As I sit in the Airport early on a Monday Morning I have to say what a great tournament this year’s Open Turned out to be!! This was my second trip to the open (The first being at St Andrews 2 years ago) and it did not disappoint.
Half of the BHSG Dubai team made the trip to Birkdale this year which was fun, I arrived in the early hours of Tuesday morning after getting the ferry from Ireland overnight, landing in Holyhead at roughly 6am, and continuing to drive about two and a half hours up the coast to liverpool. We reached Royal Birkdale at roughly 9am which was the perfect time to see many of the players getting ready on the range. Many of the big Guns were their early doors with DJ, Spieth & Rory all playing a few holes that morning. Upon arrival the sheer volume of spectators arriving even on the Tuesday was impressive, and the layout of the tented village was Ideal for such a crowd
Jp & Peter
This year was a particularly special year as one of Justin’s students (Peter Uihlien) was playing, and has been in a rich vein of form over the last 6 months as he rapidly climbs the world rankings. Justin has done some fantastic work with Peter over the last 9 months, and has transformed his game in a very short space of time. It has been a fun journey for us to watch from the outside, and an extremely exciting one as we approach a major championship which Peter most certainly could have contended
The standout moment of the practice days for us was without a doubt Justin being watched by friend and mentor (not to mention probably the greatest coach of all time) Butch Harmon as he worked with Peter.
Tour life is Hard Work…. Especially for the coaches
I think as a coach we always have the impression that the dream job is to coach tour players, that working on the range at a Major is all glitz and Glam, and while this would certainly be my own personal goal in the future, I think people really need to understand just how hard tour coaches work! The sheer amount of time you have to be at the golf course if you have more than one player competing is astonishing, being fully committed and present for the player when needed, following them on the course and always making sure to say the right thing at the right time all adds to a relentless week for tour coaches. Add in other commitments such as TV & Interviews, you have yourself and extremely busy day at the golf course! By the time a day is over at the British open, I’m sure for most coaches bed is a god send!
Golf Getting up to speed
One of the biggest improvements and most enjoyable aspects of being at the open is the changes and additions that have been made to the range.
The first thing that should be mentioned is The Sky Sports “Open Zone”. This is a small bay that resides along the right hand side of the Driving range where players can come and chat about their game, what they are working on or even give some quick tips in an environment that is very natural to them. Watching Claude Harmon III (Coach to Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka) chatting to the players, talking about their swings and doing a little bit of teaching himself on camera was fantastic to see. It gives the crowds an opportunity to get up close and personal, find out the things they want to know, and also learn a bit more about the tour players.
A new addition to the range recently is the ball flight tracking of each player and how far they hit it. Each shot gets projected onto the big screen on the range, and the distance of how far each shot goes. It also generates a daily “Long Drive” leaderboard which became particularly entertaining late on Tuesday afternoon when Brooks Koepka and John Rham (both bombers!) were standing side on a relatively quiet evening hitting drivers. As they pounded golf balls they quickly realised both shots were being tracked and as we looked on it became a bit competitive, and Both players continued to hit bombs that were carrying 300+ yards every time…. Very Very entertaining!!
One of the most interesting aspects of watching the best players in the world this week was how each player prepares for the tournament. There were a couple of things that stood out to me:
Everyone prepares differently
This is probably the most surprising thing for most club golfers, the reason being I think most people have the idea of this perfect formula for getting ready for a tournament, when really there is none. As you look on the driving range you see such a huge range of what people are working on, from simple feels in the swing, to routines and even sometimes extremely technical swing changes just hours before they tee off. Which is right, which is wrong?
I would most certainly say the simpler you keep it the better, but again this is only an opinion or a preference of mine. One thing that stood out to me about Jordan Spieth throughout his last round, was how often his caddy Michael Greller recited “GOOD POSTURE” just before he started his routine on almost every shot. This is obviously a simple thought Jordan had that helped him stay in the same mindset or stick with the same feel he had in practice. Greller never wavered from this no matter how good or bad Jordan Hit IT.
Don’t Over prepare
This is key, remember your hoping to play 4 rounds of 18 holes in the tournament, don’t play too many beforehand! If you show up on a Monday and play 18 holes every day by the end of the week you will be struggling to stand! Most of the players I watched tended to play 18 holes early in the week, and 9 holes mixed in with some practice as they approached the tournament. Again every player was different but I quite like this as an easy way to get prepared for an event without wearing yourself out.
Try every shot you can
Especially on links courses you will be asked to play a huge array of shots, and watching the guys on the practice area they were pretty much trying every shot they could. From plugged lies and left handed shots from bunkers, to putters and hybrids from 20 yards off the green. Try them all you never know when you might need them!
On Tuesday I watched 2 Time open Champion Padraig Harrington, and Former Irish open winner Shane Lowry on the chipping green for about an hour. Both players are know for their short game skills, but the interesting thing about how they were practicing was that they were not just hitting a bucket of balls, they were on the chipping green competing. They had one ball each, they were dropping them together in random places, hitting a huge variety of different shots. This was great to watch as they were replicating different situations and forcing themselves to produce a shot under pressure with only one golf ball. This type of practice is probably the most undervalued type of practice by most amatuers.
I think I need to say very little about the tournament other than well done Jordan Spieth!!
The event was fantastic, an amazing course combined with several highs and lows, resulting in an amazingly exciting finish where Jordan Spieth not only showed his composure, and his bottle, but also how using your brain and knowing the rules can be incredibly rewarding!
From the outset Jordan looked impressive, and despite several of the other big names making small bursts to catch him, it was his consistency and determination that eventually won through, which was particularly highlighted on the 13th hole as Jordan sliced one into an area so far right of the fairway, wayne riley described it as “where elephants go to die”! As Jordan approached his ball on the side of the mountain he instantly realised the ball was in an unplayable situation, and his options as to what to do next were limited. However Jordan’s “Golf IQ” immediately kicked in as he eyed up where to drop it.
Knowing that if he was to move the ball two club lengths or go back to the tee he would effectively be giving up two shots rather than one, he looked at using the “line of sight rule, effectively going back as far as he wants keeping the point where the ball lay between him and the flag. Eyeing up the line he realised the practice area was directly (all be it some way) behind him, which would obviously give him and ideal surface to strike the ball off. After some 20 minutes deliberating with the rules official he calmly struck a hybrid type club short of the green and made the up and down for bogey (a minor miracle). But not to end the drama there he swiftly followed that up by almost holing his next tee shot on the par 3 14th, and went on a run of birdies to close out the championship, and claim the claret jug.
All in all I loved this Open, the crowds, the atmosphere, the course and the drama all surpassed my expectations. Looking forward to next year already!