Welcome back to the NLU Mailbag. In this space, we’ll address topics big and small, smart and dumb, irreverent and serious.
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CarleyRaeJespenFan: What are your thoughts on people referring to The Open Championship as ‘The British Open’?
This seems like one of those “controversies” that’s not actually real and only meant to juice engagement. For years, NLU has been poking fun at the whole thing by referring to it instead as The Open Championship Presented by Her Majesty the Queen. (Now The King, of course.) But I was surprised to learn that some people take it very seriously. In my Twitter mentions this week, people are literally cursing each other out. One thing people don’t talk about is that an entire generation of Americans grew up watching the “British Open” on ABC and ESPN. That’s literally what the broadcast partners called it for us! That’s what we know it by!
I’m of two minds here: I like to refer to it as The Open Championship. But I also think if it’s going to be viewed as the one, true OPEN, then why exactly are we limited to holding it in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland? I know that’s blasphemy, but it feels like a certain kind of golfing snob wants it both ways. Don’t call it British, but don’t truly share it with the world.
If it’s truly just THE OPEN, then why can’t we hold it in Australia? Or Canada? Or South Africa?
If you don’t want to call The British Open, then consider this my official application to hold the 2030 Open Championship at Tara Iti in New Zealand.
PTM: Outside of the actual golf, what is the most difficult adjustment for American golfers traveling to the The Open? Lodging? Food? Driving on the right side? Schedules?
In my experience, it’s the quality of the Guinness, which makes you want to drink 10 of them and then you wake up the next morning fighting the time change and a hangover. But that’s a media answer. My answer for the golfers is mostly the fact that they’re outside their comfort zone, and very few of them are able to embrace the unfairness of links golf. Sometimes you’re going to get bad bounces and sometimes you’re going to be on the shit side of the draw. American golfers struggle when they don’t have control because they’re so used to hitting the ball high and making it stop quickly. I think lodging and food, they have figured out ways to bring a piece of home with them, but on the course, you still have to mentally commit to hitting certain shots 150 yards knowing they’ll bounce another 30 yards, and as soon as the ball lands, you have no control of the outcome.
VinnyCal75: Are there any venues that have either never hosted an Open or haven’t for a really long time that could potentially do so within the next 10-15 years?
I appreciate the spirit of this question, but the only real answer is Turnberry, which hasn’t hosted an Open since 2009 when Stewart Cink edged out Tom Watson in a playoff. Turnberry hasn’t been officially removed from the rotation, but it seems clear the R&A isn’t going back as long as the Trump Organization continues to own the property. (By the way, that’s not my politics talking, that’s the R&A, which has made its stance clear repeatedly, including again this week.) While Turnberry was the venue for one of the greatest final round duels in golf history, Watson and Nicklaus in 1977, it’s only been the host four times, and the remoteness of the property makes it a tough sell for fans to get to.
In a world where the ball didn’t go 350 yards, it’s kind of fun to think about playing the Open at Prestwick, where the tournament originated in 1860 and was played 24 times between then and 1925, but even if you gave modern players hickory golf clubs and asked them to attack the 6,500-yard layout, it doesn’t have the land available for all the corporate tents, grandstands and hospitality that are required to host. There is a certain irony to the fact that Prestwick stopped hosting the Open because too many people came out to watch Scottish hero Macdonald Smith try to win the 1925 Open, and the crowds were deemed unruly, as Golf Digest detailed in this enjoyable look back.
I’m of the belief that if Royal Portrush can host the Open, then Royal County Down should be considered. I know it has logistical challenges, like a lack of lodging nearby, but it’s arguably the greatest golf course in the world. You’d think there would be a way to make it work and still draw thousands of fans. It has, after all, hosted the Senior Open Championship three times. A man can dream.
It does seem criminal that Wales has never hosted an Open, and maybe Royal Porthcrawl deserves future consideration.
Drewski: If you can go back in time to see any British Open in person, which would you choose and why? Watson at Turnberry in 77 feels like an obvious choice, but to see Tiger’s dominance at St. Andrew’s in 2000 or the Phil/Stenson match would be hard to pass up as well.
I gave this some serious thought and ultimately I landed on a bit of a dark horse — The 1972 Open at Muirfield. The reason? It was Lee Trevino’s second straight Claret Jug and represented a moment when he was arguably the best golfer on the planet, and certainly the most creative.
My dad always admired Jack Nicklaus, but he loved Trevino, whose humble upbringings and charm were more relatable to a working-class guy from Montana. Watching a video of Trevino thinking his way around links courses, shaping shots that modern players can’t even fathom, seems like golf nerd nirvana.
TheEyeTest: KVV (and maybe some help from the Merch Czar as he’s the course/band comp GOAT), which classic British rock bands would you associate with each of the courses on the Open Rota? Is the Old Course the Beatles or the Stones? If one course could be the Sex Pistols, which course would it be?
Great question, and exactly the kind of weird shit we are into here at the NLU Mailbag. I love music but also know my strengths so I enlisted my man D.J. to help with this one as Neil was off creating content. Some initial thoughts…
- Carnoustie — The Rolling Stones. Imagine the opening riff of Gimme Shelter beginning to play just as Jean Van de Velde puts his tee in the ground on the 72nd hole, and this immediately makes sense. An element of danger hangs in the air, of madness and mayhem. No course, and no moment, has ever embodied the lyrics “It’s just a shot away” more than that one.
- The Old Course — The Beatles. This one feels like a cheat, considering there is a long and winding road in the middle of the course. I once suggested that Yesterday was the best song comp for The Old Course, considering the way it flows together, one piece connected seamlessly to the next, suggests (in the cheesiest, best way) that art is guided not just by people but something spiritual and ethereal. Both song and course invoke nostalgia, the longing for something that's already (mostly) gone. Each creation story feels like the happiest of accidents. A course that was once played in the opposite direction has something in common with a song that was about Scramble Eggs before it became something bigger. It's arguably too short for modern standards, but also maybe not. But it goes beyond Yesterday too. The Old Course is at its most interesting when the weather kicks in, when the wind makes you do experimental, provocative stuff. Also, it would be cooler if they played it with clubs made of Norwegian wood. Much like the Beatles, TOC is as endlessly simple or complicated as you want to make it.
- Lytham – Blur: People who seem to know what they are talking about tell me it's really good and perfectly crafted, but I've never really taken the time to dive in. Like a lot of people, I kind of only know the Adam Scott meltdown. Woooohooooooo!
- Hoylake – Fleetwood Mac: Hitters only. Tournaments that stand the test of time. So much greater than the sum of its parts. Controversial relationship to white lines.
- St. Georges – The Kinks: Weird, conceptual, not nearly as charming and polished as its more famous contemporaries, but I dare you to not enjoy it. Also probably Wes Anderson's favorite venue.
- Portrush – Led Zeppelin: Big, bold. Feels like if Tolkein was a bad ass. Total sensory overload.
- Muirfield – U2: Undeniably world class, but takes itself laughably seriously.
- Troon – The Verve: Cool catalogue, but most people probably just want to hear one song. Also, I could see Phil somehow parlaying his near-miss in 2016 into this.
- Turnberry – Oasis: Things have gotten... complicated. But my god are they still glorious. I feel like we'll eventually see 59-year-old Liam taking one more run on stage and it'll be a great reminder of what once was. But it will also ultimately be a heartbreaking reminder of mortality. Also you could convince me Stew Cink is the "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds" of Tour players. (A compliment!)
- Birkdale – Pink Floyd: Often overshadowed, but a complicated, modern, intense puzzle to be solved. Also feels like JS is 1-2 swing thoughts away from a Syd Barrett experience.
Blakehall: Who is the most likely to get a bad haircut (that gets turned into a bigger deal than it should be) this year?
Considering that Talor Gooch accidentally joined LIV, I think he would be my candidate to accidentally end up with a bad haircut the way Jordan Spieth did when he accidentally threw away his chance to win back-to-back Opens by going all Sampson in 2018 and trimming his locks before the final round at Carnoustie. We’ve had our fun with Gooch this year, but he’s actually a very nice guy who keeps wading into various controversies almost by accident. You actually have to be playing well to be considered for this question, since no one cares if someone gets a bad haircut and doesn’t play the weekend, and Gooch had the game to contend even if he does show up on Sunday with David Beckham’s infamous cornrows or Boris Johnson’s blow-dried bed head.
Scottyrp4: Given how insane this year has been in golf, who is the most intriguing Open champion?
I feel like we talk about Rory McIlroy too much in this space, but he still feels like the answer. If he doesn’t win this week, he’ll be looking at a decade drought in majors. If he does pull it off, suddenly he’s the most intriguing player in golf again.
But let’s remove Rory for a minute and look elsewhere. A Rickie Fowler victory would feel like a prophecy surprisingly fulfilled at the end of a novel when you least expect it. A Patrick Reed victory would give LIV even more credibility because, unlike Brooks Koepka, Reed would fully embrace LIV as one of the reasons why he reached golf’s pinnacle.