Monday, July 18, 2011

The British Open Update

The Tournament

"It's almost 10:00 a.m. We should think
about heading back to the office."
The British Open is like Mad Men set on a golf course.  It seems like everyone including the kids in the gallery are smoking cigarettes, the announcers make a drinking reference every fifteen minutes and the winner essentially declares during his acceptance speech that he’s going to get pissed drunk that night. It’s the cool major.* The problem is that the last several Opens have been won by the squares in accounting instead of Don Draper and Roger Sterling.  Fortunately, that all changed yesterday.                 

Let’s get one thing straight. Darren Clarke is not an “everyman.” An “everyman” is someone we can all identify with because he’s like us and he allows us to imagine ourselves in his shoes doing larger than life things like winning the British Open. Ben Curtis is an “everyman.”  Darren Clarke owns three Ferraris which are three more than most people will ever see in their lifetime so let’s ditch the “everyman” label and just admit that we like Darren Clarke because he’s cool.  You know that if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in his company, you are going to be (a) drinking, and (b) laughing. There’s a reason that one of his sponsors is paying him a $3.2M bonus for yesterday’s win. He’s a sponsor’s dream and he even went out of his way to thank them during his acceptance speech (after saying he was going to chug Guinness out of the Claret Jug of course).

Clarke was recruited by Wake Forest in 1985 but apparently when he got there, coaches told him that he had to quit drinking, smoking and staying out late, so he left the next day.  I’m guessing that’s Clarke’s side of the story and he left out the part about sitting through an 8:00 a.m. lecture on "Intro to English Lit" and thought “screw this.” (If you want to see this scene played-out dramatically, watch Friday Night Lights – Season 4, Episode 1 in which Tim Riggins makes it through about five minutes of his first class at San Antonio St. before throwing all of his books out of his pick-up truck on his way back to Dillon, Texas. Nothing says “I’m dropping-out” like throwing your books out of a moving vehicle).

I’ve been a fan of Clarke’s since the 2000 Andersen Consulting Match Play when he played Tiger Woods in the final. At that point, both players were being coached by Butch Harmon who, recognizing his meal ticket, spent the entire warm-up time on the range with Tiger. When Tiger went to the putting green, Harmon started walking to the other end of the range to check on Clarke who started laughing and said, “no need to come down here Butchie, I’m hitting it perfect.” Clarke birdied 12 out of 33 holes and won 4&3. I love that story.

Who wouldn't want to
party with this guy.
Clarke didn’t have to play that well yesterday as everyone kept clearing the path for him. After tying for the lead, Mickelson three-jacked 11. As he was walking off the green, Bones put a hand on his shoulder and offered some sage advice after which Phil bogeyed three of his next five holes and then hit his second shot on 18 twenty rows into the grandstand on the right. Apparently Bones gave Phil the old 18th hole at Winged Foot pep talk with similar results.

Dustin Johnson got within two and then appeared to make a classic “what exactly am I trying to accomplish with this 2-iron from 250 into the wind” swing on 14 and he was done.  Are we sure that Joe LaCava was the right guy to put on the bag for Johnson?  LaCava caddied for Fred Couples, one of the most talented, long hitting and laid back players for a 15 year period (sound familiar). During that stretch, the only major Freddie won was the ’92 Masters where his closest pursuer was a 49 year old Raymond Floyd. Couples’ other claim to fame is being the greatest silly season player of all time so look for Johnson to clean-up in the Skins game and Shark Shootout over the next few years. 

No one else got close so Darren Clarke was able to coast to the title of Champion Golfer of the Year (even that title is cool in its pure arrogance) and then he did what the rest of us would have done. He jumped into his yellow Ferrari with a trophy full of Guinness and his former Miss Northern Ireland fiancĂ© and went to pick-up his $3.2M check.      

The Coverage

The novelty added for this year’s coverage was that the announcers referred to all of the groups or pairings as “games” because that’s apparently what they’re called in England.  I’m guessing this decision was made by the same guys who shut down Pirate Radio and almost drowned Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the North Sea.  It wasn’t as bad as calling fans “patrons” but it sounded pretty forced at times like the producer was repeating in Mike Tirico’s ear “it’s a game not a pairing…it’s a game not a pairing.”  I don’t ever remember Peter Alliss calling pairings “games.”

"But you see I was only
intending to make fun
of the portly chap."
Speaking of Alliss, he was noticeably absent from the coverage. I wonder if it had anything to do with this recent interview where he said, “Yes, we liked to lubricate the tonsils [on the air] with a bit of Bollinger, but only in a medicinal way.” and, on being accused of ridiculing a spectator in a wheelchair he explained “that was all misconstrued. There was someone very obese standing there when the picture came up. I started talking, and he moved away and showed the wheel-chair.” In other words, I was making fun of the fat guy, not the disabled guy.  
  
My only other beef with the coverage was that ABC had too many random un-choreographed voices.  You should never have Curtis Strange bumbling you into a commercial break and a non-golfer (I don’t know who it was) should not be calling Dustin Johnson’s second shot on 14 a shank (because it wasn’t).  And why would you try to make Scott Van Pelt and Sean McDonough golf announcers?  They are both great at what they do but it’s not announcing golf tournaments.  Van Pelt sounded like a 17 year old wise-ass trying to impress his parent’s friends (“I’m taking all AP classes this year and I lettered in squash”) and McDonough is a baseball/basketball play by play man (I kept waiting for him to tell me the count).  They couldn’t find a couple of semi-retired snarky European players to stick in those booths?  This kind of stuff never happens on CBS because they still fear a profanity laced reaming from Frank Chirkinian even though he’s been dead for four months.           

Footnote

Until a better one comes along, I will
swear that this is the best Ferrell movie.
While we’re labeling, the Masters is the stuffy major – the winner would never sit in Butler Cabin and tell Jim Nantz and Billy Payne that he was going out that night to get sideways while wearing nothing but his green jacket; the U.S. Open is the bully – at least it was until this year; and the PGA Championship s the other major - like Will Ferrell driving a Prius holding a wooden dummy pistol.