In a year where the professional golf world has seen unprecedented and potentially permanent upheaval it’s almost a relief to know that The Open (we Yanks call it the British Open, but those that invented the sport know there’s really only one open championship) is being contested at St. Andrew’s in Scotland on what is lovingly called The Old Course. For the sesquicentenntial edition of The Open, the tournament will tee off tomorrow morning (actually, this evening West Coast time) on the same greens that it was contested on 149 years ago.
And ready to tackle it once again, as he did at the start of this century 22 summers ago, is Tiger Woods. Hampered on his comeback attempt from his devastating car accident early last year, with only a 47th place finish at April’s Masters and an early withdrawl at May’s PGA Championship after a 9 over par 79 in the third round, he sat out last month’s U.S. Open in order to have, as he put it,at least “one more run” while he can.
As he told the Associated Press:
“The plan was to play the U.S. Open, but physically I was not able to do that,” he said. “There’s no way physically I could have done that. I had some issues with my leg and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, and so there’s no reason to do that.”
It’s eminently possible that given his recent performances and his advancing age, this may very well be the last time El Tigre plays St. Andrew’s. And, for that matter, it may be the last time anyone plays the Old Course. Significantly reconfigured since the 1870s, the AP also reported that there are rumblings that “the Old Course could be exposed as being obsolete. It already uses parts of three other courses to stretch it out to 7,313 yards. And while it’s a par 72 with only two par 5s, at least four of the par 4s might be reachable off the tee considering how crusty the links is this year.”
And so far, the fallout from the defection of numerous PGA Tour golfers to the Saudi-backed LIV Tour will not impact The Open–this year. As top Open executive Martin Slumbers said in today’s New York Post:
“Looking ahead to the Open next year, we have been asked quite frequently about banning players,” Slumbers said. “Let me be very clear: That’s not on our agenda. But what is on our agenda is that we will review our exemptions and qualifications criteria for the Open.
“And whilst we do that every year, we absolutely reserve the right to make changes as our Open Championships Committee deems appropriate. Players have to earn their place in the Open, and that is fundamental to its ethos and its unique global appeal.”
In other words, enjoy it all “whilst” your can. Because when the next 150 years of The Open starts next year, little of what got us to this point might still be around.