Open at home of oldest golf club

2013-07-12 00:00

THE Open Championship is the third golf Major of the year and is always played in July in the British Isles on a links course. This year Muirfield in Scotland is hosting it for the 16th time.

Muirfield is the home of the oldest club in the world, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who wrote the original rules in 1744, and their records are continuous since then. The last six winners of The Open at Muirfield are a who’s who of world golf: Gary Player (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1966), Lee Trevino (1972), Tom Watson (1980), Nick Faldo (1987 & 1992) and the last time in 2002, it was Ernie Els. He won in a four-way play-off against Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby and Thomas Levet.

The Open winner last year was Els, who is therefore defending champion, so you could say he will be trying to achieve a double-double. He has won only four Major trophies and needs to add at least another one to his tally.

The par-71 Muirfield course is popular with the professionals although the layout is unusual. The first nine are played in a loop around the perimeter of the course in a clockwise direction with the second nine inside the first nine in an anti-clockwise direction.

The wind can be a factor at Muirfield. In 2002, Tiger Woods, playing in the wind and rain, shot 81 in the third round and followed that up with a 65 in calm weather to finish level par, six shots behind.

Jack Nicklaus described Muirfield as the best golf course in Great Britain. He developed a course in his home town in Columbus, Ohio, and named it Muirfield Village. It opened in 1974 and has hosted his Memorial Tournament every year on the PGA tour since 1976.

The Scottish course has changed since 2002. Seven holes have been lengthened with tees being pushed back. The par-five ninth is now 50 metres longer and to do this, the Muirfield club had to buy land from the adjoining Renaissance course.

The Open is the best Major for television viewing. The time difference is only an hour, the commentators are more eloquent than their U.S. counterparts and not as excitable, and even the on-screen graphics are better.

Even though big-name golfers seem to win at Muirfield, we could have a first-time Major winner for the third time this year.

It starts next Thursday the 18th. Enjoy.

From the 19th hole:

A Scottish woman goes into the local newspaper office to see that the obituary for her recently deceased husband is published. The obit editor informs her that there is a charge of 50 pence per word. She pauses and then says “Well, then, let it read ‘Angus MacTavish died’.”

Amused at the woman’s thrift, the editor tells her that there is a seven-word minimum for all obituaries. She thinks it over and in a few seconds says, “In that case, let it read: ‘Angus MacTavish died: golf clubs for sale’.”

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