10 Open Championship scenes you couldn’t have seen on TV
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re working to get competing smells of wet shoes and fried fish out of our suitcases. That sentence came out far grosser than intended. Whatever. Let’s get to it!
Sights and sounds from England’s towns
In lieu of our typical weekly rundown — and to help with major-season withdrawal — I just wanted to run through a handful of scenes from on site at Royal Liverpool. Below you’ll find 10 of ’em.
1. These little golf-ball crates rule
Part of the charm of the Open is the little intricacies of golf across the pond. One detail I particularly enjoyed was the little crates they transported range balls around in. The below shot is from the setup next to the chipping green. Check ’em out! Like miniature grocery baskets for golf balls. User-friendly, sturdy, kinda sweet.
2. Pot-bunker practice is weird and fun.
The Open isn’t the toughest major championship for players to score. There are plenty of birdies. This week in particular presented relatively flat greens that players ate alive; Datagolf had putting outside 15 feet as the fourth-easiest of any event since 2015. But the pot bunkers? Oh man, those can make you look very stupid.
They can also make pros look clever, though, finding ways to Houdini themselves out of tight corners or steep embankments without blasting themselves with golf balls in the process. All over the place, all week, pros were practicing (and usually pulling off) awkward-but-impressive recovery shots from these little torture caves. Here was Max Homa getting creative:
3. Hoylake would have selectively destroyed you
Some weeks it’s obvious the ways in which a major-championship test would eat amateur golfers alive. Crazy-long rough, crazy-fast greens, crazy slopes you’d never be able to navigate. Royal Liverpool is on a flat piece of property, it has flat greens and they’re not overly fast. But if you’re, say, a 13-handicap reading this, a few things would have still given you fits.
There are those pot bunkers, for one thing. With the special Day 1 rake job courtesy of the R&A, balls were settling at the edges of the traps and requiring some real weirdness to escape. I’m fairly sure you don’t have the same dexterity with an open-faced wedge and, therefore, might have required either a hand wedge or a half-dozen shots for extraction.
There are the white stakes, for another thing. The pros hit over 100 balls out of bounds this week, essentially unheard of at this level. Your foursome might have approached that number on your own over four days, though. Battle a slice? Have fun on No. 3, where the clubhouse lurks left but O.B. is the real threat down the right side, not just on the tee shot but on the approach. Have fun again at No. 18, where the tee shot, the layup and the approach actually give you three different options to block-slice one directly into a two-stroke penalty.
The recoveries aren’t exactly a can of corn, either.
You’d also struggle playing in front of volunteers and fans, of course. But you might struggle worse without them. Why? Because you need spotters! And you need trampled-down lies on your misses off the tee. There’s no joy in spending extra time searching for balls and there’s no joy in chopping out of the heavy stuff. You’d have time for both.
I’m not saying Hoylake is Oakmont. I’m just saying that I haven’t even mentioned the firm greens, the sideways rain, the wind nor your lack of a Tour-level caddie and that it’s no can of corn out there.
4. Pros could hear themselves on TV.
There are benefits to showing the TV broadcast on the course; it allows on-site spectators to get a sense of what’s going on or perhaps to pause for a plate of chips and a whippy and catch up on the action. But there was a strange side-effect: on a couple holes pros could hear the real-time commentary of the shots they were about to hit.
“Yeah, that was strange,” Scottie Scheffler said after one such incident. “I was standing over my shot and they had the TV going full volume over there and it was commentating my shot.”
He said he’d never experienced that particular brand of distraction.
“It was so weird because I heard my name, and that definitely put me off for a minute there. That was weird.”
Max Homa felt it on the 18th hole on Day 1.
“You can hear the commentators on the broadcast from the big TV,” he said. “And I was over the ball and one of them said, ‘this is too much club.’ I did an absolutely awful job of not backing off.”
5. The two best shots I saw were…
First the most pivotal: Brian Harman capped off his second-round masterpiece in style. He’d gotten off to a hot start with a par at No. 1 and birdies at 2-3-4-5. But then he’d shifted into a controlled neutral with pars at the next 12 holes before uncorking a 346-yard tee shot down the fairway at 18. That’s when he cemented his spot atop the leaderboard with a perfectly controlled 244-yard approach that settled pin-high inside 15 feet. That was the shot. The eagle putt really made it count, of course. And then the rest was history.
As for the most impressive shot I saw? That was from Rory McIlroy on the par-5 5th hole on Saturday. He’d chosen to hit just 2-iron off the tee and had flared that ever-so-slightly out to the right, leaving himself 260 yards to the hole, which meant it was time for another 2-iron. I happened to be directly behind this one, hence the special appreciation. The ball was above his feet and the pin was on the left side, so I imagined he might hit some sort of high, slinging draw. Instead he hit it flat and low and perfect, sending a tight-draw missile at the center of the green. The shot kept the greenside bunker out of play and was hit with such precision that it settled pin-high 25 feet right of the hole. Those first six-and-a-half holes on Saturday McIlroy looked like he might be the man to beat; he didn’t miss a shot. But Harman wouldn’t be denied.
6. My favorite non-Hoylake moment of the week was…
From Wallasey on Wednesday evening. Because the event is so wall-to-wall it’s tough to sneak out to play any golf of our own, but on Wednesday afternoons the course is quiet, the preview coverage is in the bank and there’s generally time for twilight golf. Here’s a neat photo from a glorious night courtesy of our visual whiz Darren Riehl.
7. Proximity to victory means pain.
I was the only reporter there when Cameron Young came into the media area on Sunday evening; he’d played in the final group alongside Harman but shot two-over 73 and finished T8. He was soggy and frustrated.
“I think there’s some positives to take,” he said, but he also kept it real. “My level of excitement with tied for eighth is absolutely zero.”
8. Proximity to victory means longing.
Jason Day has one major championship; he won the 2015 PGA. Now that he’s recaptured his game he wants another. Sunday’s T2 was easily his best effort in years, but as he stepped to the microphone Brian Harman was on the 18th green finishing things out, and Day was transformed to an alternate reality as he watched Harman hole his final putt.
“What a feeling,” he said.
9. Proximity to victory means hunger.
Adam Scott has one major. He wants another, too. Just how badly?
“It’s incredible. It’s kind of the reason I still work hard at my game, thinking I could have a chance to get that other hand on the jug that I was so close to getting,” he said following his T33 on Sunday. “That’s what I’ll be working at over the next 12 months, to come back and have another crack and be in good form and maybe steal a trophy later on in my career.”
10. Proximity to victory can mean joy, too.
The weather was horrific by the time we left the media center late Sunday night. Temperatures had dropped. Wind had upped. Rain had worsened. Golf would have been comical. It was a fitting end to the major season and a reminder that after all the pomp and circumstance there remains wind and rain and darkness and mud.
But inside the Royal Liverpool clubhouse there was joy, too, not just for the winner but for the man who’d tied for 10th, whose impeccable attitude made him an easy guy to root for all week: Local hero Matthew Jordan.
Thanks for following and reading all week!
If you want more behind-the-scenes stuff I’d recommend popping over to our YouTube channel via the video below. You’ll get a different look at how things played out — even if you’ll have to put up with my mug in order to do so. Cheers, gang.