A Suitcase For St. Andrews

Moving Day at the Open Championship.

Where it’s either push your way up the leaderboard or pack your bags for next week because this one has slipped away like the sands of the Scottish coastline, worn down from ages upon ages of waves, tides and tempers. Because if there’s anything a Saturday at St. Andrews can do it’s test the patience of golf’s finest champions as they struggle through earth, wind and fire all in an effort to wrap their sinewy claws around golf’s most sought after jug.

Who will survive moving day and at what cost? Will it be the talented American in search of his first major or the lesser known Englishman hoping to make his countrymen proud? The first few pages of the iconic yellow leaderboard are so full of pedigree that the weekend can’t possibly disappoint. Unless Mother Nature has her way in which case we will enjoy the suffering much more than the players involved, hats and hair tossed about as if they were sticking their heads out the window of a vehicle heading down the road to Glasgow or London. Anywhere but here.

 So enjoy your breakfast and pack a light lunch as you settle in front of the television for hours of vertigo inducing viewing. And always remember which end is up, on moving day at the Open Championship.

Home for Golf at the Home of Golf

The Open Championship has never been sweeter than watching St. Andrews from the center of my sofa.

And while a pint would be nice I’ll take a coffee instead. Caffeine over alcohol is my morning vice.

The wind blows cross the Old Course as if propelled out an overinflated set of bagpipes. While, in my house, a warm breeze gently caresses my skin, urging me to get outside and enjoy the beautiful summer day.

I resist mother nature’s siren song and remain indoors, glued to me television screen. Unwilling to flinch or blink for fear that I’ll miss something from Scotland.

Until that is it’s time to take a mid morning snooze. By then St. Andrews will have proven itself fit for a perfect weekend of watching and dreaming.

About aces, eagles and birdies. Fish, chips and Claret Jugs. All the things that make golf so special. Here at my home of golf.

The Spieth Has Landed In Scotland

From Moline to the Moors, the Heartland to the Highlands, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion arrives in St. Andrews with a Grand Slam on his mind and a tractor sized paycheck in his pocket following another victory, ho-hum, at the John Deere Classic, a tournament many believed it would be wise for him to bypass on account of much more loftier pursuits. Only time will tell if the tune up in the Quad Cities was worth the detour but either way that 850k will certainly help pay for a few more fishing excursions to the Bahamas.

Waiting in the wings at the home of golf, a collection of ravenous rivals feasting on an opportunity to hoist the Claret Jug. Walker, Woods, Westwood and Watsons young and old. Day and DJ, Rose and Rickie. Fowler that is and if there’s a hotter golfer on the planet right now other than Heir Jordan it would have to be the diminutive dirt bike rider who, fresh off a victory at the Scottish Open, has proven once again to be more substance than style.

And what most Rory be thinking, with ankle elevated and spirit deflated? A little game of footie with friends is always worth the risk but the significance of soccer in the Northern Irishman’s life pales in comparison to the competition on the links and the budding rivalry with a certain 21 year old Texan possessing realistic designs on seizing the world’s top spot from the hobbled McIlroy.

Never a dull moment or dry pint at St. Andrews and the 144th Open Championship.

 

Sports For Breakfast Not Dinner

If you were one of the roughly 2% of households tuning into to ESPN’s Sunday final round coverage of The Open Championship you were witness to history. No not Rory McIlroy becoming only the 3rd golfer ever to win three major championships by the age of 25 (move over Jack and Tiger). An impressive feat but not the kind of accomplishment sports fans will be talking about years from now. No, what Sunday, and Saturday for that matter as well, proved is that major sporting events are much better when served in the morning as opposed to their traditional afternoon or evening time slots.

As the entire state of California shakes their collective head in agreement, it is not often that us folks on the East Coast are privileged to such an enjoyable viewing experience. Outside of The Open Championship what other major sporting events can be seen in the morning on the East Coast? Wimbledon? Premier League Soccer? An occasional Olympics? The point being, watching sports in the morning is a much more enjoyable experience for viewers because you don’t have to wait and when it’s over you still have an entire day in front of you.

What needs to happen now is for television networks and sports leagues to get together and agree to broadcast more of their weekend games in the early morning on the East Coast. And we’re not talking about just sporting events that occur across the pond in Europe and Asia but big time college and pro basketball, baseball and football.

But why would television networks and leagues agree to such an absurd change when they’re already making obscene amounts of money? What’s in it for them? Fair point. Television networks are motivated by two things: eyeballs and advertisers. But is it the time of day the games air that make them so attractive/lucrative or is it the games themselves?

For the sake of logic, let’s just say that major sporting events will be popular regardless of what time they air. By moving big games away from the evening/afternoon East Coast time slot to the morning the audience should follow. And if there is an audience then it’s only a matter of time before companies like Proctor & Gamble and Pfizer will rush to showcase their latest elixir for low “T”.

But what about the West Coast? Why would networks essentially sacrifice half their audience? Two reasons:

1) California has been spoiled for years now what with NFL games on at 10am so they can keep quiet. Plus people who live in Los Angeles are all vampires anyway who can subsist without much sleep and as long as they’re fed plenty of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and e-cigarettes they should be able to catch the 6am start of most games.

2) Currently since networks like to start the really big games at 9pm EST most of the entire audience on the Eastern seaboard is asleep before the game is halfway done. Unless these people are falling asleep with their tv’s on this inactivity has to affect ratings. Also, why would advertisers continue to market their really popular products late at night if they know that a good portion of potential consumers are snoring on the couch?

Clearly the networks and advertisers will agree to move games to an early morning start on the East Coast but what about the athletes, the ultimate creatures of habit? Well since these professional are being paid ludicrous amounts of money to play a game they will eventually do as they’re told. And before player’s unions begin threatening any grievances they better check with their night owl members who will love this new schedule because no night games on the weekends means they’re now free to hit the clubs or read their Bibles much much earlier in the evening.

The big winner in all these changes are going to be fans on the East Coast who will now be able to wake up and watch all of their favorite sporting events in the morning instead of wasting all day waiting for the games to begin. Parenting will improve significantly because no true fan can focus on being a mom or dad when their favorite team is scheduled to play that night. And the counter programming in the morning is much more educational than what’s on in the afternoon so real progressive parents can watch the games in peace knowing that their kids are staring at a screen that may have some minor intellectual value.

Changing this system will be a massive undertaking involving television networks, professional sports leagues, athletes and fans but if enough of us sports addicts on the East Coast stand united, a revolution will follow and it will be televised. In the morning.

Lessons Learned From The 2012 Open Championship

Lesson Learned From The 2012 Open Championship

1) The term “freshening” has come to mean many different things to many different people. Apparently to those fine folks living across the pond as well as the ESPN crew manning the towers for us folks back in the States, the term “freshening” refers to a rejuvenating gust of wind that players must take notice of before attempting their next shot.  Scott Van Pelt alone must have used this term 10 times during Thursday’s opening round telecast. As McIlroy steps to the tee a freshening breeze begins to cascade off of the Irish Sea. Might want to think about going with a long iron here eh Curtis?

I don’t know about you but every time I hear the word “freshening” I can’t help but think of those hot towels airlines used to dispense towards the end of a long flight. That was always such a welcome experience. I could never deduce how they managed the proper balance of moisture to heat. Probably had something to do with the spring roll style presentation. And the tongs. What ever happened to the tongs airlines used to distribute these warm towels? By now they have rightfully been put on some sort of no fly list along with box cutters, pocket knives, and 2 liter bottles of Mountain Dew. Now when you get on a plane all you are offered is a bag of Sun Chips and the duty free catalogue. But then again, you are flying.

2) The weather, or lack thereof was a major disappointment, at least for those of us golf fans sitting on our asses back home. Surely the large galleries of fans and competitors on the course didn’t mind a little fun in the sun, especially considering that it led to reasonably benign scoring conditions over the first three days of competition. Part of the charm of the Open Championship is that you can turn on your television and expect to see sideways rain and powerful winds threatening to knock down petite golfers like Luke Donald. As an amateur golfer, part of the appeal of playing through inclement weather is that the experience can make you feel as if you’re a running through a gauntlet similar to what the world’s best can expect when they tee it up at the Open Championship. It’s a very “freshening” experience outlasting the elements, (except lighting, never lightning), that is until you get in your car and realize that it’s going to take nearly a week for your seat cushion to dry out.

The forecast for the 2012 Open called for the traditional cloudy with a chance of meatballs but failed to deliver on that promise. Here’s hoping for more rain at Muirfield in 2013.

3) Watching golf in the afternoon is great but watching it first thing in the morning while the rest of your family is still asleep is even better. I’ve never been happier to wake up at 430 in the morning in my entire life. The house was still, the coffee was fresh, and perhaps most importantly, my 1 year old son was still 2 1/2 hours from waking up. Good thing too because as soon as that little rascal opens his eyes the entire house is flipped over on its axis and I’ll then have a better chance of seeing Curious George cleanup one of his predictable messes than I will Tiger coming up short with another pitching wedge. I hope Augusta National considers wheeling in huge stadium lights so that we can get a little primetime Masters coverage next April. But that’s probably wishful thinking especially for a private club that continues to refer to the fans as “patrons”,

4) Fans at the Open Championship really are some of the best fans in the world. I counted only a handful of “You Da Mans” and maybe just one or two “Mashed Potatoes”.  If this Championship were being held at say the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia that number would have been innumerably higher. And there are countless other reasons for why Open fans are so great including: knowledge of golf history, adherence to etiquette, and ability to pull off the messenger bag while on the golf course. It was as if all 30K or so onlookers had bopped on over to Royal Lytham en route to delivering sensitive materials to a local barrister. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a golf tournament or a group of hipsters at a Brooklyn coffee shop.

5) That for all the talk about how golf has never been better and that there are 100 or so talented players that have a legitimate chance of winning a major championship, the cream usually rises to the top. And I understand that with Ernie Els victory on Sunday that makes 16 different champions over the last 16 majors but go ahead and take a look at the leader board on Sunday afternoon: Scott, Woods, McDowell, Els, Donald. These names are some of the games best and when Adam Scott blew that 4 shot lead it wasn’t as if someone like Todd Hamilton stepped in to claim the Claret Jug. Els might not have been playing like the hall of famer that he already is but this latest coronation cements his place as one of the games all time best.

 view from the Canadian Open courtesy of @mwadzy