He didn’t win but Tiger is officially back

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Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

What was the most interesting storyline coming out of the Open Championship?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): We haven’t had such an exciting finish in a major since, I dunno, maybe the last one!  This one was great, and I had the privilege of watching it in a pub in Bayswater, London where most of the people didn’t know the Open was going, and certainly didn’t care.  To me, the story was: the cream generally rises to the top… so you had McIlroy, Rose, Spieth, and Woods there at the end.  But kudos to Molinari, he’s a solid player who played the most solid final round and deserved to win!

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): TIGER NEARLY WINS was the storyline, and anyone that says anything but is, well, just wrong. A close second would be the leaderboard on Sunday, with so many world class players who could have potentially won, and so many lead changes. I can’t remember a Major with so many: Spieth, Rose, Tiger, and McIlroy. It was amazing.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: The most gravitating story was the number of players in contention throughout the entire event. IMO, the reason for this was the course conditions which lead to monster tee shots by everyone. With an equalization of length, there was a premium on shots into the green, pitching/chipping and putting. Molinari’s strengths are accurate tee shots and consistent iron play, a style I like. Once he was given monster length tee shots his skills prevailed. In sports, there is no substitute for speed or strength. In golf, there is no substitute for length.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Tiger nearly winning was the most interesting storyline, in my opinion. I was so excited when he had a share of the lead on the back nine that I could not sit still. He was so close to that elusive #15 and ultimately came up just short, but there is no longer any question concerning when he will return to form. Tiger is officially back!!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Clearly the story that generated the most attention was Tiger getting himself into contention with great weekend play for 28 holes!  I still think if he makes that putt on 10 to go up by two, things would have finished differently.  It was exciting to see him in contention, but he just doesn’t have that closing ability that he used to have.  Tiger of old would have run with that lead and not looked back.  What a great Open though and kudos to Molinari for playing as well as he did on the weekend and truly deserving title of Champion Golfer of the Year!

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I thought Eddie Pepperell playing with a hangover and having the clubhouse lead for a couple of hours on Sunday was pretty cool but the biggest story was definitely Tiger Woods. Sure, Molinari won but if you looked at his record over the past six weeks, he should have been the odds-on favourite. Woods proved that he can contend for real and expectations moving forward will get ratcheted up exponentially. That’s a huge turnaround in less than a year.

Tiger Woods had the solo lead midway through the final round of the Open Championship on Sunday before making double bogey-bogey to surrender the lead for good. The old Tiger rarely relinquished the lead in a major. Should Tiger fans be disappointed he didn’t get the job done?

Deeks: I’m sure Tiger fans will be disappointed, but not being a Tiger fan, I still give him huge credit for his performance and for proving that the comeback is for real.

Loughry: I don’t think Tiger fans should be too disappointed, those conditions were extremely difficult. He’s still getting his rust out, and if you look at the last few months and how he is trending, uh, that far outweighs this blip. Would we have appreciated him winning more, certainly, but Tiger fans should be more excited than disappointed at this point.

Schurman: The way I view Tiger is by thinking of him as a rookie who is developing his game and finding his way. Sure, he has a great depth of experience, but he has lost his ‘nerve’ just like a rookie trying to find some (nerve). Tiger’s performance to date this year is a dream come true for every fan! The Tiger lovers are watching him get in position to win and they believe he will.  The Tiger ‘not’ likers are enjoying watching him struggle. Everyone is a winner!

Kaplan: Disappointed!?! Are you kidding? They should be ecstatic that their guy is back in contention at majors again. Less than a year ago, Tiger wasn’t sure if he would ever compete again and now he’s holding temporary Sunday leads on the biggest stages in the sport. Majors are SO much better when Tiger is in the field. People come out of the woodwork to inquire about how he is playing — people who would otherwise have no interest in golf whatsoever. Barring any type of serious health setback, I think that 15th major title is there for the taking.

Rule: I think Tiger fans should just realise this is the new norm.  He’s not invincible anymore as he was in the past. He’s similar to many other great players today where he could win that tournament if things go well, or he could fold. It happened to Spieth as well last week, it’s tough to win on tour these days and Tiger can’t win with his B game anymore.  It was disappointing to not see him win, but very encouraging to see him in contention in the last 9 holes of a major.

Mumford: I’d say Tiger exhibited a bit of uncertainty on 11 and 12, which would have been unheard of ten years ago, but the fact he contended in a major should be great news to Tiger fans. There’s no physical reason he can’t win – maybe just a bit of rust and unfamiliarity with the pressure. It was a huge step in his comeback. Fans should be elated.

Carnoustie played differently each day of the Championship depending on the weather conditions yet there was nary a complaint about the way the course was set up or the conditions. Contrast the way the R&A sets up its Championship courses with the USGA approach.

Deeks: I love the fact that the R&A simply lets the players play the great Open rota courses.  It seems they do little other than pick pin positions, which are rarely unfair.  The courses speak for themselves, because that’s what links golf is… natural, pure, not-gimmicked-up golf.  The USGA seems to want to punish players with their set-ups and show how vulnerable they are.   Perhaps they should think about why the Masters and the Open Championship are considered the two biggest majors by the players and the fans.

Loughry: This is why I LOVE The Open. I’m certain the R&A knows after conducting 147 of these, that the elements are the primary challenge, and that they don’t need to top it off with impossible setups, whether that be tee locations or hole locations. I have no doubt the R&A loved how this entire Championship played out start to finish.

Schurman: There is a famous saying by the USGA “We are not trying to embarrass the best players; we are trying to identify them”.  What I see is a constant struggle that continues to embarrass the USGA. They seem to want everyone to think they (the USGA) are very smart but they keep showing otherwise. Why don’t they stop altering the finest courses in the world in an attempt to control the outcome and if by doing so there is a consensus of smartness for them it would be a change from what most people think now.

Kaplan: Well, that’s a fairly simple answer. The R&A sets up its Open Championship venues as they were designed to play, and the USGA goes out of its way to make already difficult courses play nearly impossible. As I have said in the past, I have no issues with the way the USGA sets up its US Open courses. Half of the US Open’s appeal is that many of the best golfers in the world come away from the tournament looking like amateur hackers. My issue with the USGA is the abhorrent manner in which they botch rule decisions and seem to insert themselves into the outcomes of some of their tournaments, but there is no need to get into that right now. Carnoustie was a real treat to watch for four days, and I am looking forward to the Open’s return there in a decade or so.

Rule: The R&A doesn’t worry so much about winning score, it’s all dictated by weather. There’s not much you can do to set the course up differently really, so they just let Mother Nature set up the course for them!  The course was tough on Thursday and Friday because of how firm and fast it was playing, but they didn’t overdo it by keeping the greens rock hard.  It was a fair test and exactly what you expect from the R&A, perhaps Mike Davis can take some tips.

Mumford: For some odd reason, the USGA has this predilection with protecting par and sets up U.S. Open courses to be penal and unforgiving and if the weather changes, they almost become unplayable. The R&A, on the other hand, sticks 18 pins in the greens and waits for the scores, whatever they may be. I can’t think of an occasion when the R&A was criticized for an Open course or its set-up, but it’s become an annual event for the USGA. Carnoustie was tough and magnificent in varying weather conditions and there wasn’t a hint of controversy. I hope Mike Davis was watching.

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