The past few weeks, the United Kingdom (U.K.) has been the toast of the sports world.
Three Sundays ago, they hosted the British Grand Prix (Formula One). The following weekend, it was Wimbledon — won by their very own, Andy Murray. And, two days ago, it was the British (Golf) Open, simply called The Open Championship.
Plus, of course, the winner of the 100th staging of the Tour de France is no Lance Armstrong; he’s representing Great Britain and is named Chris Froome.
At the British Open last Sunday, an Englishman named Lee Westwood led all golfers in the fourth and final day. He was 3- under and had a two-shot advantage. But it faded away.
Instead, as golfer after golfer succumbed to the difficulty of links golf and the traps of white bunkers and the tall grass that littered around Muirfield, it was the most smiling man on the greens who won.
Phil Mickelson. Who doesn’t like the guy?
I asked our Cebuano professional to comment on Phil’s birdie-birdie round of 66 finish and here’s what Charles “Chuck” Hong had to say: “Mickelson’s win was textbook patient golf. It was all Westwood and Scott from the start and he was patient enough to wait for all his birdies down the stretch. I was rooting for Tiger or Lee to win, but mickelson’s okay. He’s a very humble winner. Of course, Tiger’s was a missed chance, but I’m sure he’ll break his dryspell pretty soon. It just seems like he runs out of luck on the last day of majors, but that’s the nature of golf. I’m sure his day will come again.”
Thanks for those comments, Chuck. As for Tiger — the man my wife Jasmin loves to hate — again, he was in contention. Again, he faltered. Watching him on SkyCable’s channel 751 late Sunday night, he rarely smiled or looked confident. That fist-pumping brashness has disappeared. There’s no question the Invincible Tiger is gone. While we all thought his breaking the 18 majors of Jack Nicklaus was a question of when, not if, now it’s an unsure proposition for the 14-slam winner who hasn’t won in his last 17 major starts.
I know who’s having a smirk and an inner laugh: Elin. Same, quite possibly, with his former caddie Steve Williams, who carried the bag of Tiger’s flight-mate, Adam Scott. That must have been an awkward scenario.
Back to the champ, Phil Mickelson, the 43-year-old from California becomes the third straight player in his 40s to win the Open, after Ernie Els and Darren Clarke. Maybe the 37-year-old Tiger has to wait three more years?
Phil now has won three of the four majors in golf: the British Open, the PGA Championship and The Masters. The only major missing in his trophy cabinet is the U.S. Open — where he’s been 2nd place a shocking six times.
ABOITIZ GOLF. Now closer to home, the year’s most awaited professional golf tournament — the Aboitiz Invitational — begins tomorrow at the Cebu Country Club.
Armed with $65,000 (about P2.7 million) in prize money, we’ll get to watch on the Banilad grounds not only the likes of Elmer Salvador (defending champion), Miguel Tabuena, Angelo Que and Jay Bayron but also plenty of foreign golfers including James Bowen (USA), Grant Jackson (UK), Scottish James Byrne and Japanese Mitsuhiko Hashizume in the 126-player field.
But Cebu and CCC will be rooting for a familiar name: Charles Hong. “I prepared for the event by not joining the Pro-Am in Davao and just staying in Cebu to practice the week before,” Chuck told me yesterday. “Though I grew up here, it would still be a great help to get a few more practice rounds than the rest of the feild. You always want to play well on your home championship, but there are no guarantees. I’ll just do my best and accept whatever outcome. And it’s very exciting playing for a home crowd. A lot of people are expecting me to do well, but I’ll just play to my expectations. Like I always have.”