There is just something soothing about being able to watch live golf, snuggled up on the couch on a wintery day, watching the world’s top players battle it out on typically rugged layouts, flagsticks bobbing from side to side in the wind.
With nine South Africans teeing it up at Royal Birkdale for the 146th Open Championship, there was bound to be plenty of reasons to stay tuned. Little did we know… As the first day’s play drew to a close last Thursday, there was little to write home about until Charl Schwartzel surged to the top with an opening four-under 66. The rest made for pretty solid but mostly unspectacular reading – Ernie Els the next best with a two-under round of 68.
Open rookies Shaun Norris and Brandon Stone flew the flag high with rounds of 71 and 73 respectively. Other than that, there was plenty to forget including Louis Oosthuizen’s 78. So with the SA flag fluttering about on the first page of the leaderboard, the scene was set for Schwartzel to give the American duo of Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar a good go on day two.
Opening his scorecard on the European Tour’s website to check my facts before completely ripping his round apart, reminded me of the horror show we were about to witness at around noon last Friday. Watching the day’s proceedings with a slightly less eager golf fan added to the fun and games. It also didn’t help that he kept on confusing world No 1 Dustin Johnson with Schwartzel.
In his defence, the two have become quite difficult to tell apart and with both of them struggling, the deciphering process was only a tad easier than the misadventures of the toiling twins. Schwartzel got off to a solid start, parring the first three holes before sinking a birdie putt on the par-three fourth to move to five-under and more importantly, joined Kuchar as co-leader.
This is where it all unravelled though and before we knew it, the 2011 Masters Champion was at risk of missing the cut. Within 90 minutes, he had crashed to four-over, eventually signing for a 78, making it into the weekend exactly on the cut line. When moving day had dawned upon us on Saturday, typically the average SA golf fan was fed up and disgruntled.
Since Els in 2012 – the last time a South African won a Major – there have been glimmers of hope, but nothing more. After two average rounds, Branden Grace took the golfing world by storm, shooting the first 62 in Major history.
His magical round got the tongues wagging, especially the one inside Johnny Miller’s sour mouth. The now former record holder claims Royal Birkdale was playing “really easy” and was subsequently roasted on Twitter, and rightly so.
Nasty memes of Miller’s bloodied face and fellow commentators laughing their heads off did the rounds as fans soaked up the marvellous feat. For now, another top-10 finish will do as we look forward to Quail Hollow, the venue for next month’s final Major, the PGA Championship. P.S. Johnny: don’t be such a bitter bastard.