Commentary

For all its faults, British Open is beautiful

Originally Published: July 14, 2009
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- I have a rental car so small that it wants to be a Mini Cooper when it grows up.

The bed-and-breakfast where I'm staying in nearby Ayr decided to forgo the food portion of the deal. Just my luck: I'm staying at a B, not a B&B.

Imagine being locked inside a phone booth, then someone pours skin-shearing molten lava on you. That's my shower.

[+] EnlargeSergio Garcia
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesAt the British Open, players such as Sergio Garcia certainly will feel the impact of the weather on their games. And if they don't like what they're going through? Just wait a few minutes, and it likely will change.

The steering wheel is on the right side; the driving lane, usually the width of an Anthony Kim belt buckle, is on the left. Near-death experiences reign.

Traditional Scottish haggis is minced sheep heart, liver and lungs boiled with assorted spices in a sewn-up sheep's stomach. I didn't know this until it was too late.

A 70-year-old man staying at our B walked into the dining room (where they don't serve food) wearing only silk boxers and a T-shirt. OMG.

And despite all this (and did I mention the rain?), I'm still bromancing the British Open. It's my favorite major. It's my favorite anything.

Nothing against the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, but the British Open is older, odder and cooler. Then again, it has had 138 years of practice-range time.

Augusta National is an azaleas-and-pines time warp. The U.S. Open is a joyless grind, the golf equivalent of taking the bar exam. The PGA, through no fault of its own, is usually a majors afterthought. But the British Open comes at the perfect time of summer, on sometimes bizarre-looking links courses, in weather so fickle that it changes its mind every five minutes.

You've got to love a tournament where most of the Royal & Ancient championship committee members look as though they flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain. And by the way, the Royal Air Force used the No. 12 fairway at Turnberry's Ailsa Course as a runway in World War II.

Yes, the food is disturbing. (Tiger Woods hires his own cook during the stay.) The driving is nerve-racking. The accommodations are munchkinlike. And memo to the British Open press staff: It's Lucas Glover, not Lucus. You spelled our Open champion's name wrong on the daily interview sheet.

But it's never boring over here. Tuesday's London tabloid The Sun blared this Molotov cocktail of a headline: "You're a cheat Monty." Translation: 1985 British Open winner Sandy Lyle accused fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie (and 2010 Ryder Cup captain) of cheating during the Indonesia Open four years ago.

What a place. Where else can you be driving white-knuckled down a deserted, winding coastal road and see a lone jogger barreling up the hill -- and it's Woods' caddie, Steve Williams? And only over here does Woods let Williams drive the courtesy car.

"He's used to driving on this side of the road," Woods said.

See? It's not just me.

An American has won the Open 10 of the past 14 years. That's amazing, mostly because we don't travel well. It's hard enough to win a major under normal circumstances, but try doing it when haggis is involved.

But I'd jog up the hill and all the way to Turnberry with Williams to cover the Open, especially this Open at this place. Turnberry is sort of like Scotland's version of Pebble Beach. The course is Mrs. Tom Brady-gorgeous, but it hasn't hosted a championship since 1994, when Nick Price planted a wet one on the Claret Jug.

That's another thing: Flukes don't win at Turnberry. Price won in '94, Greg Norman in 1986 and Tom Watson in 1977 (the legendary "Duel in the Sun" with Jack Nicklaus). Turnberry has pedigree.

Tuesday's forecast calls for sun, then possibly a few heavy showers, then sun, then more showers. And yet, I'm in full Jason Segel "I Love You, Man" mode. Give me more rain, more driving, more scalding showers, more Scottish "food." It's all worth it for more British Open.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

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