Saturday’s British Open round played great for me. A Wisconsin guy had tied the course record and was in the final pairing w/my favorite golfer, Sergio Garcia. I couldn’t believe that I might play witness to either’s first major victory. Garcia’s famed for being in it on the start of Sunday but out of it by the 15th…Stricker’s good for getting his name near the top of the leader board, but hasn’t been a serious threat yet.
I was pretty excited for today’s round.
I spent the first half of the morning camped out at the 5th green in the front row of the gallery. It was still raining, so I covered myself w/my sleeping bag and umbrella and managed to get some sleep while the out-of-contention guys played through. I stayed there through Tiger Woods and then headed to the first tee. Garcia and Stricker teed off, and I still hadn’t picked a guy to root for. Garcia hit a nice shot down the middle of the fairway, while Stricker hooked it into the rough. While heading down the fairway, I ran into a bunch of guys clad in Wisconsin gear. They were the only guys cheering for Stricker, so I ended up w/them. We made a pretty nice (albeit small) cheering section, but we got the job done. Plus, they had a lot of beer, and being the typical Wisconsin guys, this is how our introduction went:
Guys to me in my Wisconsin sweatshirt: “You a Badger?”
Them: “You know Stricker’s a Badger right?”
Me: “Not quite, he went to Illinois, but he’s from Wisconsin.”
Them: “Close enough for us, you want a beer.”
It was a match made in heaven.
It didn’t take Stricker long to play himself out of contention. Garcia fluctuated some, but managed to stay atop the leader board. He had Andres Romero and Padraig Harrington making surprise runs in front of him. Harrington was a couple holes ahead of Garcia. I had planned to only stay in the gallery through the front nine and then make my way to the 18th grandstands, but I was having too much fun with the Wisconsin guys. Plus, from Hole 10-13, I was walking side-by-side with Tom Lehman. The dude’s cool.
After 14, I finally headed toward 18. Garcia wasn’t closing anything out, so everyone knew it was going to come down to his putting on 18. I managed to find a seat in the 1st Tee grandstand with the 18th green in my sight. I was pretty excited for 18 b/c this was where Jean Van de Velde of France put himself in the history books in 1999.
For those of you who don’t remember, or care, all Van de Velde had to do was double-bogey the Par 4 18th to win the Claret Jug. Sounds easy for a guy who had birdied this hole twice already, right? Nope? He hit some bleachers and then hit the water. He almost played the ball out of the water, but smartly took the drop. Then he hit into a trap. He ended up triple-bogeying the hole and lost in a 3-man playoff to Paul Lawrie (who indecently, was the last European to win the Open).
So back to present day, Harrington double-bogeys 18 to move to 2-over on the day and 7-under overall. Now it’s up to Garcia. He needs a par to win it. I’m a firm believer that this Open was Garcia’s to lose. He’s notorious for Sunday bombs when starting in contention. He lays up on the green in 3. From my seat I can see him lining up for his par putt. It looked good, but not good enough. He tapped in for bogey and was now going to play Harrington in a 4-hole playoff.
They played 1, 16, 17 and 18. I had to rely on the play-by-play announcer for most of it, b/c I figured it was better to stay put then chase these guys around a golf course. Garcia did himself no favors by bogeying the first hole to Harrington’s birdie. The guys parred the next two holes. Garcia was 2-shots back on Harrington. He needed Padraig to be the reincarnation of Van de Velde to win. Harrington bogeyed and Garcia hit par. With a one-shot playoff win, Harrington was the new Open Champion.
It was pretty exciting, the crowd was really into it, the rain had stopped and his little boy came rushing out onto the green. I was disappointed that Garcia or Stricker didn’t pull it off, but Harrington seemed like the next best thing.
Now it was time to head back to Dundee. I had already finished reading Harry Potter, now I just needed to get some sleep so I could head back to London the next day.