Tournament: The Open Championship (aka The British Open), July 14-17 2016
Course: Royal Troon GC, 7,190 yards, par 71 (just southwest of Glasgow, Scotland).
Defending Champion: Zack Johnson. On a weekend that extended to Monday because of very poor weather, Johnson finished earlier than the final round leaders, and put up a number that then #1 Jordan Spieth and then #2 Jason Day just couldn’t match. A subsequent four-hole aggregate playoff with Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman ended with Johnson as the Champion.
Fun Fact: Because of weak exchange rates at the moment, the purse in British Sterling is actually up over last year though the amount in dollars is over $1 million less. #Brexit again.
Television: All times Eastern. Remember this is broadcast from Scotland. Thursday-Friday, 1:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 4-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 4-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (NBC).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Five): Harris English, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley.
The golf world turns its attention to the United Kingdom, and that particular northern portion called Scotland which was the childhood home of James Bond. Golf has been played in these parts for literally hundreds of years. But gone are the sheep bladders, wineskins, gutta perchas and mashie niblicks; replaced with today’s space-age alloys and composites. That doesn’t mean as much at this tourney, because the western coast of Scotland is known for some delicious weather in July… and by delicious I mean horizontal rain and temps in the low 50’s. The weather might be the only defense the course has in the face of today’s athletic golfers armed with highly technical equipment.
This is the world’s oldest golf tournament, spanning 145 editions (leaving a couple of World Wars in between), and this is where they crown "The Champion Golfer of the Year". This champion also receives a Claret Jug trophy, which is the Stanley Cup of the golfing world. Competing for this prestige, you get one of the most diverse and complete representations of the world’s best. There will be plenty of professionals representing Asian countries, Australia, Africa (South), and especially Europe (secession aside for the moment). Oh, and some hackers from the good ol’ US of A as well.
Speaking of which, the University of Georgia has turned out a few talented boys over the years and this Open Championship has five Classic City alumni putting peg to ground.
Russell Henley: Thursday tee time 5:20 am ET. Two time PGA Tour winner, Henley’s game went south as 2015 cooled off, but he’s showing signs of a turnaround so far this summer. He qualified due to his top 10 at the FedEx St. Jude last month, and finished in 20th place here last year.
Chris Kirk: Thursday tee time 4:58 am ET. Missed last year’s Open due to breaking his hand, but he came back and was part of the winning President’s Cup team last fall (which qualified him for this Open). He placed T19 here in 2014, and won nearby in 2007 on the US Walker Cup team, so he’s had some success in these conditions.
Kevin Kisner: Thursday tee time 7:20 am ET. Having helped UGA win the national championship in 2005, Kisner struggled to find success as a pro but had a breakout 2015 year with 5 runner-up finishes before winning his first PGA event in November. He’s part of the top 50 in the world, and will be competing in his 2nd Open (missed cut last year).
Harris English: Thursday tee time 2:19 am ET. The four-time All-American at Georgia and two-time PGA Tour winner is qualified by his standing in eligibility for the 2015 Players Championship (don’t ask). He’s had a solid year so far and has steadily been in contention this summer.
Bubba Watson: Thursday tee tie 4:36 am ET. Formerly #2 in the world, but now #6, Bubba is the highest-ranked American golfer planning to represent the US in the Olympics next month. The 37 year old now has 9 Tour victories, but hasn’t mustered a finish better than T23 (2012) in this event. He’s noted they don’t serve collard greens down at Ye Olde Haggis & Hearth.
The rest of the world’s top 10 will be competing too. Rory McIlroy will try to defend his 2014 win (he broke his ankle and wasn’t able to defend last year), Jordan Spieth will try to live up to the hype again, recently-crowned US Open champion Dustin Johnson will attempt to pull off a 2nd consecutive major, and world #1 Jason Day will dodge questions about why he won’t play for Australia in the Rio Olympics. We have plenty of storylines, gorgeous scenery straight out of Highlander (or Braveheart if you like that sort of thing), and the world’s best golfers. So tune in and….