I enjoyed watching the AIG Women’s Open from Royal Troon last week, although at times one did reflect that we have got spoiled in recent months; that’s what a British summer often looks like. Of course there were no fans present, but at least the championship took place, unlike the men’s equivalent at Royal St George’s, which got postponed by 12 months. Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said last week: “One hopes that the world is going to be in a better place come next season but if it’s not we will absolutely assess a behind-closed-doors Open Championship as one of the options.”
That is the route being taken by the officials at Augusta National regarding this year’s Masters, now to be played from November 12-15. Fred Ridley, the club chairman, announced a couple of weeks ago that the club had “determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome….we look forward to the day when we can welcome all of our patrons back, hopefully in April 2021”. Like the R&A, and all of us, Augusta National is hoping that Covid-19 is essentially a 2020 phenomenon.
As you will know, the new Women’s Open champion is Sophia Popov of Germany. She won by two shots fromJasmine Suwannapura of Thailand, in so doing pretty much redefining the word ‘unheralded’. Before yesterday, she occupied 304th place in the women’s world rankings. She didn’t possess an LPGA Tour card; in fact, last month, she was caddying on it. Her rounds of 67-68 over the weekend were extraordinary for someone with so little top-level experience.
Looking ahead from Troon, the R&A has announced the next five venues for the Women’s Open – in order, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Walton Heath, St Andrews and Royal Porthcawl. Like Troon, three of those have hosted the men’s Open Championship on many occasions (although Muirfield spent a few years on the naughty step after hosting it in 2013 on account of its former no-women members policy). The exceptions are Porthcawl, which is too short, and Walton Heath, which is not a links.
Troon is next scheduled to stage the men’s Open in 2024. It would have been 2023, but then the coronavirus intervened. Its last Open was one for the ages, in 2016, when Henrik Stenson shot a closing 63 to overhaul Phil Mickelson. Reading something the other day brought to mind an earlier Open at Troon: in 1982, when Tom Watson claimed the title for the fourth time, winning by a shot from Peter Oosterhuis and Nick Price. But it was none of them who came to mind; rather it was the guy who finished in a tie for tenth, four shots behind Watson.
That man was Bobby Clampett, a 22-year-old Californian with a notably powerful game, who opened up with rounds of 67-66 to lead by five shots at halfway, Then the wheels came off. He shot 78-77 over the weekend. His relevance to today? Maybe none, but Clampett was a disciple of a golf instruction book called The Golfing Machine, written by Homer Kelly in 1969. “I’m not so much an artist, but more like a mechanic,” said Clampett. The same book is now apparently the go-to tome for Bryson DeChambeau, another Californian, this one aged 26, who put on 45 pounds in nine months to become the most powerful hitter in the game and is presently ranked the eighth best player on the planet – albeit he missed the cut at the Northern Trust tournament last week. Unlike Clampett, DeChambeau might eventually go on to win a major, as Sophia Popov has now done. It’s less than a month before his next tilt at one.
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