Heir apparent: And the star of the 149th Open Championship is… hair!?

hair at the 2021 british open

From left: Cameron Smith, Paul Larsen and Marcel Siem.

Getty Images/Golf Channel (middle)

Let us now praise famous man buns. While we’re at it, shaggy manes and mullets, too.

Like the 148 Open Championships before it, this week’s rendezvous at Royal St. George’s has featured its share of furry looks, not all involving players stuck in knee-high grasses. The first of the woolly figures got his 15 minutes before the first shot of the tournament was struck, as your social-media feeds surely let you know. That was on Wednesday, when Paul Larsen, St. George’s head greenskeeper and a doppelgänger for a young Keith Richards, triggered giddy headlines over his appearance.

On the one hand, it was sweet to see the golf world celebrate a less-than clean-cut profile. On the other, all the gushing over Larsen was a cringe-worthy reminder of the game’s un-hip conformities: in what other circles would there be such breathless buzz over a do’ that has been around in England since the dawn of rock-n-roll?

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Since play got under way, there’s been more of the same. Cameron Smith’s mullet. Marcel Siem’s man bun. Both have received more on-air commentary than the fine play of the men who sport them.

Are such remarks well-intended? Absolutely. Do they make the broadcasters sound as with-it as Judge Smails? Yes, they do.

In recent decades, golf has taken great pains — and made great strides — toward convincing the world that it is cooler than its reputation. We’ll know it has succeeded when it stops trying so hard, when it ceases all the bluster over anything that strays from the narrow mainstream, when it holds off on anointing, say, the accomplished likes of Miguel Angel-Jimenez as the world’s “most interesting man” just because he smokes cigars, drinks wine and doesn’t shave his head like a Marine.

The irony, of course, is that the game has always been a harbor for outliers, its origins tracing to scruffy shepherds on lonely coasts. Isn’t it time it started acting that way?

As the final round at Royal St. George’s approaches, golf would do well to remember that more than a century before John Daly claimed the Claret Jug in neck-warmer locks, the tournament was won four times by hirsute Old Tom Morris, who calls to mind in photos a tweedy patron from the Play-Doh Barbershop.

Sunday’s action will begin with a mullet and man bun tied for 9th, six shots behind a guy in a five-day beard, who himself will be paired with a well-shorn kid from California, with a Texas candidate for follicle-replacement playing in the penultimate group.

Consider it progress if none of that gets any televised mention. Perhaps this will be the week golf finally lets its hair down. Or at least keeps quiet about someone who bundles his behind his head.

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Golf.com

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.