Whatever happened to the real British Open?

 CARNOUSTIE, Scotland—Whatever happened to the real British Open? Did it miss a turn on the A92 and end up in Broughty Ferry? Did it tumble off the Tay Bridge. I mean the British Open, one where the rain drenches, the wind howls and the shots that don’t bounce into the rough fly into bunkers.

  A tournament that was supposed to be the Open, the 147th, began Thursday, but it was a poor facsimile. This one the sun was shining, the putts were dropping and there were so many rounds under par—including , for a while that of Tiger Woods—it was unreall.

   Carnoustie, next to the North Sea, is reputed to be the most difficult course in the Open rota. A young South African, in his first Open, Erik van Rooyen, playing in his first Open may not believe that.

  “It was playing as easy as it was going to play all week,” said van Rooyen.  “You had to take advantage of it.”

  And he and many others did just that. Kevin Kisner, a University of Georgia guy who was overtaken by Justin Thomas in last year’s PGA Championship, shot a 5-under par 66 for the lead, a shot in front of van Rooyen, Tony Finau and somebody named Zander Lombard, another South African.

   Hey, arguably the greatest South African golfer ever, Gary Player, won at Carnoustie 50 years ago, 1968. That Open was miserably genuine, with conditions so unpleasant and demanding even the legendary Jack Nicklaus couldn’t reach the green of the 16th hole, a 220-yard par-3, using a driver.

  This opening round there were problems—even when Scotland resembles Samoa,  people make mistakes—but they were not the norm., Day One was hardly a walk spoiled. Even 60-year-old Sandy Lyle, in the tournament as the 1985 champion, shot even par the front nine, before fading on the more difficult back.

  “You never know what the weather is going to hold,” said Kisner, alluding to the next three rounds, with rain predicted. ”You’re always going to try and get in as low as you can, because you never know about the next day.”

  You never know about Tiger Woods either. He was 2-under par through 11, and, well, he had said the Open could be the place to earn that 15th major, because the ball rolls on the hard, almost-barren-fairways. He could keep up with the big hitters.

  But this isn’t 10 years ago. Woods has gone through a lot, physically, with the back surgeries and emotionally for other reasons. He mishits a ball, now and then and even when Carnoustie is kind, there are bogies lurking.

 “I played better than what the score indicates,” said Woods, a lament heard by golfers of all classes, “because I had -- I had two 8-irons into both par 5s today, and I end up with par on both of those. If I just clean up those two holes and play them the way I'm supposed to play them with  an 8 iron in my hand, I think I'd probably have the best round in the afternoon wave.”

  “Ah yes, “if.”

  “So it certainly could have been a little bit better.”

  Jordan Spieth, last year’s winner—the Champion Golfer of the Year is how he’s known—was 3-under through 14. Then, he would confess, “It was a really poor decision on the second shot that cost me.”  Big time.

  A double bogey 6 at 15, followed by bogies at 16 and 17. He finished with a one-over 72.

  “I’ve done a bit of that this year,” said Spieth, “decision making that cost me.”

  That occurs whatever weather nature sends.

  Jhonattan Vegas played at the University of Texas and has won on the PGA Tour. He’s a Venezuelan, and that created a major problem for this major championship.

  He intended to fly to Scotland earlier in the week but his visa for entry into Britain had expired and a new one had been delayed in processing. So at the last minute he had fly from Houston, where he resides, to Toronto then to Glasgow, where he boarded a helicopter to Carnoustie, some 70 miles away.

  There was no space for his tournament clubs, so he used a make-shift-set assembled by the manufacturer he endorses, Taylor Made, teed off around 10:30—and shot 76

A visa problem is not the usual hazard at Carnoustie, or any Open.”

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