Tag: The Old Course

2022 Open Championship: Cam Smith unleashes the Wand

Cameron Smith: 2022 Champion Golfer
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As The Open headed into the back nine on Sunday at St. Andrews, the engraver prepared to etch Rory McIlroy’s name on the Claret Jug. McIlroy stood at 17 under par, having opened up a 3 shot lead over young Victor Hoveland, and he was in complete control of his game. Rory had already recorded a runner-up at the Masters, T8 at the PGA and a T5 at the U.S. Open—and it seemed a certainty that his long awaited fifth major championship was at hand.

Anything can happen, however, on the back-nine of an Open Championship on Sunday, particularly at St. Andrews.

St. Andrews: The Old Course

When a thunderous cheer suddenly erupted from the 11th green, the name to be inscribed on the oldest Trophy in golf would have to wait a bit. Cameron Smith had just rolled in another putt, making consecutive birdies to get within 2 shots of McIlroy. Rory was on cruise control, bombing drives and hitting greens—but making no putts (his only birdie on the back nine came when he drove the green on 10, and 2-putted for a 3). Cam Smith, on the other hand, was making everything. At the 12th hole he drove it to the very front of the green, leaving a difficult eagle putt from over 70 feet—and drained an 11-footer for birdie to pull within 1 shot of Rory. On the 13th, Cam rolled in another birdie, this time from nearly 20-feet, to pull even with McIlroy at 18 under par. And on the Par 5 14th hole Smith completed a stretch of 5 consecutive birdie’s by knocking in a 5-footer that brought him to 19 under par, and the outright lead.

Rory: Top 10 at Four Majors in 2022

The Magic

The championship hung in the balance as Smith reached number 17, the famous “Road Hole,” still clinging to a 1 shot lead. A poor approach left him just under the steep faced bunker guarding the front left of the green, and the pin was tucked just behind it. With brilliant touch and steel nerve Cam pulled the putter once again, and using the contour surrounding the bunker, was able to give himself an opportunity to save par from 10 feet—and then calmly knocked it in.

 The 18th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews is reachable with a well-struck tee shot, and one of the most exciting finishing holes in golf. While all eyes were on Rory, however, a powerful young phenom, 25-year-old Cameron Young, had quietly moved back into contention, pulling within 2 shots of Smith’s lead—and they were playing together in the second to last pairing.

Cam Smith: Unleashes the Wand
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After Smith hit a solid tee shot just short of the green, Young unleashed a bomb that settled pin-high with a very makeable eagle opportunity from just 17 feet—a putt that would draw him even with Smith at 19 under and force a playoff. Cam was also fully aware that Rory, still only a shot back at 18 under, was likely to reach the green at 18 and have an opportunity for eagle, or a 2- putt birdie that would move him to 19 under as well.

Facing a 75-foot putt up the slope with a sharp right to left break and maximum Open pressure, Cam smoothly rolled his ball to within 3 feet, where he tapped in to finish at 20 under par, a shot ahead of Cameron Young (who indeed made his eagle putt to finish at 19 under). When Rory failed to eagle the last, Cam added his name to the illustrious group who have won The Open on the Old Course, while setting a new scoring record at St. Andrews.

Cam Smith

His Open Championship victory is the latest in a breakout year for Cam. He won the Players back in March, and followed that up with a T3 at the Masters, a T13 at the PGA and a T13 at the Memorial. Ranked 7th on Tour in putting, I suppose it should not have been much of a surprise to see him roll it so beautifully at St. Andrews, but when you consider the venue and the pressure of closing at a major, it was a truly spectacular performance.

At 28 years of age, Smith has always carried himself with the confidence and swagger of a PGA Tour veteran. And with 5 Tour wins, including a major championship and Player’s Championship under his belt, Cam is in position to secure a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame—and the putter to make it happen.

Cameron Young

At 25-years old, in only his first season on Tour, Cameron Young will be a force on the PGA Tour for many years to come. In addition to his gutsy runner-up finish at The Open, Young recorded a T3 at the PGA back in May, runner-up finishes at The Genesis and Wells Fargo Championships, and T3’s at both the RBC Heritage and Sanderson Farms Championships.

Cameron Young: Power and Putting

While Young’s primary weapon is the driver (currently ranked 6th in distance from the tee at 318 yards), Cameron is lethal on the greens as well (8th on Tour in putting). That’s a powerhouse combination, and will make him a man to keep an eye on as the season rolls toward the FedEx Cup playoffs.

LIV

The LIV contingent made their presence felt at The Open, erasing a mediocre performance at the U.S Open, and no doubt bringing a smile to Greg Norman’s face. 10 of the 23 LIV players who competed at The Open made the cut, with Dustin Johnson (-13) and Bryson DeChambeau (-12) recording Top 10’s. Abraham Ancer and Sadom Kaewkanjana both finished at -11, among the Top 20.

Their play on Sunday was particularly impressive, as both Ancer and Kaewkanjana fired closing rounds of 65, with Bryson carding a 66.

The third LIV event is scheduled for July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ.

Trump National, Bedminster NJ
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2022 Open Championship: 150 Years of History

St. Andrews: the Old Course

The Open Championship returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland this week to crown the 150th Champion Golfer of the Year. Scotland is the birthplace of golf, with historical records of play at the Old Course going all the way back to 1414. While Open week is always special for everyone who loves golf, 2022 promises to be uniquely memorable with images of past champions at a place where golf has been played for centuries.

The History

In the 1840’s and 50’s, Allan Robertson was the greenskeeper and golf professional at St. Andrews, and universally recognized as the greatest golfer in the world at the time (he also is said to be the first golf professional). In 1848 he made the first recorded modifications to the Old Course–widening the fairways and creating the famous “double greens.” A few years earlier Robertson had laid out the original 10 holes at Carnoustie Golf Links, so he is also the first to be credited for golf course design and architecture.

Allan Robertson
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In the mid-1830’s Robertson hired a youthful Tom Morris, Sr. as an apprentice, and their relationship would bring about the most famous golf tournament in the world: “The Open Championship.” Although Robertson was already unbeatable on the links (it is said that he never lost a match when money was involved), he soon saw that his young apprentice possessed an uncanny talent for golf, and since matches were often played in a two-man alternate shot format, he shrewdly enlisted Tom as his partner to create an invincible tandem. In 1851, however, Morris and Robertson had a falling out when Tom began playing a new kind of golf ball, rather than the “feather” balls that Robertson made and sold at St. Andrews. As a result, Morris left for Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, where he laid out the course and became club pro and greenskeeper. His admiration for Robertson remained steadfast, however, and when Robertson passed away in 1859, Morris decided to organize a tournament in his honor—with the winner recognized as the “Champion Golfer.”

Old Tom Morris
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The first Open Championship was played at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860, and was won by Willie Park, Sr. Prestwick hosted The Open for the next 11 years, with Tom Morris, Sr. (Old Tom) and Tom Morris, Jr. (Young Tom) each winning 4 times. In 1873 The Open moved to St. Andrews, and Tom Kidd became the first to be crowned “Champion Golfer” at the Old Course. 2022 will mark the 30th Open to be contested at St. Andrews, the most by far of any course to host a major championship. And the list of winners at the Old Course includes many of the legendary names in golf history.

Champion Golfers at St. Andrews

Jack Nicklaus, acknowledged by most as the greatest golfer in history, won two of his 18 major championships at the Old Course (1970, 1978). Tiger, the greatest of all-time to those who do not think it is Jack, also won 2 of his 15 major championships at St. Andrews (2000, 2005).

Tiger and Jack

Multiple winners at St. Andrews also include John Henry Taylor (1895, 1905) and James Braid (1905, 1910). Both won the Open Championship 5 times, and each are also known for their work in golf course architecture and design.

Sir Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros

Other members of the World Golf Hall of Fame who have won the Open Championship at St. Andrews include Sam Snead in 1946, Seve Ballesteros (a 3-time Open Champion) in 1984, and Sir Nick Faldo in 1990 (also a 3-time Open Champion).

The Contenders

Coming off his victory at the U.S. Open in June, and a Top 10 last week at the Scottish Open, Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick has his game in fine form to contend at St. Andrews. Scottie Scheffler is a virtual lock to be among the leaders come Sunday, as he looks to add another major to his resume following an impressive win at the Masters and runner-up at the U.S. Open. Reigning PGA Champ Justin Thomas, enjoying an outstanding season that includes 8 Top 10’s in 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year, will also be a force as he looks to etch his name among the legends of golf who have won at the Old Course. Jon Rahm, in the midst of another stellar year where he has made the cut in 14 of 15 events with a win and 5 additional Top 10’s, will undoubtedly be lurking should the opportunity arise.

Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Thomas

Rory McIlroy, with his peerless talent, has been pounding on the door with a runner-up at Augusta, Top 10 at the PGA, and a Top 5 at the U.S. Open thus far in 2022. If the putter cooperates even a bit, Rory will be a formidable presence in the field—and perhaps this will be the week he adds that 5th major championship.

Rory McIlroy and John Rham

Tiger Woods, returning to St. Andrews where in 2000 he delivered one of the most decisive wins in Open history (an 8-stroke margin over runners up Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els), looms large over the field. While it would seem unlikely for him to be among the leaders as The Open moves into the weekend, there has never been a player with a greater will to win than Tiger—and the Old Course has provided many magical moments through the ages.

One thing is for sure, the 2022 Open at St. Andrews, where much of golf history has been written, promises to be a championship that will be remembered for many years to come.

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