What you can learn from the play at The Open Championship:
The Open Championship is always a special week for the competitors and the fans. This week golf’s oldest championship took the competitors to Royal Lytham and St. Annes golf links in the quaint seaside town of Lytham and St. Annes on the Fylde coast.
Royal Lytham and St. Annes is the least “links-style” course of those in The Open Championship rota. It starts with a par three and indeed has three par threes on the outward nine. It is also the only Open Championship course that is surrounded by houses on three sides. This all notwithstanding it is a demanding test of golf that asks the competitors to navigate their way around the 206 bunkers on the premises. Evidence of the venerable links’ caliber as a challenging test is the impressive list of champions is boasts: Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Bob Charles, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros (twice), Tom Lehman and David Duval.
And now you can add Hall-of-Famer Ernie Els to that list. In what was nothing short of an astonishing comeback, the Big Easy overcame a six stroke deficit with nine holes to play to edge 54-hole leader Adam Scott at the post.
Birdies at 10, 12, 14 and 18 helped Els to a back nine 32 (4-under), good for a total of 7-under and a target for Adam Scott (who was 8-under par at the time) to shoot at. By comparison, after four solid pars and a birdie on the 14th, Scott bogeyed his last four holes to come up one stroke shy of Ernie’s mark. It was a finish that was incredible and wretched, exciting and gut-wrenching, happy and sad. But such is competitive golf.
So what can we learn from the play at The 141st Open Championship:
Golf – Calculated gambling: Thirty-six hole leader, Brandt Snedeker often aimed at the center of the greens and in so doing avoided disaster in the greenside pot-bunkers. Tiger Woods geared it down (he hit only four drivers through three rounds) off the tee, sacrificing distance for accuracy and among the 83 players that have made the cut he was 73rd in driving distance before the final round. Adam Scott was been a bit more aggressive in his approach but he was, under the watchful eye of Steve Williams, by no means been rash in his decision-making. In other words, the lesson that we can learn from the leaders’ play at The Open is that circumspection and a measured approach is advisable to making lower scores. Lower scores are not only the product of more birdies; they are also the product of fewer bogeys and others. So to improve your scores make savvy decisions and be disciplined enough to stick with that approach throughout the round. Good golf is, in many respects, like good gambling. So assess the risk and the reward and do not attempt any shot if the risk outweighs the possible reward.
Hit the deep bunker shot properly: Royal Lytham and St. Annes is a veritable minefield of pot bunkers. In fact there are 206 of them on the course and it appears that nearly everyone is in play at one stage or another. In many respects they defined the championship and they put paid to many a competitors chances, including Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell in the final round. Woods’ travails out of the greenside bunker on the sixth were well documented and they prompt me to cover a few tips to hitting the deep greenside bunker shot properly.
• Assess your chances of extrication honestly and if you have any doubt as to your chances of hitting the shot out of the bunker, I would recommend that you play backwards or sideways, away from the pin. McDowell did so and escaped with a bogey; Woods did not and made a triple on the same hole out of the same bunker.
• Once you are settled on the shot, open the clubface, and lean the shaft backwards a little at address, and position the ball just left of center of your stance. In other words, the handle of the club should point at your right thigh (for righties).
• As you swing the club away from the ball, rotate your forearms to open the clubface to its maximum.
• Speed is required to elevate the ball, so in your downswing, accelerate the clubface as fast as you can. Indeed speed it up to a point where you feel like the clubface is overtaking your hands through impact.
• Throughout the entire downswing, ensure a stable base by way of a strong and quiet leg action as this will help to have the club enter the sand in the correct area. This correct location of the base of the swing will also help to get maximum speed though impact – it is this speed that is the major influence on the elevation of the ball.
• So remember, open face, ball forward, full swing, stable legs and speed, speed, speed.
Never give up: Bluntly, I am sure that many South African fans were hopeful but few really believed that Ernie could make up the ground between him and Adam. As many as five strokes behind Scott with four holes to play, it always appeared to be a bridge too far for South Africa’s hero. It was only really when Scott bogeyed the penultimate hole that fans started to honestly believe that there was something special in the offing. By contrast, on the eve of the final round, Els believed that there was something special on the go: “For some reason I’ve got some belief this week,” Els told the media, six strokes back at the time. “I feel something special can happen. I’ve put in a lot of work the last couple of years, especially the last couple of months. So something good is bound to happen.” The lesson in all of this is that tournament golf is a marathon and 72 holes is a very long time. Rounds of 67, 70, 68 had Els in contention but he was hardly one of the feature groups on the final day. Rather, he was five-under par and trailing such in-form players as Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods, Brand Snedeker and Zach Johnson. This however did not quell his steely resolve and self-belief. He continued to stick to his game plan, patiently execute his shots and bide his time until he got his chance to bury what was the winning putt on the final green. In short, he never gave up and neither should you as you never know what might happen. Heck, even a player with the skill of Adam Scott can make four fives in a row!
Understand the nature of the game: The very nature of the game makes it (and I quote Gary Williams – A Golf Channel presenter) equally cruel and beautiful. The scenes on the final green were just that. Beautiful was the elation of Ernie Els’ closing birdie. Cruel was the tragedy of Adam Scott’s closing bogey. Beautiful was the splendor of a Hall of Famer lifting the Claret Jug for a second time. Cruel was the ugliness of the runner-up – who had the trophy literally within his grasp only to lose it – emotionally looking on. So if you want to play competitive golf, you had better make very sure you are prepared for, and equipped to deal with, the highs and lows that this beautifully cruel mistress brings. Throughout your career golf will have you on an emotional roller-coaster and it will take you on some hair-raising rides, both positive and negative. The competitor that prevails though is the one that understands and deals with the very nature of the greatest game ever played.
Play well and enjoy our great game.
- Tags: Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Ernie Els, Gary Williams, Graeme McDowell, pot bunkers, Royal Lytham and St Annes, The Open, Tiger Woods,
- Category: Tip Blog