of the 2017 US Amateur – Doc Redman and winner of the 2018 European Amateur – Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard, according to pga.com.