The world’s oldest golf tournament returned to the Carnoustie Golf Links this week for the playing of the 147th Open Championship in Angus, Scotland. Play began early Thursday morning with unusually mild conditions. In fact, it was actually kind of weird to see the sun shining at Carnoustie. This helped provide scores much lower than what spectators are accustomed to at a course known for its never-ending minefields, including gusting winds, hundreds of pot bunkers, knee-high rough and the infamous Barry Burn. The burn is basically a small brick-walled river that winds and bends its way throughout the golf course, serving as an obstacle players pray to avoid coming down the stretch while vying to hoist the Claret Jug.
While St. Andrews may be known as “The Home of Golf,” Carnoustie has delivered some of the most memorable finishes in Open history. Anyone old enough to have been a fan of the game in 1997 remembers Jean Van De Velde rolling up his trousers and crawling into the Barry Burn to contemplate hitting a ball that was partially submerged under water. Van De Velde had a three-shot lead as he stood on the tee of what should have been his last hole of the weekend. Unfortunately, it took him five shots just to cross the burn and a ten-foot putt for triple bogey to send him into a playoff which he eventually lost to Paul Lawrie. It was a truly haunting day of golf that added to Carnoustie’s legend.
Sunday saw the wind pick up at Carnoustie and while the course began to show its teeth, some of golf’s most notable names crept back into contention. Rory McIlroy, and Justin Rose made charges up the leaderboard to post scores of six under par to hold the lead in the clubhouse. However, the players behind them, including Tiger Woods, started to make things happen.
If the golf course itself wasn’t enough to build the excitement this week, fans were in for another surprise. At 11:30 a.m. EST on Sunday morning, Tiger Woods held the lead alone in a major for the first time in seven years. Golf was fine before Tiger and will survive without him, but there is simply no denying that there is a different aura around the final round of a major when he is playing well and in contention. Woods found himself at seven under par on the tenth hole and one shot clear of the field.
Woods was joined by several other Americans, who filled the first page of the leaderboard through the first three days of play. Kevin Kisner, a University of Georgia alum, stayed within one shot of the lead for the first three rounds. Jordan Spieth recovered from a nightmare back nine on Thursday to hold a share of the lead entering the final round. Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, and Kevin Chappell all represented the U.S. very well across the pond. It is an impressive feat, considering how different the style of play compared to what they are accustomed to back home on the PGA Tour.
The Twitter meltdown during Tiger’s roar on Sunday was unfortunately somewhat short lived. Tiger’s round began to unravel just after that grabbing the lead on that tenth hole, early into his back nine on Sunday, it was actually his playing partner who was not to be denied, as Francesco Molinari very quietly made sixteen pars and two back-nine birdies to stamp his name on the Claret Jug.
Molinari backed up his 65 on Saturday with a two-under par, and a 69 on Sunday to win his first major championship. While it was easy to see nerves come into play for many players, Molinari was absolutely solid and unshakeable. It was all the more impressive considering he was paired with Tiger and all that comes with that. Molinari is Italy’s first major winner and at 35 years old, he is the oldest to win a major since Sergio Garcia won the Masters in 2017 at the age of 37.
Not to take anything away from Molinari, but this weekend will quite possibly be remembered more for Tiger showing that he still has what it takes to compete in a major. This tournament is considered by many to be the best chance for Tiger to add to his major win total of fourteen. After his strong showing at Carnoustie, the expectations will only grow as his next opportunity comes three weeks from now at the PGA Championship. The last major of the year will be played at Bellerive Country Club, just outside of St. Louis, on Aug. 9-12.