Phil Mickelson Wins British Open by taking Route 66

So the dust has settled, the drama has ended for another year and in 12 months time, interest will switch to the links fairways at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, the Wirral for the 2014 British Open, where the newly-crowned 2013 Champion, Phil Mickelson, will defend his newest and arguably most impressive title.

 

Mickelson’s victory was impressive for a host of different reasons and unique in that he was the first ever player to win the Scottish Open, traditionally held a week before The Open Championship, and then double it up with success in the season’s third Grand Slam event.

Yet while Mickelson’s sweet victory was the highlight of the four days of golf, there are some things that perhaps players, fans and organisers need to consider ahead of the next tournament.

 

 

1. The Preparation (or lack of it) from some players

Strange wasn’t it that so many top players struggled on the greens around Muirfield. One by one the world’s best came and went as Mickelson staged his late surge to the title. Strange still that two of the players who performed so well at the often-ignored Scottish Open, Mickelson and Henrik Stenson, should finish 1st and 2nd in the Open.

 

There’s little doubt that the Scottish Open provides THE best preparation for this most unusual of Major titles. Perhaps it will now see a few of the bigger names, who sat on their bags the week prior to the event or played in sunnier climes elsewhere abroad, decide to chance the weather next year?

 

 

2. Pin Positions 

Ian Poulter made some choice comments about pin positions on the first day which were picked up by several major media sources. Poulter felt the positions unduly harsh. Other players, such as American David Duval said they were “hard but fair”.

 

In truth, I think there is a degree of truth to both statements. Some of the pin positions were ridiculously difficult and made achieving par a noteworthy achievement and while nobody wants to see players turn the competition into a game of target practice, there has to be a balance. I felt at times, the pin positions here, especially given the dry state of the course, were exceptionally harsh on even good shots.

 

Too often I saw excellent shots unrewarded as balls skittered on the slick surface, or rolled away from the hole. Approaches that would ordinarily be within 10 feet, were often 40 or 50 feet away from the hole, finding bunkers or the rough around the green.

 

I think that is unduly harsh on players and I can understand their frustration, however by the same token I think it has to be a stern test for the player. I think this year, the penalties for even good shots were a little excessive and I’d like to see that balance changed next year at Hoylake.

 

 

3. The Rough

Much is made of “The Open Rough”, but I can tell you that as a fairly regular player of links and even semi-links courses here in the UK, that rough constitutes a decent lie on some courses! Unless you’ve had to thrash your ball out of a gorse bush, with 15 prickles jabbing your backside and legs, players having to slash the ball out of six inches of rough doesn’t really worry me a great deal.

 

I think perhaps golfers are very much used to the somewhat benign first and second cuts of rough that are common on many events around the world. On many courses, greens are not cut as well as the second cut of rough, so I have little sympathy with players moaning about the rough at Muirfield.

 

Besides, if you’ve planted your ball in the thick stuff, it was your poor shot that placed it there in the first place.

 

 

4. “GET IN THE HOLE!”

On the whole, the event went very well and most fans behaved impeccably. Numbers were down though on previous Open Championships, which I think needs to be looked at for Hoylake 2014. If prices for tickets are too high that people cannot afford to attend, then the R&A need to address this.

 

What did get on my nerves with fans at the Open (or indeed at most golf events) is those who feel the need to cry out something loud and pointless as quickly after a player takes a shot as possible.

 

The idiotic yellings of a tiny few who feel the need to screech “Get in the Hole!” (at a par five – I don’t think even Tiger would be able to manage that),  after a player takes the shot, really gets on my wick. It’s cretinous, pointless and just makes that person shouting it look a complete idiot. It seems strange to me that the governing bodies are so iffy about people using mobile phones at these events, yet they are happy for these morons to scream these pointless utterances every hole or so.

 

 

5. Mickelson’s 66

Although there was a palpable sense of disappointment that Lee Westwood was unable to hold onto his third round lead and become the first Britain since Nick Faldo to win the event, nothing should be taken away from Mickelson’s final round.

To shoot five-under on a course that was as difficult as that is akin to shooting ten-under, if not more, on any normal Tour quality course.

 

Quite simply, Mickelson’s performance over the last six holes was arguably the finest display of links golf you would wish to see and certainly the best golf played by any player all week. If Mickelson’s patience earned him a shot at the title after 12 holes, his genius with the club in his hand on the last six earned him the claret jug.

 

Images courtesy of The Open 2013 Facebook Page

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