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Revisiting the British Open at St. Andrews: Van Cynical Mailbag

Photo: Thomas Lovelock For Sports Illustrated

Jordan Spieth came one shot short of winning his third major in a row at St. Andrews.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still emotionally drained from that drawn-out, tense, exciting Monday finish at the Old Course.

Sure, the Hostess cupcakes and the liter of Squirt helped, but I’m still drained. So let’s get right to the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Van Cynical, Is Jason Day in danger of becoming the new Lee Westwood? Close but no cigar?—Neil Slater via Twitter

It took Westwood (and Monty) years to build up their Nearly Man resumes. Day is off to a good start but I’d say he’s still lagging behind Phil Mickelson. Mickelson had the biggest Major Monkey on his back for a decade, not winning a major until he was 34. People wonder why the fans at Bethpage Black adopted Phil as their sentimental favorite at the 2002 U.S. Open—it was because of all the stories about him not having won a major yet. He became their Cinderella and they got behind him. Day, however, hasn’t gaffed away any majors yet, unlike Phil, Monty and Lee.

Van Sickly, With the next Open at St. Andrews rumored to be six years away—for 150th—will Royal Portrush get a chance to host one?—David Troyan via Twitter

My sources say the 2019 Open will go to Portrush, although it has not been announced. Book your bed-and-breakfast now and beat the rush. You can always cancel later, bud.

Vans, Any thoughts why Day and Jordan Spieth didn’t lay back farther on 18 to avoid less than full wedge to tricky hole location?—Patrick via Twitter

Spieth wanted to play to his favorite yardage, around 75, but unfortunately came over the top on his drive and pulled it farther left than he wanted. That left him with 102 yards, between clubs for him. I think those guys wanted a full wedge, so they could land it 15 or 20 feet past and zip it back. You’ve gotta be a magician to hit a dead-hands knockdown wedge exactly the right distance, making sure to carry the Valley of Sin. That’s why Louis Oosthuizen’s approach was so impressive –what a shot. I don’t know what Day’s plan was.

Van Cynic, If that hotel balcony is not out of bounds, what is Phil’s score on 17?—Ragan via Twitter

Let’s see. Phil chips it back through the room (having opened a door) into the hotel hallway. Two good putts gets him into the Old Course Hotel elevator. One bank shot off a desk gets him near the foyer, then he hooks a 7-iron out the front door, over the parking lot and into the right rough. From there, he chunks it up by the green, then gets it up and down for… 8. But that bank shot outta the elevator is key, Rags, because if he messes that up, he’s looking at a big number. Also, if there’s a sports betting parlor in the lobby, he never gets out of the hotel. In Plan B, Phil chips it between the railings—dicey at best-- back onto the fairway, knocks it near the green and gets up and down for 5, maybe 6. Considering the risk factor, I think Bones definitely steers him toward the elevator.

Van Cynical, Is Jordan Spieth a streaky putter with very long periods of great putting? Is that what happened this week?—Mustafa Rashid via Twitter

Nope. He’s a great putter with ver long periods of great putting. Not just this week, every week. Oddly, he seems a little skittish inside five feet at times but from 15 to 25 feet, or on any length that’s clutch, he’s right up there with Crenshaw, Mickelson and Bobby Locke. Spieth has short periods of mediocre putting. If you had one putt to save your life—from 15 feet—which tour player would you choose to putt for you? It’d be Spieth, unless you went back in time to grab the 2001 Tiger Woods.

Sicklevator, If we ever had four days of balmy weather at St. Andrews (unlikely, granted) would -40 win and if so, should the Open be called the Hope?—TNCowboy via Twitter

By balmy, Cowpoke, I assume you also mean wind-less? Well, the 1990 Open at St. Andrews was pretty much like that and Nick Faldo outgunned Greg Norman and Payne Stewart and shot 18 under par, the Open record at the time. I think you underestimate the Old Course greens. Yes, the course is short and has a lot of wedge approaches. But if the R&A knew it’d be warm and no wind, they could make the pins far more diabolical. Also, the greens last week were the greenest and softest I’ve seen Open greens in a long time. They’re usually brick-hard and fast. Shots usually don’t hit and stop like they did this time. Back to your point—I’m not willing to go past 25 under, and that guy would have to putt his rear end off. A little respect for the course, please!

Slickle Man, Old Course plus Augusta National winners: Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson. Can any other two majors courses top that list?—Bill M via Twitter

Probably not, although you are missing Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Gene Sarazen to name a few. On a quick glance, best other single-course list I came up with was Oakmont—Jones, Nicklaus, Hogan, Snead, Sarazen, Armour, Johnny Miller and Ernie Els. It’s kind of hard to compete with the Masters, which holds a major every year. I think you’ve got the winner.

Custom Vans, The call of the week was ripping two strokes off Jason Day by forcing them to play Saturday morning.—Dr. King Schultz via Twitter

Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson lost at least one stroke, too, if you want to put it that way, Sky King. It was a dicey call. The dilemma: If only one green on a course is unplayable, should play stop on the entire course? Tough call. Maybe the R&A should erect a wind-break around the 11th green next time. Hey, they could sell Rolex even more advertising space on it!

Van Cyclical, So the pea-shooter now has the two greatest trophies—the Green Jacket and the claret jug. A terrific career for bulldog Zach Johnson.—David Troyan via Twitter

I have been a backer of Zach-man for a few years but I’ll admit I never saw this one coming. I believe golf is all about getting the ball in the hole and the two key clubs for that are Zach’s two best clubs—the wedge and the putter. Ditto for Spieth. Sure, Zach was fortunate with conditions in that Masters he won and a half dozen other guys coulda-shoulda-woulda won at St. Andrews but he put himself in position to win and pulled it off. Is he an over-achiever? I don’t know. I’ll just say he’s an achiever.

Sick, Years of seeing pics and vids makes me think that if Woodstock was a golf tourney it would be the Open Championship.—Brian Bailey via Twitter

I don’t think so, Brailey. It’s got to be the Phoenix Open with the Birds Nest, where the music is loud, the drinks are expensive and love is still free. Peace, man.

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St. Andrews 2015 Is Anything But Traditional
Sports Illustrated senior writer John Garrity says that a wind delay at St. Andrews on Saturday, delaying the third round of the 2015 British Open, has made this edition anything but typical.

 

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