Sports Fan: British Open will present new challenges in 2014
It won’t be the added 50 yards that will make the British Open more difficult for a field of 156 players this year; that’s nothing for the world’s best players. And it might not be the infamous bunkers sprinkled around the Royal Liverpool (Hoylake); some of those often troublesome pot bunkers have been removed for the 2014 event, scheduled for July 17-20.
No, instead, it will be the addition of more “broken ground” in the roughs lining the fairways and greens from which escape will be a little tougher, challenging golfers to utilize their recovery skills at the highest levels — or suffer a slate of bogeys or worse.
This broken ground will test even the top players in the world, including a cast of American players that include, among almost fifty other players from the U.S., Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley and the seemingly ageless Tom Watson, who almost won the event in 2009 until he ran an approach shot past the green on the final hole, pitched back to the green ... then missed an eight-foot putt to end regulation play in a tie with Stewart Cink. Unfortunately for the many fans watching from course-side or on TV, Cink burst Watson’s bubble in the ensuing playoff.
While Watson is 64 and probably won’t challenge for his ninth major victory this time around, he will be a sentimental favorite of many, especially the senior citizen crowd. Other American favorites, of course, will be last year’s winner, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from a back operation earlier this year. The British Open will be only his second event since returning from that surgery. So by tee-time on July 17, Woods might still not be at 100 percent, at least with his timing.
As for Mickelson, he’s played spottily in 2014, missing several cuts and only infrequently showing the Phil of yore, who was known for his hard swings from impossible lies and getting good results on a regular basis. But Phil is now 44 and perhaps past his prime; his rival, Tiger, is 38, so two of America’s favorites are “getting up there” when compared to the young bucks coming on to the world’s biggest golfing stage.
The one advantage Woods does have over his foes is that his last British Open win occured at Hoylake in 2006, so he knows the course, with the exception of the broken ground addition and fewer bunkers to swallow an errant shot.
However, I wouldn’t pick him as a tournament favorite even though he still enjoys a high world ranking (7th), with Australia’s Adam Scott, who is only 33, topping the list. Phil, by the way, is ranked 13th, while Watson, with his full-throttle swing, is ranked third. And if Bubba has decent control of his mighty swing, he could be a contender in this open, but sometimes, he plays too many second or third shots from off the fairway. At the Royal Liverpool, wild drives and long second shots could come back to haunt him.
As a sidebar to the golfers — and there are many outstanding players from the British isles, Australia, South Africa, Asian countries and western European countries competing — this list is going to provide challengers for the announcers, both the play-by-play personnel and the so-called color commentators.
That challenge will come from some of the players’ names, especially those from Asian countries. How do you pronounce names like Byeong-Hun An, for example, or Kiradech Aphibarnrat? An is from Korea and Aphibarnrat is from Thailand. Or how about Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa? Or Mikko Ilonen of Finland? Of course, announcers will research the correct pronunciations, even though some might anglicize them a bit.
For example, in South Africa, where he’s from, Retief Goosen’s name is pronounced more like “Hoisen” than Goosen. I learned the correct pronunciation one day while watching a golf tournament with former South African Rotary exchange student Diane Thake, who corrected me when I asked about him. She was surprised that the American announcers were getting it wrong.
In any event, besides the correct pronunciations of the players and the new broken ground and fewer bunkers to avoid, this British Open should provide lots of excitement as this field is truly international, with competitors from all over the world.
However, I want an American to claim the Claret Jug. If Tiger wins, I’ll be happy; if Phil repeats, I’ll be happy; if Bubba stays in the fairways and doesn’t go wild, I’ll be happy.
And if the field’s elderly statesman, Tom Watson, carves out his ninth major win, I’ll be ecstatic. Win one for the old guys, Tom!
If you have an idea for a column or feature story or a comment, please contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 503-687-1274.