Make way for the younger brigade
This year’s Open Championship returns to Royal St George’s for the first time since American Ben Curtis stunned the golfing world by winning the 2003 Championship.
Curtis’ winning total of one-under par was very impressive given the dominant players of that era that he surpassed on the Sunday.
Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn all gave way to the 26-year-old USPGA Tour rookie.
Curtis’ major breakthrough was most shocking because it was both his first win as a professional and his first appearance in a Major championship.
His upset win also came at a time when less credentialed players rarely outclassed golf’s older household names.
Eight years on, there’s been a dramatic shift.
Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer have all collected Majors over the last 11 months as their maiden victories on the USPGA Tour.
Also, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Kaymer were aged 27, 26 and 25 at the time of their respective wins.
Today’s younger brigade are no longer preoccupied with the reputations of the game’s greats.
The ‘twenty-somethings’ on tour will be highly-fancied when they take to a slightly different Royal St George’s this month.
In 2003, players were helpless to the firm and sloped nature of some of the course’s fairways and this year’s layout has had a minor face-lift.
According the Open Championship website, the first fairway will be 12 yards wider after many drives landing slightly off the centre of the fairway trickled into the rough in 2003.
Changes have also been made to the 17th and 18th fairways to encourage fairer treatment of drives.
As has so often been the case at recent Majors, the course will not only be longer but have a reduced par – 105 yards longer than it was in 2003 and its par reduced by one to 70.
Nine Australians are set to tee it up – three less than last year.
But the Australian challenge is expected to be far stronger than 2010 when Adam Scott and Robert Allenby shared top Australian honours in a tie for 27th.
The stocks of Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley have risen in the ensuing 12 months and could bolt further at St George’s.
Allenby, Richard Green, Nathan Green and Open debutants Rick Kulacz and Matthew Millar will also be trying to become the first Australian to claim the Claret Jug since Greg Norman in 1993.
Perhaps the most anticipated moment of the event will be the major return of Tiger Woods, who missed the US Open with a knee injury. At this late stage it remains to be seen whether or not Woods will recover in time to play.
Woods’ lack of competitive golf this season and growing winless drought has seen his ranking slump to 17.