Five years ago, yours truly received a tongue-lashing of sorts from Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell when I began a conversation by referring to that upcoming major at Royal Troon as “the British Open.”
“That’s not a good start, even though I do like to take a jab at the boys back home and tell them that ‘The Open’ is the U.S. Open,” said McDowell winner of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. “Naturally, there’s only one ‘The Open.’ ”
To golf traditionalists, such a faux pas sounds like nails across a chalkboard, a crime punishable by having to write it correctly 100 times. But to hear 1969 Open champion Tony Jacklin tell it, this hard-core sensitivity is more of a recent phenomenon.
“In my day, you could call it the British Open and you wouldn’t get a thousand bloody letters,” Jacklin said. “You can’t say ‘British Open’ anymore.”
Zach Johnson, the 2015 Champion Golfer of the Year and an Iowa lad, said he grew up calling the world’s oldest major the British Open, but “once I started playing it,” he said, “I learned it’s ‘The Open.’ ”
Sometimes it’s best to ask a third party from an altogether different continent, so I consulted another sensible man, Zimbabwe’s Nick Price, the 1994 champion, who said he has been known to refer to that major across the pond using both titles. “But if I talk to people knowledgeable about golf, I call it ‘The Open,’ ” Price said.
Interestingly, Google searches for “British Open” outnumbered “Open Championship” by a 4-to-1 ratio among the U.S. audience five years ago, which explains why Golfweek has gone with what then was the more common usage, but the tide has turned and flipped to nearly a 4-to-1 ratio in favor of The Open despite the fact that many American pros have been schooled in the Americanized version.
“Our’s is ‘The Open,’ ” Smylie Kaufman, one told me, referring to the U.S. Open, which didn’t come along until 1895, or some 35 years after his “British.”
Phil Mickelson, the 2013 champion, weighed in this week with his tweet on the subject:
“Every year I come over here, there’s a debate on if it’s the Open or British Open. The Earl of Airlie referred to it as the British Open when awarding Bobby Jones the Claret Jug in 1930 at Hoylake. Both are acceptable.”
But the R&A chief Martin Slumbers doesn’t share that opinion. Speaking in front of a backdrop that included the championship logo and hashtag at least a dozen times, he said, “I think it says so behind me, doesn’t it? It’s The Open.”