It’s fitting that the Open Championship is now the final major of the year. I don’t know if it means saving the best for last — that one played down in Augusta, Georgia is still pretty dang good — but the Open is the amalgamation of all the others. It has the austerity of the Masters, the desperation of the U.S. Open and — if weather is staved off — the sometimes-shootouts of the PGA Championship. It is a major that contains all the other majors.
It also contains its own unique qualities. It is the oldest. It has the best trophy (in sports). And of late, it has delivered us some leaderboards for the ages (more on that below). So not only does it contain the other three majors, but it also stands all on its own. A proper championship, as some might say.
And there are a million things that make this event great, but we don’t have time for them all. As I prep and research over the next few days, many more will certainly come to mind as we tumble toward the 148th Open Championship, but here are seven I thought of that make this tournament one of the best of the year.
1. A history unlike any other: I’m not saying Bethpage Black and Baltusrol don’t have great history because they do. What I’m saying is that neither was built adjacent to a castle from the 1500s like Royal Portrush was. The Open’s tournament history obviously goes deeper than that of any other majors — shout out to both Old and Young Tom Morris (and Medium Tom, if there was one) — but it’s the fact that its stable of courses in the rota reaches back centuries (with an “s”) that really gets me wound up.
2. Early wake-up call: I’m not trying to go full Tiger Woods and get up at 1 a.m., but I do enjoy the middle-of-the-night golf for a few days, especially when Golf Twitter is really popping with fellow psychopaths like myself. There’s a certain serenity to it that you don’t get during the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
3. Those leaderboards: At some point in the last decade, I started realizing that the Open — maybe because of its course rota or the type of golf played — produces the best Sunday afternoon leaderboards. In 2014, it was Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. In 2015, we saw Jordan Spieth take his grand slam bid to the wire against Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman. Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson warred at Royal Troon in 2016. Spieth did it again in 2017, this time against Matt Kuchar, and this time he won. And last year, Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy all led or co-led on Sunday before Francesco Molinari usurped them all.
Strap in for this year’s edition at Royal Portrush because while we don’t know which names will be up there, we know they’re going to be monsters.
4. It asks a lot: For about 49 weeks of the year, the same exact questions are asked of golfers. Then for the other three, different questions are asked. And for one of those, really different questions are asked. This might be related to No. 3 in that you often see the biggest dogs rise to the occasion when the most interesting, compelling answers are needed. Anybody can play the kind of point-and-shoot golf we see on the PGA Tour week in and week out, but it takes a combination of guts, guile and world class talent to conquer these examinations.
5. The weather: You know what they say. It’s not a proper Open until the brolly of a top-10 player has inverted and his caddie is trying to get it back. I have no idea if anyone has ever said that, but we’ll pretend like someone did and use it as a device for talking about just how bonkers it can be. Bonkers enough to make Tiger shoot his first round in the 80s as a pro and derail maybe his best shot at the grand slam in a single year.
6. All the styles: Remember when Tom Watson nearly won Turnberry in 2009? Remember when Woods nearly won Carnoustie last year after laying back and laying back and laying back over the first few days? Remember when Dustin Johnson bludgeoned St. Andrews for two rounds in 2015 before fading into the North Sea? When you go to a place like Bethpage, there are like eight guys who can win there. When you go to an Open? There are legitimately 50 or more who can do it. Possibly more than that. And while talent almost always rises (see No. 3 and No. 4), a share of the lead is always lurking around every pot bunker, beyond every gulley. There is no optimism like the optimism leading into an Open.
7. The jug: No really, the Claret Jug is the best.