Open Magic Remains Intact

I’m sitting staring out the window prevented, by a deadline, from enjoying this rare blast of sunshine out on the fairway – or out on the sun terrace, chilled drink in my hand.

It strikes me, however, that this is the weather that I associate with the Open – the weather that accompanied long hours in the back garden trying, with plastic balls and cut off clubs, to recreate the genius of Sandy Lyle or Greg Norman.

Or the weather that accompanied that first, awe inspiring trip to the final day of practice at Muirfield. Or the long hours, and mind bending wages, of a week spent marshalling a car park in Gullane.

Or, later, the weather that accompanied the long hours following Montgomerie, Woods or Els around the links, then the long hours enjoying the beer gardens of East Lothian or Fife.

The record books will disagree with me but hot days and the Open always seem to go hand in hand. And the excitement, the build up of enjoyable tension from the newspaper supplements on the weekend of the Scottish Open to the final, spine tingling, walk of the Open champion down the last fairway, remains undimmed throughout the years.

Why? The World Cup, perhaps because it is only every four years and has come to represent the bloated world of football, has lost its lure. Wimbledon – for all its protestations – is now no different from the other tennis ‘slams’ and is no longer a spectacle. And yet the Open remains, its spirit intact.

Partly this is because the Open, even when it is played in England, always feels like a Scottish event. The thrawn, stubborn links courses could be a striking metaphor for the Scottish character. This is a world class, modern golf tournament, but somehow it remains true to the aims of those hardy pioneers at the links of Prestwick and Musselburgh.

In part it is the unpredictability of the tournament. The Open remains open – even in the Tiger era, a plucky artisan like Paul Lawrie or an unknown apprentice like Todd Hamilton can make their mark and steal the glory.

And there remains the lingering feeling that this, far more than the manicured beauty of Augusta or the lengthy test of the US Open, remains golf. For just one week we can all become purists, dedicated to preserving the game as it was meant to be played.

We can nod knowingly as the latest big name from America struggles or shake our heads and wonder why more Brits can’t learn on the links courses that decorate our coast line. As spectators we are knowing and appreciative, sharing in the ups and downs of the professionals. Somehow, when we smell the sea, we are all, players, galleries and pundits, equal in the face of the true champion – links golf itself.

And so Carnoustie welcomes us this week. There will be tears and tantrums, genius and joy. And, for one more week, an ageing Scottish links will rule golf. This is how it has always been and how it always will be. For, more than anything, the Open provides the comfort of certainty. It is there, so all will be well.

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