Golf is a frustrating game. Every person who has played it knows this to be fact.
The trials and tribulations experienced on a golf course tests players mettle, and links golf magnifies this immeasurably.
Royal St. George’s never receives the universal praise the majority of the other Open rota courses do.
It is quirky, it’s difficult and this year as it welcomes the 149th Open, it has been allowed to bear its teeth more than ever.
The opening round of the final men’s major displayed exactly why Sandwich, as it is colloquially known, deserves its spot as a host venue for the oldest major championship and why it is perhaps underrated as a course.
Two players with top billing best exemplified how a great course produces the most interesting viewing experience in golf. Bryson DeChambeau’s power and strength doing little to aid him across the first 18 holes of what he hopes will be 72 this week, while Jordan Spieth was in his element battling the conditions and the course to sit in second place.
Plenty has already been written and will continue to be about Bryson’s post round comments that his driver “sucks” and the response from Cobra Tour rep Ben Schomin, who recently caddied for the US Open winner and was a feature star in one of his YouTube videos.
DeChambeau issued an apology via Instagram following the incident, as well he should given he is Cobra’s most marketed star and the company has fully embraced his methods by offering One Length clubs across its ranges since signing him. Not to mention catering to his every want and need as he seeks to improve.
The American’s post round interview was stunning to all and sundry. And a special shout out goes to The Open’s media team who posted video of it, whereas the PGA Tour would have by now have chased down every poster and issued a cease and desist. But a significant takeaway should be that his words were borne out of his strategy simply not working around a course unlike those he plays each week.
Hitting it closer to the green than your competitors would seem obviously advantageous, but when that shorter distance is from near knee height unpredictable rough, DeChambeau proved that is not the case.
The links land once again proving itself to be golf’s greatest leveller, in spite of Royal St. George’s owning a richer green hue this year than many would hope and fairly benign conditions, for The Open at least.
In contrast, Spieth put on the sort of display that has endeared him to so many despite not being the longest off the tee or most pure of ball strikers walking the earth.
The 2017 champion managed his game, took his medicine when out of position and displayed enormous patience, all the while playing alongside DeChambeau having a day to forget.
Playing in the same group as a player battling with their game is never easy at the top level of the game, but Jordan clearly was only focused on his own play.
The difference between the two at the close of play was only six shots, but to watch and listen to the pair speak after the round, the gap seemed unbreachable with 54 holes to play.
“I think it brings a lot of the feel aspect into the game. I think I shorten swings up over here and hit more punch shots and just stuff that I probably should be doing at home,” Speith said.
“There's a lot of external factors over here, and I think that external is where I need to be living.”
Meanwhile, Bryson bristled over his planned way to attack a course that on paper should suit.
“It's quite finicky for me because it's a golf course that's pretty short, and so when I hit driver and it doesn't go in the fairway, it's first cut or whatever, or it's in the hay, it's tough for me to get it out on to the green and control that. but when it's in the middle of the fairway like I had it on 18, I was able to hit a nice shot to 11 feet and almost made birdie,” he said.
“It's kind of living on the razor's edge, and if I can figure out how to make that driver how to go straight and figure out the jumpers out of the rough, it would be awesome. I just can't figure it out.”
There is plenty of golf left in the 149th Open Championship, but already the course has identified itself as the star player.
One that dictates strategy to players rather than vice versa.