Remember back in the old days when ABC broadcast the “British Open” each year “via satellite” and they had those old plain-graphic leaderboards with the header “British Open”? And when Golf Digest used to list the “British Open” winners in their annual February record book that I so much looked forward to receiving each year? Back then nobody was really that picky about whether it was called the British Open or The Open or The Open Championship, it really didn’t matter. Everyone knew what it was, everyone loved it, and Watson, Nicklaus, and Ballesteros were battling for it every year.
Granted the true name of the event was, and always will be, “The Open Championship” and as media became more prevalent into the 80s and 90s and especially with the rise of online content and 24-hour golf television coverage, soon it became very high-brow to say “it’s not the BRITISH Open, it’s just THE OPEN”.
By now virtually everyone knows to call it “The Open” for short and “The Open Championship” in formality yet golf media everywhere especially on the Golf Channel still seem to go far too much out of their way to stress this point. It’s almost as if jobs are on the line if anyone dares mutter or write the words “British Open”, or that some are so insecure in their positions that they overcompensate by lecturing to the world about the proper title of the world’s oldest championship.
Not to pick on the Golf Channel (though it’s easy to do), but if you’re going to make sure that every last person on Earth knows that it’s called just “The Open” then you have to be consistent. Along those lines one would think that they would also call this year’s venue “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers” since that’s the name of the club that is hosting the event. That would be consistent, but wouldn’t be correct as “Honourable Company” is just the name of the club. But you could understand making that error.
The course itself is simply called “Muirfield”. You might also excuse the Golf Channel and other outlets if they called the course “Muirfield Golf Links” as ABC did back in 1980. At least that makes some sense, even though that’s not the name. But no, in their promos talking about their upcoming coverage of “The Open,” they call the course “MUIRFIELD GOLF CLUB.”
Come on now Golf Channel, that’s not even trying, and that’s after giving you leeway to have the world’s most incongruous voice doing the voiceover narration on that spot.
Which all brings me back to my original point. Why can’t I call it the “British Open”? That’s what it was when I was growing up, that’s what Nicklaus called it (quick aside–I yelled “Play the British!” as Nicklaus walked to every tee in the 1996 Memorial Tournament, single-handedly convincing the great man to enter the event that year when he was threatening to skip it and he ended up finding himself with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 36th hole that would have tied him for the lead), that’s what the great Jim McKay and Dave Marr called it on ABC, even Peter Alliss called it the British Open with a polite whisper of a side note saying “you know it’s really only called The Open”. So you know what? To answer my own question, I can and I will. Depending on the day, time, situation, and context, I might call it The Open, I might call it The Open Championship, and sometimes I’m going to call it what I really want to call it, the British Open.
With so many people here in the US referring to our own Open as “the Open” (hence the need to differentiate the “British” Open in the first place) I’d be willing to bet that most on the US-side of the pond would agree with me on this point. And, I think that most on the UK-side of the pond would understand. Next time you get uppity Mr. High Brow golf journalist and start lecturing the world about “The Open Championship”, try coming down off of the high horse for just a second. We all know that it’s The Open, but we all grew up loving the “British Open.” That’s just the way it is, and it’s the way it always will be.
This entry was posted on Saturday, July 13th, 2013 by Jeff Flynn at 8:08 pm and is filed under 2013 Open Muirfield