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Jul 08

Ready for the British Opens? Whose Will be Best?

Women Have More Interesting Lineup This Year in England

The women who make up the field of this year’s British Open are right where they want to be. There are any number of people who could win it, but the suspense is keyed in on just a few. A budding rivalry is taking shape, which always prompts extra interest, and for a couple of weeks in the coming month, we’re going to watch those cool, spare courses that the British have so lovingly carved out of their countryside.

Brit3 Despite the intermittent absence of Suzann Pettersen as a major threat, one which could return on a moment’s notice, we have one re-emerging and transformed Michelle Wie, who has just won her first major only a few weeks back. In the other corner is a woman who has won this one, one year ago, Stacy Lewis. The two have clearly begun to enjoy the mutual challenge, but don’t seem to be getting huffy about it. Michelle and Lewis have interacted socially, and find amusing, laudatory ways with which to state the obvious. Says Lewis of Wie, “Michelle is very focused on the next meal.” Wie responds by remarking that Lewis is “annoyingly consistent.”
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Brit 2 Unless you are a Stacy Lewis fan with room for no other member of the tour, Michelle is one hundred percent correct. Travis Wilson, Lewis’ caddie, is quick to remind us that since the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open, his favorite star has fallen out of the top ten a total of three times. For a spectator such as myself, it seems that every once in a while, Lewis plays a normal human week of golf. It is only during these times, at least it feels like it, that Lewis does not win a golf tournament. By the same token, Wie needn’t apologize in the consistency department. She’s always there – always.

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So what have the men got going that can serve as a counterpart to this fresh new rivalry, the dominant nature of Stacy Lewis and the resurgence of Michelle Wie? Not much, sadly to say.

brit 1 Tiger Woods has gotten a rivalry going once or twice, causing our ears and eyes to perk during the few times that the tournament was in doubt. Phil Mickelson is hitting backward wedges in Scotland to get ready for the Open, but otherwise, he’s doing nothing of any note – in fact, the name “Wrong Way Corrigan” jumps to mind (those under fifty or sixty years of age, look it up) In recent months, Mickelson has all but fizzled as a rival. Rory McIlroy, bless his heart, is still off pondering the imponderables, playing Hamlet on the ramparts, and occasionally shooting a good round of golf – that doesn’t win Opens. If there’s a great rivalry there, he’ll have to recreate it from scratch.

And Tiger himself? No grounds for a rivalry – who cares? He’s a wreck of his former self. Maybe this is the time for Tom Watson to win the Open – again – at the most advanced age at which it’s ever been done, because not many others are playing worth beans.

Tiger, who could still be sitting atop the golf world in terms of talent, is making his comeback at the Open, and folks like Curtis Strange remark that his strategy, whatever it is, doesn’t make much sense. He didn’t make the Quicken Loans cut, and his game, according to Strange is “symptomatic of the golf he was playing before his back surgery.”

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Old swing coach Hank Haney is doing his typical “kick Tiger while he’s down” thing, and  never seems to tire of it. He may be right, though, that Tiger’s appearance at the Open is really preparation for the PGA, remarking that spending the last week with his kids may have made him “a better person, but not a better golfer.”

It’s a pity that the LPGA doesn’t enjoy the same viewership as the PGA, because they’ve got a much better thing going than the testosterone tour has. When the ladies tee up this morning in England, they have greatness with major success going for the trophy, and at each other. With the guys, we’re watching to see if anyone can swing a golf club less badly than anyone else, and if Phil successfully finds his way to the course at all.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.