The British Open Championship is the only men's major played outside of the United States, and it's also the only one played consistently on links golf courses. For American audiences, the Open is a chance to stay up late or get up early -- or both! -- and watch some of the best players in the world compete in the game's oldest championship.
If that's not enough of a reason to watch the Open in the morning, here are the best reasons to watch.
The best reasons to watch the British Open Championship
Golf for breakfast
Don’t you just love it? Wake up to the greatest golf tournament in the world. The heck with playing; it’s high summer, there’s plenty of time for 18 holes after the Open is over. Think of this weekend as golf’s proper rejoinder to breakfast at Wimbledon. And speaking of such...
Strawberries and cream for breakfast
It’s healthy, it’s authentic, and it’s delicious. It’s been a tradition of mine ever since the Open interrupted Saturday morning cartoons at Gramma’s house. On a whim, I used a blend of nutty oat milk and creamy vanilla greek yogurt, and scored a birdie. But hey, go full British if you want. Eggs, bacon, sausage, fried peppers and tomatoes, baked beans, toast and potatoes, both boiled and fried. Just hold the blood pudding, and trim the trichinosis off the bacon please. Got it ready? Good. Now it’s time for the golf.
To a kid growing up in suburbia and playing public courses, seeing golf played on cliff edges like at Turnberry, or amidst ancient cobblestone edifices like at St. Andrews, or amidst the timeless dunes of Muirfield or Troon, the Open Championship is a dream. It’s exotic. The venues materialize out of the mists of history, the gleaming claret jug is hoisted aside a shimmering sea, and then they vanish again only to reappear once more like the reverie they are a year later. It plants a seed of wanderlust in a kid’s heart, a yearning to see golf at its most primal, authentic, and glorious.
The Open rota
Actual conversation with my old girl Britt yesterday:
Britt: We’re watching the U.S. Open on TV!
Jay: No, the U.S. Open was last month. This is the Open Championship.
Britt: Is that like the British Open?
Jay (uncomfortably): Err, umm -- yes.
Britt: So it’s at St. Andrews?
Jay: No, It’s at St. George’s.
Britt: ut that’s Scotland? They play it in Scotland?
Jay: No, It’s in England. Southern England. Kent, in particular, if you’ve heard of it.
Britt: I’ve heard of Kent, but never been there. So they play the British Open in England now? Why not Scotland?
Jay: They move it around; it’s like the U.S. Open. Remember? You came with me to Congressional that one time ten years ago…
Britt: OH! THAT TIME I GOT ON TV!!
Anyway, for any golf fans who dream of travel, unlike the U.S. Open, which is primarily played on highly exclusive country clubs, every single one of the courses on the Open Championship rotation are accessible by the general public. If they are not located in wonderful resort towns, they are in historic venerable cities, so the pilgrimage is in imperative for any serious golfer.
In 2022, the Open returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews for its championship's 150th playing. After that the Open goes to Royal Liverpool in 2023, where both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have won the claret jug in recent years, followed by Royal Troon in Scotland, scene of the Second Duel in the Sun where Phil Mickelson opened with 63, but Henrik Stenson closed with 63, becoming only the second golfer to shoot 63 on Sunday to win.
The other, of course, is Johnny Miller, but you knew that already. Even Martians know that.
Bunkers with the own names (and other oddities)
This year we have the “Coffins,” and the “Himalayas” monstrously deep bunkers at the long par-4 fourth. We have “Bjorn’s Bunker” guarding the right side of the 16th green, where Dane Thomas Bjorn left the claret jug for American Ben Curtis to pick up. We have the “Spectacles” peering out from in front of the ninth green. There’s also the “Maiden,” a giant dune guarding the par-3 sixth, and the “Suez Canal” bisecting the 14th fairway. It even scared off Bryson Dechambeau from trying to carry at off the tee. It’s just a 369-yard poke to reach the other side, that’s all.
An international field
Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke – they were all grinding it out on European Tour for a while before breaking through and winning majors. Plus it’s the most international field in golf.
Fescue, heather, marran grass, even giant hogweed: They have all types of nightmarish vegetation at Open Championship venues. They also have wind-blasted, rumpled, uneven fairways (except at Royal Birkdale). There is exactly one tree on the entire golf course at St. George’s, and there are zero at most others on the Rota.
Cue Britt again: “It’s all burned out! Where did all the grass grow? Is there a drought? They should water that place!”
No they shouldn’t! And that’s not burned out, it’s called “biscuit brown.” That’s exactly what you want, that gorgeous golden amber. In fact, it could be faster and firmer.
The R&A has the course dialed in the way they want it, they just need the wind to pick up a bit. St. George’s holes wind around themselves as you progress during the round, so there are crosswinds seemingly everywhere. But only half a day of wind, and with modern equipment and players focusing on fitness and strength more than ever, Sandwich’s relatively modest length – 7,189 yards – has short irons in players hands often enough to set record setting lows over the first two days.
The weather (usually)
They don’t stop playing golf at the Open for trifles like squalls. They just Open the brolly, grab another Pimms cup, and wait for the next guy to hit it. It’s definitely fun watching that in the confines of your mancave, less so when you have to go out and do it in the rain yourself. Still, I highly recommend trying it anyway.
If you’re going to make the required trip to the U.K. or Ireland, you’ll play in wind and rain, so you better get used to it, like it or no. And that means buy a good rain suit too, lightweight, yet waterproof -- not water-resistant, waterproof.