The Open: Where – Which One?

The PGE probably feels a little cocky starting its season in Maui this week, with all the pleasures and treasures that such a location suggests. Before you know it, the U.S. “Open” and other events employing that term will come around, and we’ll be in the thick of the majors.

The Europeans, however, are also starting their tour in an interesting place, and by the time the European tour reaches the British Isles, they’ll have a treasure trove of “Opens” to offer as well, in locations and on courses we really don’t hear enough about. If we did, many of us would be in a big hurry to go and play them.

Of course, there’s The Open, played at or near the birthplace of the modern game, so prestigious that to call it by the moniker of British Open seems unstylish and redundantly over-expressed. Like the PGA, however, the Europeans are starting further south, on the beautiful golf club of East London, South Africa. For our friends across the pond, the Africa Open is the inaugural event of the 2012 men’s European Tour. In fact, South Africa’s Thomas Aiken led it in the first round, followed closely by fellow countrymen Retief Goosen and Jaco Ahlers. Welshman Price, du Toit and O’Riley were close behind. If the Africa Open needs to demonstrate any more proof that it’s real, consider that last year’s champion was Louis Oosthuisen, a former British Open…that is to say, Open champion.

The 2012 Irish Open will be held at Royal Portrush, with the 2013 to be played at Carlton House Golf Club in Killarney, where it’s been held twice before – has a music all its own, doesn’t it? The Portrush incarnation
will be the first time since 1953 that the Irish Open has moved north of the border. The website’s description barely does it justice. When it comes to scenery, Ireland does it right, and golf is no exception.

The Scottish Open has become the richest event in Europe among those with no PGA affiliation. The purse has grown to three million pounds, which would make some lucky laddie very happy. The first Scottish Open was played at Dundee, and the second, before disappearing for twelve years, at St. Andrews, returning to Glasgow. For the last decade, it’s been played at Loch Lomond, giving new meaning to “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,” depending on one’s shot-making ability. Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell have won it, but Scot Colin Montgomerie took the prize in 1999. You can catch this scenically gorgeous event in Inverness, far to the north…but bring a scarf, and binoculars to watch the killer whales.

The ISPS Wales Open used to be the Saab Wales Open, and before that, the Celtic Manor Wales Open. Established in 2000, it’s played in June every year on the eye-catching Golf Club course of Newport, South Wales, which was the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup. Winners have included Donald, McDowell, Khan and Poulter, but no Welsh champion to this point. If Ian Woosnam would get back out there and practice, I’ll bet he’d take care of that omission pretty quick.

So, enjoy that golf game under the palms, PGA, with those fancy drinks, hula dancing and luaus in between. You’ll get yours later. Meanwhile, your European brothers are whipping up some interesting scenes of their own and taking on some beautiful but daunting courses. I mean, take a gander at Portrush. Is that a scary looking golf course or what? Aloha.

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