Who needs the stuffed-shirt commentary on The Open?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2006, 12:00am

There is no golf event that captivates Hong Kong quite like the British Open. Oh, excuse me, I meant THE Open Championship. Played on the parched links of Royal Liverpool at Hoylake this year, from a strictly aesthetic perspective at least, it looked more like the world's best players whacking it around a cow pasture than the 'greatest challenge in golf'.

But that's the beauty of the Open Championship. Its enduring charm lies in the fact the courses in its 'rota' are the antitheses of the Masters' plush and contrived Augusta National or any of the other pristine carpets we see at the US Open and PGA Championship.

Mother Nature has had a large hand in preparing these British courses for the other-worldly Open Championships. It's just unfortunate we must spend a weekend of having this browbeaten into us. Out here in Hong Kong, the Open Championship is the only one of golf's four majors that lands in prime time. It also boasts the most international field with a smattering of Asian names thrown in for good measure. At 146 years of age, the prestige and tradition are undeniable. The significance is inherent. But that didn't stop Peter Alliss, venerable golf voice of the BBC, from constantly reminding us how important the event is.

With Tiger Woods leading the pack, an inordinate amount of TV coverage was on him as it should be. Naturally, with a heaving congregation following Tiger there are going to be some jackasses in tow. And virtually on cue after most of Tiger's shots, a couple of members of the idiot brigade would shout perhaps the most annoying phrase in sports today - 'get in the hole!'

It makes my skin crawl when I hear it. But compounding the misery was Alliss and his repeatedly pious indignation at these supposedly American yahoos besmirching the galleries of the Open Championship. He spent most of Saturday's broadcast belabouring the point while his broadcast partner, Scotland's Dougie (Doogie) Donnelly, intimated that a few 'Scousers' might take the offending parties out the back and straighten them out. Again, it's a golf tournament, not a soccer match.

And who is to say that all the idiots in the gallery are Yanks? I distinctly heard an English accented voice loudly cheering on Ernie Els in a tone that hardly enhanced the most reverential and respectful galleries in golf. Alliss needs to realise this is the Tiger era and because of that he is making more money broadcasting golf now than he could possibly have imagined. If we embrace Tiger's genius and charisma, as well as the enormous amount of revenue he has brought into the game, we also have to, unfortunately, embrace his galleries as well. You can't have one without the other, even if you are the Open Championship.

Alliss went on another haughty spiel about how the Open Championship, inclusive by nature, is in fact, the world championship and the winner of it 'is indeed the world champion of golf'. Well, I can believe that this year when you see Tiger Woods' name on the Claret Jug. But using that same logic, it means that Ben Curtis, despite being ranked 396 in the world before the 2003 Open Championship, suddenly became the world champion four days later by virtue of his victory.

There is a creeping insecurity from the likes of Alliss and some members of his broadcasting crew about the Open Championship, and for good reason. This is their championship and it has been dominated by Americans ever since Arnold Palmer started appearing regularly in the early 1960s. Perhaps Alliss should chastise British golfers for a woeful showing at their own showcase event.

It's no wonder the BBC cameras have to follow 49-year-old Nick Faldo as he hacks his way around the course; he really is the only great British golf champion of the past 50 years. Even the Europeans are letting down the home continent. Spain's Sergio Garcia showed up on the first tee of Sunday's final round one stroke behind Tiger wearing all yellow, which is fine if you are riding down the Champs Elysees with the Tour de France in the bag. But who do you like at crunch time, a guy named Tiger wearing red or Sergio in yellow? Not surprisingly, Garcia capitulated quickly and was out of contention after a few holes.

The Europeans, with a capable crew of Brits on their team, may well take out the Americans at the Ryder Cup in September. But it would be such a lift, for both the broadcasters and those of us who have to listen to them, if a few of those homeboys saved their best performance for the Open Championship.

'Compounding the misery was Alliss and his pious indignation at these supposedly American yahoos besmirching the galleries'