For anyone who has played links golf in the British Isles they know that this is true. In any of these small hamlets or large towns associated with the famous links venues the level of golfspeak is off the charts, no matter gender or age of the person you are talking to. Golf is just part of the fabric of everyday life for the golfing public in these communities.
This was driven home to me as I was riding in my car attentively listening to the streaming broadcast of the Open Championship from Royal Birkdale. It was like trying to follow a Senator baseball games on the radio on a sultry summer night back in the late sixties on my way to the Hot Shoppes to meet high school buddies. I admit sorting out the accents and some of the expressions of the British announcers were a challenge.
Truthfully, listening to these broadcasts, I did not need the play-by-play to discern how the shot just hit had turned out. Reading the nuances of the murmurs of the British fans picked up on the field microphones I knew whether Bubba’s big curve had avoided mounds in front and trundled up next to the flag for an eagle opportunity (an Oooo) or Kootch’s ball had failed by two feet to carry the mound’s edge and had been sucked back into the collection bunker (an Ahhh) or whether Jordan had actually driven it off the planet on #13 down the stretch on Sunday (an Oy).
The collective groans were discordant when the crowd witnessed this tee shot
Listening to the broadcasts from the Open there are no awkward “Go In The Hole” or “Baba Booey” shouts interrupting the sound track as we witness in every PGA Tour broadcast. To me this is the signature of the pervasive ignorance of far too many American golf fans who spend way too much time drinking beer whether watching or playing golf.
The fans at these events across the pond are sophisticated, they all play the links game regularly. They know how hard it is for the players to manage the trajectory of a tight approach into a 30 m.p.h. cross wind out of the wispy grass or how to use the ground as their friend on an intentionally mis-directed pitch into a back pin location. They even get the adjustments required to line and speed by the effect of the winds on the putting.
Rory has to manage the environmental parameters on this approach in the 18th
On Saturday walking up the 18th hole Spieth was getting ready to do his green research as he pulled out one of the many reference manuals he carries in his back pocket. Kootch walked over to him and said of the cacophony of applause they were walking into, “It doesn’t get any better than this”. Being mature beyond his years Jordan recognized that Kootch was right and put the topo book back in his pocket. The two of them then just basked in the crowd adoration walking up to the green.
Saturday’s memorable shared walk up to the 18th Green….
Then there was the incredible finish on Sunday. That wayward right tee shot of Jordan on #13 on Sunday was partially intentional. In an interview he said on that hole you cannot drive your ball into the fairway or the hard ground will feed it into an halacious fairway pot bunker through the fairway. You have to aim this blind tee shot at the right rough. He just overdid it a wee bit.
It took a while but Jordan found a way back into the hole from the driving range
But for all the post game pushback for the time it took for him to sort out his options and take his drop, I am sure all the fans on that hole fully appreciated the mental machinations Jordan was going through to optimize his chance to make that magnificent bogey. These fans understood they were watching golf history as he responded to the emotions of the crowd and played the next four holes five-under par to claim the Claret Jug in a display of links golf aptitude becoming of a British native.
Emotion and respect of two friends and competitors when the game was done…
The humility and emotion shown by both Jordan and Kootch in presentation ceremony on Sunday afternoon speaks to their appreciation of the sophistication of these British golf fans. Jordan even did the Hale Irwin high-five run around with the Claret Jug in his hand to let these masses touch the gravity of this moment. It seemed like a spontaneous reaction to the engaging pulse of the crowd.
Jordan shares the moment with the adoring masses….
It is not just platitude when the Open Championship winners say it is special to play in front of the most knowledgeable golf fans in the world. Jordan’s actions speak to this and, much like Young Tom Watson or Arnie before him, I am sure he is destined to be a favorite son of these folks every time he tees it up in an Open Championship over the next two decades.
Reflecting on what it means to add his name to all those other names