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July 19, 2010 8:14 AM

Shrek Wrecks Golf's Home As Foes Do Nothing

ashrek.jpgThe game of golf returned to its birthplace this weekend only to roll into some seaside bunker and collapse.

Put it this way: If somebody told you that a flat-lining, gap-toothed, driving machine nicknamed "Shrek" would dismantle The Old Course to the tune of 16-under, thump the garden-variety British runner-up named Westwood, Casey, Poulter, Rose or Donald by seven-or-so shots, all while Tiger and Phil thrashed about in the gorse and heather 13 and 17 strokes back respectively ... would you have watched?

You aren't alone. An Open Championship that promised everything at the start, slowly and painfully delivered very little at the end.

Minutes after Paul Casey was taking about an hour to assemble a grotesque triple on No. 12, while playing partner and assassin Louis Oosthuizen poured in another birdie on the same hole to take his lead to eight shots, I just couldn't take it anymore, and walked away.


Oh, I returned feeling an odd obligation to watch Oostie make his ceremonial walk up 18, but by that time, I had washed from my mind most of what had happened -- or didn't -- over the past four days at St. Andrews.

If ever a golf tournament failed to rise to within shouting distance of the high hopes of golf fans across the world, it was this 139th rendition of the Open Championship on The Old Course. You'll never see a grander stage house a flatter performance.

There is no denying that Oostie was brilliant, but if we were forced to be subjected to some one-man show, better his name was Woods or Mickelson or Els ...

Oosthuizen? Nice story, just not when you are expecting a blockbuster.

You saw it.
The guy's swing, diminutive stature, and unfortunately, personality, are all kind of Hogan-esque. Even with constant 30 mph winds nagging away at him for three straight days, the move he put on the golf ball, and his straight-ahead demeanor were never ruffled. It was bizarre, and as if he was playing in some sort of protective bubble, while everybody else dealt with the elements.

The kid put on a clinic. Trouble is, most of us wanted to watch a competitive tournament at the home of golf, not some systematic killing.

Not once over the course of the final two hours Sunday did anybody have to man up and hit a clutch shot. Oostie could have tripled the notorious Road Hole, No. 17, and still skipped up the 18th fairway without bother.

In retrospect, the tournament was over for me on Friday night when the great Tom Watson finished with a ridiculous flourish. Only minutes after dealing with the emotional burst of crossing the Swilcan Bridge for the final time, the five-time Open champ came within one inch of flushing the ball for an eagle on his approach chip on 18.

Tooooom! Now that's drama!

Nothing after that came within a John Daly 2-iron of approaching such excitement in the game's oldest championship, and at its oldest course.

By the time the third round was over, the guy whose name nobody could pronounce was leading the latest would-be major winner from England, Paul Casey, by four shots and the rest of the field by about twice that.

To be honest, I thought Shrek would crack, and let a couple of the outsiders back in it on Sunday (or maybe I was just being ridiculously optimistic). Instead, he kept striping it, while the rest of the star-challenged loomers showed little inclination to do anything necessary to climb back in it.

You get the sense that golf is getting close to becoming a bit irrelevant again. Golf fans will only put up for so long watching guys like McDowell and Oosthuizen steal away with championships at hallowed venues like Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

The game has taken naps like this before, only to be resuscitated by Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods ...

Maybe things aren't quite that bad yet, and just look that way the day after such an uninspiring Open.

Maybe, unlike the Curtises, Lawries, Micheels, Campbells and Immelmans before him, Oosthuizen will prove himself to be more than a one-hit wonder. Maybe he'll take all that game and step up and slug it out regularly with Tiger and Phil.

If not, let's hope the stars start shining again but quick, and before golf finds out it really can't go home again.

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