The Open Championship Preview

In 2006, Tiger Woods decided to play the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club hitting only one driver the entire tournament. That year, the temperatures were in the 80s and there was very little rain, which made the fairways firm and dry causing the ball to roll over one hundred yards. Woods knew that if he hit his driver he would lose precision and it would lead to big numbers, thus he was more aggressive in his approach and used many irons hoping to hit his fairways. This strategy led him to victory and his third Open Championship title. 

Tiger Woods
 
This year, the Open returns to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, but conditions will be very different. Temperatures are significantly cooler. The fairways are lush and green, and the rough is thick from the rain. Typically, Open Championship courses have difficult fairway bunkers, and their fairways allow the ball to run out further than they would normally. Yet considering that the fairways will be softer, this means that the greens will also be more receptive, and the players will have the opportunity to be more aggressive with their approaches. When greens are softer, players are capable of landing their irons closer to the pins without fear of the ball rolling off the back. This change also means that players will be able to be more conservative off the tee. With the softer greens, players will have the opportunity to hit longer irons into the greens because they will hold compared to previous years. While this may seem counterproductive, remember that PGA Tour players have very good control of their mid and long irons. The key of this tournament like any event is to put the ball in the fairway, and if players have more options with their tee shots, it is likely that we will see lower scores.
Although every major championship shares the same common factor of excellence, tradition and history, they each have their own identity and characteristics. The Masters requires excellent shot shaping and putting technique. The US Open is protected by length and thick rough. The Open requires mental strength to overcome the obstacles thrown by Mother Nature. Having excellent control of ball flight is essential for any player to be successful when playing in windy, rainy and cold conditions.
 
The Open Championship
 
When the winds are strong, players must keep the ball low so they can maintain control, otherwise the wind will overpower the shot, leading to high numbers. Fundamentally speaking, if you swing easier and move the ball further back in your stance, the ball will go lower, but it is important to understand why this happens. Ball flight is always dictated by the angle of attack. If you stand close to the ball and come down with a very upright swing, the ball will go high. This was apparent in the iconic swing of the great Jack Nicklaus. At the same time, if you come in at a shallower angle of attack, the ball will have a more penetrating ball flight. The angle of attack is what dictates the effect that the club face will have on the ball. The steeper the angle, the more spin the ball has and the higher it will climb against the wind. Furthermore, Open Championships are played on “links” style golf courses which often require players to land the ball 20 or 30 yards short of the green because the greens are so firm that landing it on the slick grass will cause the ball to roll over and leave you with a difficult up and down. Having great ball flight control is crucial to playing any course in difficult weather conditions. The more control you have over your ball, the easier it will be to overcome weather challenges. 
 
golf swing
 
We’ve discussed the technical aspects of the course and the swing, but let’s not forget about the mental and physical preparation of a major championship. Hoylake is located in Northern England on the coast of the Irish Sea. In addition to the cooler temperatures and wind, the weather is predicting rain for Friday and into the weekend, which will make the competition even more difficult. Players must be well prepared both mentally and physically for this sort of weather. Playing in such conditions is draining, and nerves and lack of focus are very common. When it comes to a game of patience, nothing is more frustrating than difficult conditions.
 
The Open ChampionshipWhile most players will have the proper rain attire and umbrellas held by their caddies, the number one priority when playing in the rain is keeping the grips dry. Loading up on towels to keep the clubs from getting wet makes all the difference. It is also important for players to anticipate how the rain will affect the ball. For one, when the course is wet, water will get into the grooves and decrease spin on the ball, which can often result in a “flyer". Furthermore, the rain will greatly influence distance, so consider taking an extra club. In regards to putting, wet greens also means slow greens. The ability to adapt to the green speed in the rain will be a huge factor. Players who cannot anticipate how the greens change with the conditions will surely struggle with the speed which could lead to three putts.The Open Championship is so well regarded because it tends to test players when they are most vulnerable and under the harshest of conditions. Luck plays a role in golf. The captain at the 1936 ceremony of the Open hosted at Hoylake stated, “I know that a little bad luck can lose a championship. I believe that a little luck is necessary to win it, but I am quite certain that no man can come near winning without a great deal of very good golf!” However, in difficult conditions it is players who are capable of keeping their composure, staying calm when things don’t go their way and maintaining a positive mindset who will come out on top. 

 

Image Credits:

1. http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/golf/video-get-ready-for-the-open-championship-with-these-four-1147493

2. http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10204651.18_months_to_go___but_already_Wirral_s_Open_Golf_spectacular_is_creating_a_stir/

3. https://nextgengolf.org/austins-angle/can-phil-win-the-other-open/

4. http://mytrackman.com/explore/trackman-data/trackman-club-data/attack-angle

5. http://golfweek.com/photos/2014/jul/13/53992/

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