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The Open doesn’t really do hype, it doesn’t even do two-tee starts. The nearest it gets to a bit of hoopla is to let its former champions loose for four holes. Otherwise it's business as usual – brown, baked fairways, oversized leaderboards and four, not three, rounds of championship golf – just what we all needed after the past few months.
Many of us will never see an Open as historic as this, the 2022 Open was one for the ages and, by god, it delivered. If we’re being honest 2010 left a few wondering if every five years was too often to come back, now the next one can't come soon enough.
It might sound trite and banal but this is the Home of Golf for a very good reason and home is where our golfing hearts are.
Rory Was The Story, Smith The Champion Golfer
The game has never needed Rory more. A year ago McIlroy was ranked 15th in the world and was seemingly being overtaken by all the young bucks and muscle men.
Now 33 years of age looks young again, now we're all energised by Rory rather than being a bit exhausted by him. He's carried the game and this Championship along with him and he bloody nearly pulled it off.
"How can you not root for Rory?" – Masters champ Scottie Scheffler remarked on Saturday night.
Rory's popularity has somehow gone up several notches after this week. In among one of the greatest leaderboards in recent Major times his light shone the brightest for much of it.
In the end he was outdone by another supreme ball striker, Cam Smith, who deserves a Major as much as anyone. His touch around the greens is like nothing else and he finished the week on a record-equalling 20-under par. Until this week he would likely have been the best player without a Major, now he has one. Good luck to him.
The Course Held Firm
The winning scores since Rory last won at Hoylake have been 17, 15, 20, 12, 8, 15 and 15 under par. Par, basically, is an irrelevance. Had they turned the golfing world on its head and made the Old Course a par 70 (make the 9th and 18th par 3s? Anyone? No..) then you could add eight shots on to everyone’s score to par. Henrik Stenson’s 20-under is the record winning score and nobody came away from Troon wondering if the game had got out of hand or that the course was somehow no longer worthy.
It’s an easy question and subsequent headline to panic over a 59 but if you get a brown, firm golf course, with just enough wind to be an inconvenience, and tuck away enough pins, then you get scores that sit well with everyone. Three players, the twin Cams, Smith (twice of course) and Young, and then Sam Burns on Sunday achieved 64s – we didn’t even get a sniff of a 62.
There might be a case of recency bias but how incredible did the leaderboard look throughout the weekend. Every new addition to the first page was another big gun coming over the hill. It was absolutely relentless and utterly brilliant.
The Signature Hole
To make it a great Open you need your superstars to perform. The Road Hole on Saturday was a genuine thing of beauty – just 8.4 per cent of the field managed to hit the green and one player, Justin Thomas, managed a birdie. This hole, as we all know, is played alongside a luxury hotel, over an old railway shed, travels past a pub, has a fairway that everyone’s too scared to hit, a bunker that everyone’s terrified of going in, a green that nobody can hole a putt on and an actual road where everyone now putts off.
Imagine trying to recreate that somewhere else in the world and even getting it a tenth right. And yet not one player has a bad word to say about it. It will average closer to a five than a four and nobody will bat an eyelid. Absolute genius.
We didn’t get the wave from the Swilcan Bridge, that’s not really his style, but he gave us plenty more. This Open needed Tiger even if it was only for a few days. In those days he smiled, we’ve never seen him smile more, and there weren’t the usual grimaces after awkward swings. He loves the bones of the Old Course and the Championship itself and that shone through more than anything. You’d never write Tiger off, why would you, but this was maybe the week where we can now put a line through his chances and it doesn’t really matter. He had rounds of 79-75 and nobody was truly disappointed.
He’s not retiring – he rattled off the word ‘no’ seven times on the bounce when asked if this was it for him – but we won’t see him in another St Andrews Open. He had that one down as being 2030, which would get us back on the 5/10 straight and narrow, and that would put him at 54 which seems like a long way off now.
More than anything he just gets it. His summing up of LIV – ‘Why would you practise any more?’ – was as intelligent as anyone has managed in the past few crazy months. He’ll give a nod towards Jack and Arnie and that will be enough to make him more than a little bit emotional. He genuinely seemed to appreciate the fans this week and the loved him back. And he genuinely gave a shit about the whole thing and you can’t fake that.
Has there ever been an Open with a more unwanted storyline? It was always there, how could it not be? You may as well have put an asterisk next to their names given how our minds now work. Conversations all over the course, in the pubs and in the media centre rarely strayed too far from who’s next. Everyone had a name for everyone else and, if you were to go on rumour and tittle-tattle, then a handful of players who decorated the leaderboard for much of the week will soon be off.
Ian Poulter was booed, though his blinkers managed to block it out but, otherwise, things ticked along on the course as they always do at an Open which polite applause for a good shot.
The overwhelming feeling here is one of sadness given that this will be the last time we’ll see all of these faces together until The Masters and even that’s not a certainty.
The Luck Of The Draw
We all like everything to be fair, even at an exposed links course where balls bounce sideways, winds gust around the place and a slope can take you 50 yards away from where you thought your ball would end up. But we still like fairness and parity and things to be just so. In 2010 the draw took out half the field and, while it’s great to be at the Home of Golf, everyone on that Friday night jet back to the States will have been grumbling over why they even bothered.
This year we got away with it. The early starters on day one – Hovland, Rory, Young, Smith – got the better of it but it didn’t tip the Championship on its head. Of the top 12 going into the final round half of them came from the early starters on Thursday and half from the afternoon wave.
The rest of the week continued to play fair with us. Cam Smith reckoned he played 16/18 holes into the wind on Friday and, again, that was just fine.
The Silver Lining
Occasionally we won’t get a Silver Medal winner as none of our amateur friends will miss the cut. This year we had four of them here for the weekend – Hallamshire's Barclay Brown was very handily placed at -6 after two days but he would make way for the Italian Filippo Celli, the winner of the European Amateur in Spain, who had the week of his life after McIlroy joined him during one of his practice rounds.
"I hope that Rory McIlroy can win the Claret Jug because he's my favourite player. So going out for the presentation with Rory will be a real dream. And I can't ask for better in this moment."
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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