July 13, 2011
There is nothing quite like the Masters, and no test like a U.S. Open, and while I'd give multiple phalanges to play Augusta National and couldn't think of anything sweeter than winning a major on Father's Day, it's the Open Championship that really has my heart.
Because it's the true game of golf in the truest form possible on a golf course where the sport was invented. Golf is a sport that battles the elements, but you really only see such a thing at the Open, when weather can doom an entire group playing later than earlier, or earlier than later.
On top of all that, it's beautiful in it's own special way. If you held up a picture of Amen Corner to a completely clueless sports fan, and then the fairway of, say, the second hole at Royal Troon, 100 percent of strangers would pick Augusta as the more aesthetically pleasing golf course, but the beauty is found only by golfers. The subtle bumps on the fairways and the brilliant molds of the greens; how bunkers seem dug out by the gods and terror can occur even when you thought you'd avoided it.
I love that on one day, an aspiring legend from Nothern Ireland can go out and shoot a 63 on the oldest links in the world, and the next post 80 on that same golf course, just because Mother Nature decided to pack on more armor. I love that the fans know the game better than any other place, and applaud to only the shots that the players are proud of. And I love that a good shot can easily be a wedge to 30 feet, because you hit it in the right spot on the green and avoided a slope or a mound that might pop your ball in the other direction like an Olympic table-tennis champion.
Playing links golf is a feeling that most Americans never experience. It brings out the mental part of golf like no country club could, and forces you to really think about what type of shot you're going to hit for 18 holes. It's a battle, much like chess, to beat your ball around Turnberry or Carnoustie, and it's wonderful to walk down the final hole of Royal Aberdeen with the sun setting and the wind redding your cheeks, knowing a Tennets and good golf conversation is in your near future.
Links golf is how the game was molded, and the blind shots and high grass only add to that legacy.
Waking up in the wee hours of the morning to turn on the television and start watching golf is a treat only reserved for one week a year, and lucky for us, that week starts Thursday. Drink some tea, toss on your argyle, and respect the game as best you can. Before you know it, it'll be back to soft greens and lob wedges.
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