Monday At The 150th Open: Celebration Of Champions Brings Out The GOATs
Legends and inspiring golfers kick off the week. Plus, Nicklaus talks Old Course, Morikawa returns the Jug, Factoids, Quotes and Reads from a busy Monday in St Andrews.
The R&A brought together Champion Golfers, women’s Major winners, male and female amateur champions, and golfers-with-disability champs for a stunning Monday exhibition. Also, the two greatest to ever play the game added to Swilcan Bridge photo lore. A better-than-most Monday in St Andrews.
Ten teams were sent out on the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th and the R&A provided fans with an announcer at each to regale the galleries with warm introductions of each player. As glorious as it is to see the generations join forces, the decision by the R&A to highlight how the game can be played by many proved brilliant. The golfers with disabilities delivered the greatest satisfaction.
The presence of all living Open Champions at the Old Course certainly added to the grandeur of the day. Those absent were not needed. The full “Celebration of Champions” field was only released Monday morning, perhaps in response to the Greg Norman situation or Phil Mickelson’s absence (by choice, reportedly). Doesn’t matter. It was the choice to place some future stars and golfers of diverse backgrounds into the most beautiful—and nerve wracking—setting in golf that could have gone terribly wrong. It did not.
Spain’s Juan Postigo Arce plays golf with one leg and is a regular in EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) events. He was born without much of his right leg and initially used a prosthetic before ditching it and reinventing his swing, going from a 30 handicap to a four in three years.
Monique Kalkman had cancer of the spine as a teenager which left her in a wheelchair but battled to become a four-time Paralympic champion in wheelchair tennis and table tennis. She is a member of the International Tennis Federation Hall of Fame. Then she turned to golf using a specially designed “paragolfer” chair to help her be upright. Now in her 50s, she has developed her own “Going for Golf” Foundation.
Kipp Popert of England has a form of Cerebal Palsy and became the first golfer with a disability to compete in The Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes last month. He’s also second on the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability. Check out this Tweet from Brian Keogh of Popert in the Amateur.
Jennifer Sraga was born with Achondroplasia, or short stature. The German plays off a low single figure handicap, plays competitively and has an incredible swing:
As for the legends, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Trevino and 2018 Women’s Open Champion Georgia Hall (pronounced Georgina by the first tee announcer😩), were joined at the end by Jack Nicklaus for this fantastic image:
Trevino was in a jovial mood and Hall held her own with what is one of the game’s most beautiful swings. Woods walked better and looked healthier than he did Monday and clearly feeds off being around Trevino, who remains a ballstriking and one-liner savant. (Woods played another early nine holes Monday, suggesting he’s taking this week as seriously as we anticipated.)
But it was the meeting of the two greatest to ever play the game and who, along with Bobby Jones, are the best ever at the Old Course. They created another Swilcan Bridge moment we’ll never forget.
Nicklaus Prepares To Receive St Andrews Citizenship, Talks Old Course
Jack Nicklaus will receive the same status in St Andrews as Benjamin Franklin and Bobby Jones Tuesday, but Monday he dropped by the media center to talk. The three-time Open Champion was in good form but this answer about how the Old Course forces the greats to take risks, no matter the equipment.
JACK NICKLAUS: The game has changed quite a bit but St Andrews hasn't. And, sure, St Andrews has a little bit of length added to it, The Old Course has. But the length has been added to try to sort of compromise the golf ball of today. But you've still got to play golf.
You still have those pesky little bunkers out there that grab your ball every time you hit an errant shot. You hit one out there, you play it out sideways, you say why did I hit it here? Somebody hit it here 60 years ago or 100 years ago and they had the same problem. They hit it right here sideways. And they haven't really -- I don't know whether they changed locations. I think they changed a few locations but not a dramatic number.
But I think the Beardies were changed a little bit back about midway when I was playing, but you've still got to play golf. If you really play well, play smart at St Andrews, you're playing like most of the seaside golf course, you're playing by where the bunkers are.
If you play smart, really play smart, you're probably going to take a couple of chances during the week, but most of the time you don't. In other words, like when I won at Muirfield, I planned myself out. I hit four drivers a day. And the last day I had a little wind in my face at 14, and I elected instead of hitting 3-wood, I hit driver and I knocked it right in the frickin' bunker, and it almost cost me the tournament. Discipline is such an important part of playing over here. You get frustrated.
Once you get frustrated, then say bye-bye, we'll see you next time, because that's what happens. You've got to be patient and you've got the ability to just sort of play to what the golf course gives you. You can't try to take anymore.