The Open Championship at Muirfield – Final Day

Well done to Phil Mickelson for winning the Open Championship on a challenging day at Muirfield.   The course was tough, but fair and as the day wore on, many opportunities presented themselves to the leaders.  Many could not capitalize.  Mickelson, however, did, and took the Claret Cup with strokes to spare.  By the time he had sunk his birdie putt on the 18th, only a miracle to another player still on the course would have denied him his victory.

Well done, also to the rest of the players in the field, who individually gave outstanding performances during the tournament.

When my wife and I were at Muirfield in 2002, the scene was quite different as there was a 4-way tie at the end and no clear winner until  Ernie Els parred the 18th to secure his win in sudden death.  This year it was different, as it was clear who the winner was with players still out on the course.  But the excitement level was the same, and the crowd, always knowledgeable, gave enthusiastic recognition to to the outstanding level of play witnessed during the day.

After the excitement of the finish and as the crowds head home, it is always nice to sit back a bit and savor the feeling of the golf course as it slowly reverts to its natural self.  Even though the grandstands, the tented village, the various support facilities will not be dismantled until the following day, there is a feeling of peace and quiet as the sun begins to dip in the west.  The tee boxes are cleared, the fairways are now quiet and the flags have been removed from the greens.  There may be watering here or there, but serenity is in the air.  It seems so sudden, after a week of intense activity.  But soon the course will be active again, as members and guests hit the links again for a round of golf.

The par 3 16th hole gave many of the players a great deal of trouble.   I think it was a pivotal hole during the championship.  So much could go wrong even with a tiny error.  In many cases escaping with a bogey was a good result, and indeed, Lee Westwood, during the 3rd round, saved a crucial bogey after landing in severe trouble on his tee shot.

On Sunday, however, once Mickelson was finished at the 18th with a score of 3-under par for the championship, the closest player, Westwood, was at 16 and needed three birdies starting at the 16th to catch him or birdie-eagle-birdie to win.  That was an impossibility, given how the holes were playing during the tournament.

Below are the yardage charts of the 16th, 17th and 18th.

hole-16-map

hole-17-map hole-18-map

A poor tee shot at 16 could almost guarantee bogey.  At the 17th, the decision is whether to take on the cross bunkers on the second shot to try and get on the green in two.  The wind, also, plays a factor, and a head wind would make that shot extremely risky.  On 18, the key is a good tee shot and to avoid the bunkers.  Mickelson played these three holes par-birdie-birdie.  Westwood, on the other hand, hit a poor tee shot at 16 and made bogey.  Now needing an eagle at 17, he went for it with driver on his second shot and ended up in the deep right rough, denying him any shot at an eagle and thereby securing Mickelson’s victory.

All in all, this was a great tournament and we are looking forward to next year, and of course 2015 at St Andrews!

 

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The Open Championship at Muirfield

In 2002 my wife and I traveled to Muirfield to visit the region and hopefully get to see some of the Open Championship golf tournament being held there at the time.  We arrived on Friday afternoon and set up our tent at a campsite nearby.

We decided to take a long walk along the coast and visit some of the local villages on Saturday and to go to the tournament on Sunday.   On Saturday morning we secured our tent and set off for the walk.  We first walked along the Muirfield golf course as we made our way along the coast.  As the day went on, a huge storm hit the area that created havoc on the golf tournament and our walk.  With some luck, we made it back to our campsite only to discover part of the tent was blown over, although the living area managed to stay up.  The storm passed and it became calm.  We survived.

We later learned that players starting in the late morning/early afternoon suffered the brunt of the storm, including Tiger Woods who carded an 81, knocking him out of contention.

The next day we awoke to beautiful weather and made our way to the tournament.  We found a parking area near an entrance to the golf course by the 6th tee.  The tee was visible from the parking area and we were able to watch players teeing off.   As it was the early afternoon, we noticed that people were leaving and decided to see if we could find someone willing to give us their tickets so we could gain entry.  As we had done this at Wimbledon we thought we could do it here!  A couple kindly let us use their tickets and a few minutes later, we found ourselves on the golf course.

The leaders had made the turn and were on the back nine.  We walked around the course, seeing the famous holes and eventually caught up with the leaders.   We followed Ernie Els group and watched the tournament end in a four-way tie!  Els, Thomas Levet of France, and Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington of Australia were all tied.  There followed a four hole playoff,  at Nos. 1, 16, 17 and 18.

We went to watch play at the first.  Levet and Elkington went off in the first pair and Els and Appleby in the last. After a 50-foot birdie putt on the second hole (#16, par 3), Levet led by a stroke, but bogeyed the last to tie Els at even-par. Appleby and Elkington also bogeyed the last hole and were eliminated by a stroke.   There followed a sudden death playoff between Els and Levet.   Basically, they were to play the 18th until someone won.   We went to the grandstands at the 18th to watch.  Levet put his tee shot in a fairway bunker and bogeyed.   We then witnessed Els save par from a greenside bunker with a five-foot putt to win the title.

What a day!  We had been at the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews but had to leave before the end to catch the last train to London.  This was different.  We were able to watch the end, and also linger after the tournament and explore the golf course as everyone was leaving.  What a beautiful course!  This was golfer’s paradise!

Now we are watching this year’s Open from home in the US and remember that visit in 2002.  Who will win this year?  It doesn’t look like there will be a storm this time, but the course is taking its toll on the players.  It will be an exciting finish.

My wife did a painting of the 13th hole back in 2002, and here it is:

No. 13, Muirfield

No. 13, Muirfield

No. 13 is a 190 yard par 3.

Here is the yardage chart:

Yardage guide, No. 13

Yardage guide, No. 13

Here is an image of the hole from the Muirfield website:

No. 13, Muirfield

No. 13, Muirfield

Muirfield Golf Club is known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and is located in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland.  Its original location was in Leith in 1744 and later moved to Musselburgh and finally in 1891 to Muirfield.  Muirfield first hosted the Open Championship in 1892.

This is a terrific golf course and a great place to play the game.