some Open thoughts

Added on July 23rd, 2013 by
Posted in General, Greenkeeping, TV Coverage

‘Hats Off!’ to Phil Mickelson for spread-eagling the field in running conditions at Muirfield when his natural game is one of high ‘thru the air’ golf.

Phil having almost complained, along with Poulter, about the early fiery conditions and the greens dying (which they were not), Peter Dawson seems to have caved-in and ordered some overnight watering which calmed the greens and aprons down dramatically, (which I am not sure was to Tiger’s delight when some of his apron approach shots just ‘died’).

If most of the pro’s can’t control the powerful, heavy ball in the finest running conditions,  perhaps the better option is for the ball’s specification to be changed? 


The R&A’s tinkering with over-watering is no help to greenkeepers at ordinary clubs, who are forever under pressure to make surfaces more “receptive” in spells of hot weather. Thus inducing the Poa annua swards which are so fatal to the game.

But it is still testament to Phil’s ability to adapt, to appreciate and to enjoy the challenge of the dry, firm, windy conditions that test and create the Champion Golfer.

That is the route to greatness. Bobby Jones, one of the world’s greatest ever golfers (in your humble correspondent’s opinion) and Tom Watson, both initially hated links golf but had an epiphany, discovering and coming to exalt in, and feel real love for, the running game.

In the last two Opens Rory McIlroy has blown up. Last year he commented that he couldn’t find the time to learn links golf to use it only for one week in the year; This year his mind just seems totally scrambled. My advice is to get Nike to give him time off to rediscover the fun of golf by playing on the finest courses when they are fiery. Only then will he discover the subtleties of these old courses and recognise that it is not all about ‘distance control’ and consequently the energy and excitement will flow back through his body.

If Nike want a Champion Golfer of The Year Rory has to have his links epiphany.

Any golfer, who plays on firm, wiry-grassed, running courses regularly, knows the default club around the green is the modern eight iron or older equivalents, bumping the ball one third with two thirds run-out. It gives some control over the shot, unlike a putter from off the green and minimises the ‘dunk’ or ‘scull’ of the not-quite-perfect wedge.

What percentage of the pros during The Open week used a wedge as their default club? As far as I could see (being at Lord’s over the weekend – where the cricket authorities foolishly organised a clash with the Open – I did not see continuous TV coverage) the answer was about 95%. Phil Mickelson’s wedge is a magic wand, without doubt.

Perhaps he was lucky nobody else had sussed out how to use the eight iron with confidence!

FineGolf is usually critical of TV golf coverage with its tendency to dumb down with commentators descending into PR- speak tedium. But well done the BBC for giving Mark James (who I heard use even the normally banned phrase ‘target golf’!) a generous amount of commentary and even Sky had Paul McGinley to the fore at Castle Stuart.

These two both love the running game and their depth of knowledge raises the coverage quality immensely.

Would it be too much to ask, one wonders, for some investment by the TV companies in research over the next year, to back up these guys with anecdotes and interviews that centre around greenkeeping and agronomy to bring the difference between running and target golf alive for the average viewer? I suppose it is naïve to expect the commercial Sky to be critical of the vast amount of the coverage they give but

the licence-fee funded BBC have no excuse for failing to reach for excellence.


Reader Comments

On July 31st, 2013 Peter Newman said:

Could not agree more as regards the clash with the Lords Ashes Test…..very aggravating and meant that I failed entirely to get to Muirfield at all. Very disappointed with the ECB on this, but perhaps, with SKY not having the golf contract, they were not unhappy with the clash?!

As regards the apparent ‘softening’ of the greens and approaches after the Thursday, whilst tricky to be sure from the TV coverage, the main untoward impact did indeed seem to be the ‘dead’ bounces from shots arriving just short of the greens. An unfortunate R & A error of judgement I suspect?

On July 31st, 2013 Stephen Richards said:

I’m not sure that I agree. BBC TV didn’t exactly cover itself with glory on the Sunday. It missed most of Phil’s front 9. At one point it descended into Tiger worship, wasting several valuable minutes as it tracked him from putting green to 1st tee (yawn). We saw very little of Zach Johnson’s Sunday round (-5), or of Francesco Molinari (-2). However BBC Radio 5 Live once again did the BBC proud, and proved that radio golf can be gripping and entertaining.

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