British Open. Open Championship.
They’re in the same company. Say it how you want. People will get the point when you talk about either. But, for some reason, some of our friends across the pond get a little defensive when we Americans casually refer to their major as the British Open.
Someone from the U.K. smugly asked me in a tweet on Wednesday what I would call it if this golf tournament that’s our third major moves to Northern Ireland for a year? The British Open? Northern Ireland is a part of the kingdom, no?
The R&A, which runs the tournament, calls it The Open Championship. That’s the formal name. So, maybe we should all just go ahead and call it that.
Peter Dawson and company like to bill the links major as the world’s major championship. It’s the only one not played in that isolationist golf country, the U.S. of A., so it wins by default. Then again, with Muirfield’s no-women membership policy in the backdrop of this championship, does the world really want to be represented by a club that keeps the ladyfolk out?
If we accept calling this tournament “The Open,” then what becomes of the U.S. Open? We call that “the Open” (lower-case “t”), too. Some people think the U.S. Open is more prestigious, or important. So who gets the shortcut? It should be the most important one. America might lose that vote.
Even if the Yanks are relegated to calling our national championship the U.S. Open, that’s not even the proper name for it. It’s actually the U.S. Open Championship.
The British should just get over it*. Were it not for an American, namely Arnold Palmer, making the trek across the Atlantic in 1960 to play in the British Open, the tournament may not be nearly as relevant today. Palmer jolted life back into the championship and rejuvenated its importance by his mere presence. Otherwise, the tournament might soldier on as the other national opens do on the European Tour. I mean, really, who cares about the Italian Open?
If the Open Championship isn’t a major, then maybe the United States hosts all four. Can you imagine the uproar if someone came along after Palmer and organically redefined the Grand Slam to include The Players? According to Lee Westwood, it’s only the ninth-best tournament in the world right now! But I digress.
As a proxy thank you to Mr. Palmer, just let Americans call it the British Open without getting so prickly about it. We’re not trying to offend by saying it as so many of us do. When did the word “British” become derogatory?
Besides, we don’t get mad when our overseas friends refer to the PGA Championship — you know, Glory’s Last Shot — as the U.S. PGA Championship. Is your country’s PGA Championship a major? No? Then call it by its proper name: the PGA Championship.
In exchange, we’ll happily oblige and resolve to call your major by its proper name. Until we slip up.
*This entire piece should be read with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. The Open Championship is my favorite major.