Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Open

We were glued to the television this week watching the Open Championship. Unreal! Insane weather conditions, human drama, incredible shot making, drunken Scotsmen, it's got it all. I'm sure in other homes, conversations surround important issues such as who is going to make dinner and when is Aunt Sally coming over, but if you grow up in the Rice house hold and its open championship week the topic might come up as it did this week when Mackenzie said "Hey Dad, who were the greatest golfers of all time". Mackenzie and I ruminate over such discussions, we debate, discuss and pretend that our rankings matter. So without further ado I give you the Top 5. No need for further debate. For this list I have had to go back to the annals of sports history. I have obviously never seen a few of these fellas hit a shot but as I've read everything I could about golf over the past 35 years I feel qualified to take an unqualified shot in the dark.

#1 Jack Nicklaus - The ultimate sportsman. His 18 majors are the standard by which all are measured and 'till someone tops it, sobeit. Of course I also believe that when you combine this accomplishment with the nineteen second place finishes in majors, that he did it in an era that put him up against Gary Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino and you top it off with the class that he showed in doing so, there really is no question. Conceding the putt to Tony Jacklin in the Ryder Cup should be required viewing for every student athlete in the world, and for me that gesture might make the major total to beat more like 25 before I could consider knocking Nicklaus from first position.

#2 Tiger Woods - I have never seen anyone in my life try harder. He has played professionally for 15 years and I've never seen him hit a shot where it looked like he didn't care. Extreme focus, concentration and will - often times to the detriment of his persona, but without question the best player in the game since Nicklaus.

#3 Walter Hagen - Hagen essentially invented Professional golf. He was the charismatic leader of a group of new young professionals in the 1920's and 30's. Hagen was the ultimate scrambler and when you consider that his major total (11) does not include the Masters (wasn't held yet), he was the best of his era. I also love Hagen's reputation as a playboy and a carouser, which he earned from late nights partying it up before tournaments. A few players noted that after a night of drinking, Hagen would have left full and untouched drinks all over the room, while his playing partners woke up a mess the next morning. Nice.

#4 Harry Vardon - The Stylist.Owner of Six British Open victories. He made the trip across the Ocean to play in the U.S. Open 3 times; he won in 1900, lost in a playoff in 1913 to a local kid named Francis Oimet who had the fast greens at Brookline mastered and finished second again in his last open crossing in 1920. I also love that Harry struggled with shorts putt - it's a kinship; although his affliction was due to Tuberculosis, while mine is caused by a distinct lack of talent. If philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, surely all golf roots must converge at Vardon. By the way, the top two players on this list use "the Vardon Grip", 'nuff said.

#5 Bobby Jones - Jones is number one on too many lists if you ask me. Too short a career to judge, but I suppose that winning the Grand Slam in 1930, while polishing off an Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a Law Degree from Harvard at least gets you to #5. Of course, founding the Augusta National Golf course and launching the Masters doesn't hurt either.

So there you have it, the top 5. Now back to the broadcast. Next week we will discuss the Top 5 most fashionable golfers of all time. Mackenzie and I won't be converging on that list as she will have Ricky Fowler at the top and mine starts and ends with Paula Creamer.

Hey, what is for Dinner?