Neil Tappin takes a look at the action from Royal Birkdale on day three and asks - The Open 2017: Is low scoring good for the Open?
Is low scoring good for The Open?
The purists out there will be sat on their sofas, tutting at the string of birdies and eagles being made at this year’s Open Championship. What should be one of the toughest examinations in world golf was brought to its knees on Saturday by a plethora of players, the crescendo of which was Branden Grace shooting the lowest ever round in major history. But is low scoring good for the Open? We look at the arguments for and against…
Why low scoring is good for the Open
A truly great sporting spectacle requires fans, both on the ground and watching on TV to marvel at the skills of the lead protagonists. Day three at The Open was a festival of incredible golf. With player after player holing out from the fairway, chipping in, driving par 4s and holing tram-liners, it was impossible not to marvel at the talent on show. There was no mistaking – this was top level sport at its best.
What’s more, the atmosphere created by these moments was electric. One of the biggest crowds in Open history was treated to some wonderful golf and they responded, cheering the field from start to finish. Surely, you would rather see a player make an eagle than a double-bogey – if you’re into seeing the latter, head to any golf club in the world tomorrow and you’ll see plenty.
It is true that this was one of the easiest days in recent Open memory but it was also one of the most exciting with players from way down the leaderboard making their charge.
Why low scoring is not good for the Open
There is a sensible school of thought that says, ‘the tougher the test, the better the Champion.’ With potential danger at every turn, only those with the attitude and aptitude for major golf will rise to the top. Making birdies when danger is a distant thought is one thing, making them when bogeys and worse are staring you in the face is a special skill reserved only for the very best.
Golfers from all over the world flock to the UK to play links golf – to quote JFK – not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Let’s be honest, there is a part of us all that revels in the sight of the world’s best, who are usually pampered within an inch of their lives, being battered and bruised by a fearsome links test. They hit bad shots we recognise and great shots we can barely fathom. When the examination paper is hard, luck will only get you so far.
When asking the question – is low scoring good for the Open it is true to say that the winning score is immaterial. We all remember Sergio’s win at this year’s Masters but how many of us can recall the score? At the US Open, the USGA get fixated on the final number. Hoping the winning score will end up at around level par, sometimes it works to create an enthralling Championship but sometimes it creates a test that is artificially hard. It is, and always has been the case at the Open, that the players get whatever the R&A and the weather gives them. If the latter is brutal, so will be the test. Ideally, for a truly great Open Championship, you would want a mixture of great weather with some nasty stuff thrown in there as well. Strong winds and rain will sort the men from the boys, while the good weather will create the atmosphere befitting of a global sporting event. Whether the final score is 10-under or 10-over, matters not. Whatever happens from here on in, Royal Birkdale has proved it is one of the world’s very best golf courses. You can’t ask for more than that.