by Jeff Skinner
Here are some vital and not so vital tidbits about this week’s Open Championship.
First of all, this tournament is called The Open Championship, not the British Open. The National Open in America is called the U.S. Open. The National Open that takes place in Scotland and England is the Open Championship. Too many Americans are just too lazy or ignorant to use the Open Championship’s rightful name.
The Open Championship started in 1860. The U.S. Open started in 1895, that’s thirty five years before the USGA teed it up at their first U.S. Open in Newport, Rhode Island. The Brits & Scots named it…we should honor their selection.
The Open Rota is a group of clubs that rotate hosting the Open. St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal St. George’s, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Royal Birkdale, Turnberry, Royal Liverpool, Muirfield and Royal Troon make up the current Rota for the Open.
The Claret Jug is the trophy that the Open Championship winner receives. Along with the Stanley Cup it’s one of the coolest trophies in sport. The winner keeps the trophy all year until he brings it back to the following Open. Oh the stories that the trophy could tell!
As cool as the Claret Jug is , it was not the original award presented to The Open Champion. Originally, a belt made of red Moroccan leather, embellished with silver, kind of like a boxing championship belt, was awarded to the winner. But according to the terms of the early Opens, if a player won the Open three years straight he was awarded the belt to keep. Young Tom Morris walked away with the belt when he won it for the third of four consecutive years in 1870.
With the belt gone, Prestwick and St. Andrews came up with the Claret Jug in 1873 and Tom Kidd was the first golfer to win the Claret Jug.
While the winner of the Open Championship can and will be called the “Open Winner” it seems that his title is a bit more official. At the presentation ceremony he is given the title “Champion Golfer of the Year.” Now that’s a moniker with some class.
Muirfield, closed membership or not, is one of the most revered courses in the Open Rota. This is the 16th time Muirfield has hosted the Open and its past champions are as impressive as any course in the world. The past champions include: Harry Vardon, James Braid (2), Ted Ray, Walter Hagen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (2) and Ernie Els.
Muirfield is a links golf course. A links course is built, or really just sits, on that sandy land that is useless for farming that lays between the ocean and the good fertile land that can be used for agriculture. Every links course is a golf course but not every golf course is a links course. This is a true links course and it looks and plays very differently from many of the familiar courses seen in America. Augusta National it is not.
This year’s Champion Golfer of the Year walks off with the Claret Jug and 945,000 British Pounds, or $1,436,825 dollars.
Ernie Els is a double defending champion, if you will, this week. He won the Open last year and the last time it was held at Muirfield in 2002 Els won his first Open.
Maybe the most amazing fact about the Open Championship is a man named Ivor Robson. He has been the first tee starter at The Open since 1975. He’ll call the names of the first group at 6:32 am and the very last threesome at 4:13 pm. And he’ll spend the entire day at his post at the first tee. There will be no lunch, no sitting and no bathroom breaks. He’s as famous as some of the players and definitely has a better bladder. They do it different over there and Ivor is one of the special things that make this The Open Championship.