While watching the British Open on television last weekend, The Sports Guy's mind got to wandering. After all, it had to be the most boring major sports championship since the Giants-Ravens puntathon in Super Bowl 35.
ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski, a name I'm admittedly throwing in here because I know it will give my proofreader fits, compared Sunday's final round of the Open to staring in the mirror for four and a half hours and watching your eyebrow hair grow. My eyebrows are evidently more exciting than Wojciechowski's, because at 11 a.m. last Sunday, that would have sounded like a welcome proposition.
If, as former NFL head coach Herm Edwards is fond of saying, you play the game to win, then Sunday's final round of the British Open should have consisted solely of Louis Oosthuizen (there's another bone for the ol' proofreader). Everyone else was simply going through the motions of conservatively playing to not lose a tournament they weren't winning.
The 2010 edition of the British Open stirred up as much excitement about golf as vanilla stirs up interest in an ice cream buffet. Apparently the ‘major' in this leg of golf's major titles was a modifier describing the boredom one received by tuning in.
In the midst of the nondescript play by golf's supposed best and brightest, yours truly caught himself marveling at just one thing. The Old Course at St. Andrews deserves a place alongside blood transfusions, Nikola Tesla and the advent of the forward pass as things truly ahead of their time.
Think about it, faithful reader. We're talking about a golf course layout established in the mid-1800s that, with relatively few changes, remains relevant in a sport where oversized, aerodynamic, depleted uranium driver heads, graphite shafts, square grooves and balls engineered to spin on command have virtually re-written the sport over the past 15 years.
By contrast, consider that Augusta National, usually heralded as the gold-standard against which all other American courses should be compared, was constructed nearly a full century after the Old Course. It has been forced over the past decade to make numerous layout changes to avoid being overwhelmed by technology.
Then there are courses like Denver's famed Cherry Hills, site of the 1960 U.S. Open where Arnold Palmer rallied from seven strokes back on the final day to claim victory. Cherry Hills was removed from the U.S. Open rotation decades after its 1923 construction because the advance of technology had rendered the course too short for major golf. Despite two concerted efforts to lengthen the layout, it is still considered too short to serve as the host for a modern men's major (although the 2012 U.S. Amateur will be contested there).
Lest this be construed as a lament that they just don't build ‘em like they used to, let me be very clear. They wouldn't build them like this at all today.
The Old Course features seven so-called “common” greens, meaning that two tee boxes are playing to different hole placements on the same green. For example, the green for hole 3 also has the flag that folks playing hole 15 are aiming for.
The tee shot on hole 17 at the Old Course features a blind carry over the corner of a hotel. That's the sort of thing typically reserved for a round of Combat Golf on the Playstation.
Try proposing either of those features today and see how quickly the lawyers step in and object for fear of the ensuing lawsuits.
The Old Course has one other unique feature not seen in the modern era — it was designed to be played backwards. Three days out of each year, golfers can do something that I imagine would be very frowned upon at the Powell Golf Club by stepping onto the first teebox and aiming toward the hole 17 green, playing their entire round in reverse.
In retrospect, that's probably the only way Sunday's final round could have held any intrigue. At least I have a new-found appreciation for my eyebrows.