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.
There were so many intriguing storylines to follow at St. Andrews: weather delays, the final Open for starter Ivor Robson, farewell to Tom Watson, Tiger missing the cut, the amateurs, another crushing stumble by Dustin Johnson, almost another leg of the Grand Slam for Spieth, close calls by a whole bunch of players and the exciting finish on Monday. What will the 144th Open Championship be remembered for most?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): All the colourful stories fade with time, except one: who won the tournament. Five years from now, only trivia experts will remember that Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman were in a playoff with Zach Johnson. And if Spieth doesn’t win the PGA, few will remember that he finished one shot short at St. Andrews. But for me personally, being at this Open Championship was one of the most memorable days of my long life, for all the reasons above, and many more. The excitement in the air during the last two hours was palpable and almost visible. An incredible experience.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): David Duval made the cut and didn’t soil himself in the Road Hole bunker. OK, not the lead story but good for David. Jordan Spieth’s pursuit of the Grand Slam was really the main storyline of this Championship and years from now it will be remembered as the one he let slip away. If anyone outside of Iowa remembers that Zach Johnson won, it will likely be some golf trivia nut living in his mother’s basement. The other big takeaway for me was the leaderboard. It almost always happens that the British Open leaderboard is cluttered with the best players in the world. Apart from Rory, they were pretty much all there and in contention.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): And we forgot Peter Dawson’s last Open as Chief Executive of The R&A and Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. I just think this one will be remembered for its great finish. The whole back 9 it was wide open, you had no idea what was to happen or who was going to win. There was tremendous excitement and entertainment.
Dave Kaplan, Fairways Magazine (@davykap): This Open will be remembered for the sheer number of amateurs that were actually in contention. Five amateurs made the cut (Jordan Niebrugge, Oliver Schniederjans, Ashley Chesters, Paul Dunne and Romain Langasque) and all five amateurs finished under par! That is remarkable. I thought for a moment there, Paul Dunne — the modern incarnation of Francis Ouimet/Bobby Jones — was going to win the event and completely screw up the money distribution. That would have made for a crazy column.
Jim Kenesky, Golf genius Software (@JimKeneskyGolf): This Open Championship will be remembered for Zach Johnson. Period. This was his defining moment and solidifies him as one of the top players since the turn of the century. He represents everything that’s great about golf. You don’t need distance or to be 6’4″ and ripped. He’s the working man’s pro that never gives up.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It will be remembered for the history that was almost made. Given the circumstances, it is astounding that Spieth even contended, let alone could have won it easily. It was an amazing performance, one shot out of the playoff despite the facts that: he four-jacked the 8th; he had to play his second shot on the 17th in a sudden burst of rain and wind and still should have parred it; he almost missed the widest fairway in Christendom on his final hole and still had a chance to tie; and he had to halt his downswing on the most important wedge in his historic quest because of a bunch of boorish photographers, and then step away again before hitting a poor shot. (We’ll never know what shot he’d have hit without the shutter bugs bugging him). Spieth having a chance to match Hogan’s 3-for-3 will be what is remembered of the 144th Open Championship. Zach Johnson winning is on par with Ben Curtis’s one off. Who cares?
Zach Johnson now has 12 PGA Tour victories including two majors. Is that enough to get him into the World Golf Hall of Fame?
Loughry: No. it’s just simply not enough. If it is, then it weakens the value of the Hall of Fame.
Deeks: I think the qualifications are there… they beat Fred Couples’ credentials, and he’s in, although Zach comes nowhere near the fame and adoration that Fred achieved. But I personally believe that no one should be inducted until they’ve retired from the regular Tour, so I would suggest that Zach still has about a decade to improve on his record.
Quinn: Despite what chief shill Gary Player says repeatedly on those irritating WGHOF ads on Golf Channel. I love golf but don’t feel that I have to go to St. Augustine in the slightest. Who qualifies? Does anyone, including Player, know? Laura Davies did, but doesn’t for the LPGA’s version. So who knows if Zach is plaque worthy? Should he be inducted, the mute button should be handy when he gives his speech, if his response to winning the Claret Jug is any indicator.
Kaplan: The criteria is 15 wins or at least two majors, so he is probably in after the victory at St. Andrews. He might not be the most likeable guy off the course but his game is an inspiration to strategic, wedge reliant players like me who play par 5’s in three shots.
Kenesky: He should be a sure thing considering some of the resumes recently inducted. He will likely win 20 times in his career and don’t be surprised if he notches another major. His only downfall is his lack of star power or ability to move ratings. But his record will speak for itself.
Mumford: I’ve never thought of Zach as a dominant player of his era but statistically he meets the criteria the WGHOF has adopted. I don’t agree with it but it is encouraging to see a bunter win in today’s power game.
Did the R&A make the right call in starting play on Saturday morning and then calling a halt some 45 minutes later?
Loughry: Boy they took a beating for that choice. Turns out it made a difference in the outcome of the tournament. Zach was finished his second round but Spieth, Day and Oosthuizen were all forced to play in those awful conditions and all made bogeys (some of them two bogeys). Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw but that was simply an error in judgement. They made a mistake but it was still a fantastic finish, even if it did cost me the call when I picked Oosty to win it in our Round Table last week.
Kenesky: Seems irrelevant to me. They obviously made a decision in the moment and they have lots to consider when sending players out. As a player, you have to be ready for whatever decision is made.
Kaplan: You cannot play golf in those conditions! The R&A should have been able to read a simple forecast and suspended play before it even began that day. Many of the players – Spieth, DJ, Oosthuizen – had to go out and play in that craziness and they were justifiably pissed. Once the suspension occurred, the R&A should have negated all play from that morning and established a full reset for the following day. None of those shots should have counted.
Mumford: They blew it and should have known better immediately. There were dozens of marshals and reporters testing the wind out around the Loop both before and during Saturday morning play and I don’t recall any of them suggesting it was OK to proceed. I don’t know if the Rules would have allowed them to scrap scores from the few holes actually played but that would have been the equitable thing to do.
Quinn: The R&A really goofed on this one. Maybe it was an attempt to avoid the Monday finish, maybe pressure from their new bed-mates at Skye Sport, or maybe just stupidity. The conditions were beyond reasonable and it unlevelled the playing field for those who had to endure it.
Deeks: No, they did not. Further, I think they should have stricken all scores recorded on Saturday and given those players an opportunity to restart on Sunday where they left off on Friday. I think everyone who had to play those 45 minutes ended up being penalized a shot or two. You had to feel those winds to believe them… great for seagulls, but very difficult for pedestrians and golfers.
Amidst all of the Open Championship excitement, we can’t forget the RBC Canadian Open this week. Who is your pick to hoist the trophy at Glen Abbey on Sunday?
Kenesky: Jason Day. I do think a Canadian will be in the mix on Sunday. It’s a fun week nonetheless and Glen Abbey always provides excitement.
Deeks: Anyone who played the 72 holes of St. Andrews and still came over for the Canadian Open deserves to win at Glen Abbey. They must be absolutely exhausted. But if I had to pick anyone, it’d be Graham DeLaet. He played pretty well at St. Andrews, but for a final 75 with a bogey-double bogey-bogey finish on Monday. It’s time a Canadian won the damn thing, and Graham – the unlikely powerhouse from the Saskatchewan wheat fields – would be a fine champion.
Mumford: I’m picking David Hearn to get his first PGA Tour win and break the 61-year old Fletcher jinx. Or Ollie Schniederjans. The kid probably doesn’t have a chance in his pro debut but his name will give everybody fits.
Loughry: I really don’t want to pick him, but I’m going with Bubba Watson. The Abbey favours BOMBERS, and that’s his shtick.
Kaplan: After such an exhausting week at the Open, I think the odds of a Canadian coming away with the victory have somewhat gone up. I’ll take Adam Hadwin to surprise the nation and be the first Canuck to take home our national title since Pat Fletcher pulled it off in 1954.
Quinn: In the interests of long term commitments and sustaining this diminished event, it’s best that one of the members of Team RBC wins it; any one of them would do but preferably Jason Day. Selfishly, it would be nice to see one of the five B.C. boys (no R) take it. If Adam Hadwin is ever going to put it all together, this would be a good place to start.