While America sleeps Wednesday night and Thursday morning, golf's oldest championship, The British Open, will begin at the birthplace of the game, St. Andrews, Scotland. First played in 1860, The Open Championship - as its known everywhere in the world except on U.S. soil - predates the American Civil War. No, Jack Nicklaus didn't participate in that inaugural tournament. (According to extant archives, he failed to qualify that year.) But he is playing at St. Andrews this week in what he says will be his final appearance in a major championship, 18 of which he's won in his indescribable career.
Tiger Woods got halfway to that magic number in April when he made The Masters his ninth major triumph. That win, his second at the U.S. Open last month, and the fact that he won his only British Open at St. Andrews five years ago make Tiger the trendy pick this week. Not only will I not go out on a limb with my prognostication, I'm climbing down from the tree and going inside to watch the tournament on TV. Gimme Tiger.
Fuzzy Zoeller Couldn't Make It
Who says the curmudgeonly Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews doesn't have a sense of humor? The Open Championship's governing body paired Sean O'Hair with Danny Chia. The third member of the group is Patrik Sjoland, the Swede whose surname is translated "hairy, quasi-botanical creature usually given as a white elephant gift." (It's possible I may have made up that last part.)
Green With Envy
For the second consecutive week, 15-year-old Michelle Wie is a girl among boys and men. A week ago, the PGA TOUR's John Deere Classic made its cut - as a John Deere is wont to do - and Wie fell short by two. Some TOUR players continue to grumble that a high school girl takes up space in a tournament of professional men. Pretty lame, if you ask me, but at least those guys are trying to make a living.
Danny Green has no excuse. The talented Tennessean Volunteered to embarrass himself this week while competing against Wie in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Amateur, as in not for prize money. Wie's the first female to qualify - and rightfully qualify, she did - for any men's championship run by the USGA. The winner has traditionally received an invitation to play in The Masters, which is Wie's dream and the reason she's playing the Publinx. At 48, Green is the oldest player in the field. He seemed downright Jurassic when he suggested Wie "should play in the women's tournaments because they don't let the men play in women's tournaments."
No, Danny, and they don't let you compete in the U.S. Junior or Senior Amateurs, either. But perhaps if you ask nicely, they'll let you play them all. Maybe I can pull some strings at The Golf Channel and get you a special exemption into the Drive, Chip, and Putt Competition. I hear the 3-and-under Division has an opening after one of the toddlers dropped out with diaper rash.
There's no crying in golf. Besides, would you really want to start qualifying your victories by saying you were the best men's player that week? Quit being babies, and just beat her. Of course, that's easier said than done. Wie was one of 64 players who played well enough the first two days to advance to the match play portion of the championship. And with a birdie at the final hole Wednesday, she won her first round match to move one step closer to Augusta.
She's still a longshot, but so are most of the contestants in this event. Winning six straight matches isn't easy, regardless of which locker room you use. By the way, Green's locker's now empty. He lost to a 22-year-old man in the first round.
He Hopes His Cell Number Is Unlisted
When the news came down that former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for engineering the biggest accounting fraud in U.S. history, my first thought was "There, but for the grace of God...." I mean, who among us hasn't been a misstep or two from bilking shareholders out of $11 billion of stock? Get those hands up. (Actually, $10 billion of that bilking came from government taxes, surcharges, fees, and running over his monthly allotment of minutes.)
The only bright spot for Ebbers is that he now qualifies for MCI's "Friends and Felons Plan." No incoming calls but one free call out.