Welcome to the 150th Open Championship

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.

This year’s final major, the 150th Open Championship, will be contested at St. Andrews this week and brings together all the top players in the world, including those who have defected to the LIV Golf series. It also features the return of Tiger Woods and many other compelling storylines. What aspect about this year’s championship intrigues you the most?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’ve been reading rumours that Tiger may announce his retirement from competitive golf at the Old Course this week.  It wouldn’t surprise me, and by the time this is published, it may have happened.  To be honest, I’d rather see Tiger do it this way, than continue to struggle to find the old magic.  It’s inconceivable that he’d ever win another major, so why not go out with all dignity intact?

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I am already tired of all the side shows so I’m going to say, the course. I hope the wind blows almost enough to move the ball on the green but not quite and maybe a bit of rain mixed in.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): The golf course and how it will play.  I love the Old Course and it’s going to be firm and fast but that also means they will be able to drive multiple par 4’s.  As a result, the R&A will have to hide some pins or speed up the greens to protect the course a bit.  But to be honest, I don’t care if they shoot low scores, it’s just always fun watching the pros play the Old Course!  I’ll be there myself this week and can’t wait to catch the action live.  I love this place!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Reports indicate the Old Course hasn’t had rain for about six weeks. This might be the hardest and fastest it’s played in modern times, which makes a lot of par fours driveable for today’s bombers. The other day, Rory put one just short of a 420-yard hole. If the wind doesn’t blow, it could get silly.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Much has been written lately about the Old Course being too short for today’s big hitters. That kind of argument tends to forget the deep fairway bunkers, the massive undulating greens and the firm fast fairways that encourage shots to trundle into the most unlikely and unforgiving spots. And if the wind blows, look out. Someone will win the Claret Jug on Sunday, maybe with a very low score or maybe not, but regardless of who it is or how they do it, the Old Course is the story this week.

St. Andrews has been the site of many memorable Open Championships. Which one is your favourite?

Deeks: The one that Arnold lost by a shot to Kel Nagle in 1960.  Nick Faldo’s flawless 71 to win the 1990 Championship.  And the one I attended, in 2015, won by Zach Johnson… the thrill of watching the last two hours from the fourth-floor window of the St. Andrews Club, thirty feet above the 18th green, is pretty much unmatched for me.

Schurman: 2005, on the 18th green, the greatest player of all time holed his last birdie in the British Open. You can’t make that up!

Rule: For me it has to be the Rocca putt to force a playoff with Daly in 1995.  It was so improbable, Daly was already basically celebrating, and Rocca’s reaction was priceless.  Of course, it all went for naught when Daly smoked him in the playoff, but it was a great end to the tournament.  Let’s hope there’s a new memory to be made this week.

Quinn: It might not be the favourite, but it is definitely the most memorable. Doug Sanders terrible stroke on that three-footer on the 18th that would have won the 1970 Open is still painful to watch.

Mumford: My favourite is 1984 when Seve Ballesteros edged Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer. Watson had a chance to catch the Spaniard but pushed his approach on 17 over the green and up against the stone wall. A bogey ended Watson’s chance for a sixth Claret Jug and third consecutive title. Seve’s celebration on the 18th green is still a joy to watch.

As part of the celebration for the 150th Open, the R&A is hosting past champions for a 4-hole exhibition game and a Champions Dinner. Two-time Open Champion and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has been snubbed by the organizers to avoid any distraction from the Open festivities. Do you agree that Norman should have been left off the guest list?

Deeks: Oddly enough, considering my outspoken antipathy for the Saudi Tour, I do think this is an unfair snub.  If they’re letting Saudi Tour players play in the tournament, then why would they restrict a bona fide past champion from a harmless exhibition match?  I have no doubt that Norman, with his well-known thin skin, is seething about this, and I think he has every right to be.

Schurman: This is only the beginning. First, it’s by invitation but there’s a precedent for inviting Norman. The dinner is for Past Winners and Norman certainly is that. Norman hasn’t been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime or said anything to publicly denounce, embarrass or otherwise chastise the R&A. By not inviting Norman who won an OPEN Championship because he qualified to play and then shot the lowest score, the R&A has placed themselves above the game. In their own words on many an occasion “nobody is above the game”. They have become the judge, jury and executioner for a crime not committed. Whether you agree with Norman’s position as CEO of the Saudi Tour or not, so far, he is the only person who has maintained a professional attitude and approach. Fred Ridley can be thankful for Faldo but what will he (the Masters) do about the LIV players who left their PGA TOUR Membership. And will Dustin Johnson, a Past Champion be invited to their dinner or even to play in the event?

Rule: Yes. I know it seems unreasonable to not include a past champion – 2-time champ at that – but let’s be honest. He hasn’t been there in years, hasn’t played in years, and all of the sudden he wants to attend this year of all years? Seems a bit opportunistic to me.  So, I agree with the decision to keep him away as the distraction would just take away from what should be a great celebration of an incredible championship.

Quinn: He’s well and truly worn out his welcome at any legit golf event. There was already enough distraction generated by Poulter and pals showing up. The R&A made the right call, now it has to follow through, as do the PGA, USGA and the green jackets at Augusta National.

Mumford: This was a cheap, petty move on the part of the R&A. Norman is twice an Open Champion and has every right to be there. The smart guys at the R&A were hoping to avoid controversy by leaving Norman out but inadvertently created more by excluding him. Duh!

Who is your pick to walk off with the Claret Jug come Sunday?

Deeks: Sorry, but I’ve gotta go with McIlroy.  Next pick, Morikawa.

Schurman: My favourite person to win is Rory but I have a thought Tommy Fleetwood just might be finally ready. Of course, my dream winner would be Corey Conners.

Rule: I like Will Zalatoris this week.  I know it’s a bit of a long shot since he’s never won a tournament and has very little links golf experience.  But he’s always hanging around Open leaderboards and it doesn’t look like the weather will be too severe this week, so why not.  And people say he looks like my little brother (ok, they say son, I say little brother), so I have to cheer for him.

Quinn: Of course, would like to see Rory win it, but wouldn’t be surprised if Zalatoris pulls it off.

Mumford: Hard to get past Xander Schauffele, the hottest guy in golf right now but my crystal ball says Jordan Spieth can spray it all over the map this week and sink some bombs for another major title.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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