Sport Golf

Friday 17 November 2017

Harrington's back and amateurs can thrive - Five things we learned from The Open

Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

This was a good but not a great Open golf Championship.

It will be remembered more for the messy disruption caused by bad weather on Friday and Saturday which caused delays to play and broke the rhythm of a Major for players and spectators.

A Monday finish, for all that it was only the second time it happened in Open history, also made it a bit of a marathon and hugely disappointed those with Sunday tickets who came to St Andrews to see the winner raise the Claret Jug aloft.

Rory McIlroy’s absence was felt to a degree, but there were no guarantees that he would have won.

If Jordan Spieth, the hottest golfer on the planet can come up one stroke short of a playoff, who is to say that Rory McIlroy would have triumphed?

From an Irish point of view, the event was saved by the resurgent Padraig Harrington who started the final round only two shots off the lead, and by the 22 year old amateur Paul Dunne.

Read more: Greystones 'bursting with pride' as Paul Dunne completes memorable Open weekend

Dunne became one of the biggest sports stories of the year back in Ireland and got the pulses racing as a Sunday 66 got him a place in the final group on the last day of the 114th Open.

And what of the champion?

Credit to Zach Johnson.

Zach Johnson .jpg
USA's Zach Johnson celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning The Open Championship at St Andrews, Fife

He had the patience to stick to his game plan and stay patient in the testing wind and intermittent rain on the back nine, and coped admirably in the four-hole playoff to claim the Claret Jug.

A worthy winner, but it’s hard to avoid a pang of regret that Jordan Spieth did not get the third Major in a row. That would have been truly sensational.

And so to the five things we learned.

Paul Dunne has a promising future

Dunne’s mettle was severely tested in the cauldron of an Open final day. His 78 brought him back to earth with a bump, but he did enough to show he has the makings of a fine tournament professional. How good?

Ireland's Paul Dunne on the 9th during day five of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife

Only time will tell. Playing for your living week in, week out against ridiculously good gofers is not easy. He also has raised the bar of expectations which could be a burden for any rookie pro.

The game is bigger than any player

Jordan Spieth is human. A four-putt on the eighth hole showed that even he can lapse. And having got himself in position to make the play-off, he bogeyed the 17th, and failed to birdie 18 to get to 15 under par.

Jordan Spieth.jpg
Jordan Spieth of the U.S. wipes his eye on the 18th green after completing his final round of the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, July 20, 2015

But it was fun watching him try to make history, and he left St Andrews even more determined to do at least a hat-trick of Majors in a calendar year some time in the future.

Read more: BBC apologise after Peter Alliss sparks sexism row at British Open

Padraig Harrington can win again

He’s 44 in August, he admits that he’s a different person now compared to 2007-08 with lots of experience and some “scar tissue” as he described it from the hard knocks in golf. But Harrington rose to the delayed third round test on Sunday to shoot 65 in St Andrews.

Padraig Harrington watches as his birdie putt makes its way to the hole on the sixteenth green

He also won the Honda Classic in March. Is there another Major in him? If there is it needs to happen over the next two seasons.

An amateur can win a Major title

Paul Dunne was joint leader going into the final round of the Open. Jordan Niebrugge (USA) who won the Silver Medal for highest placed amateur was joint 6th.

His compatriot Oliver Schniederjans finished joint 12th as did England’s Ashley Chesters. These guys come to Majors ready to play and compete. It can only be a matter of time before one of them goes all the way in the big four tournaments.

St Andrews stands the test of time

A number of players spoke about the need for the Old Course to be altered  to deal with the power hitters and technology of modern golf. There is no room on the property to lengthen it to any significant degree.

Perhaps the R&A will adopt the great James Braid’s solution: “Work out where the most divots are on the fairways and place a few bunkers there.” In fairness, heavy recent downpours made the course a little softer and holding more than was expected. But there will be no panic.

GOLF Open 1106.jpg
Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello tees off the 2nd during day two of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife.

The Home of Golf will still be a place of special pilgrimage when it stages the 150th Open Championship in 2021.

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