Open Day

The Open Championship begins today in Scotland (I previewed it here), and Reader Mike S. chimes in with this anecdote:

My friend was a US Naval Flight Officer. He also loved golf.
His aircraft was down for repairs at a Scottish base so they had some unexpected free time.
A Scottish “friend” asked “Care for a round of golf?”
Rather than ask “Where?” he just said, “Sure.”
Up at dawn, a drive, and then… HELL ON EARTH.
He claims the only reason he reached the 18th green was the survival training the Navy gave him.
It was, of course, Carnoustie.

Oh yeah, baby.

Now it must be said that it’s been unseasonably hot Over There of late, and only on Friday is there even a chance of seeing people dressed like this:

Here’s the forecast:

All that said:  if Carnoustie hasn’t had much rain, then the fairways will be hard — really hard.  In fact, one comment was that the fairways will run faster than the greens (which will have been watered).  Now one might think that this helps the golfers;  one would be wrong.  A hard surface is fine — if the surface is flat.  But Carnoustie’s fairways aren’t flat, which means the ball can bounce or run in any direction, e.g. off the fairway completely and into the dense rough or impenetrable gorse.

And so it begins…

Timeless Hotness

I only ever watched the first three seasons of the Brit TV time-travel series Outlander  (following the “Most TV Series Suck After Season 3” hypothesis), but I have to admit, Catriona Balfe could have tempted me back for a few more:

And here she is in modern clothing:

Vile, Fearful And Awful

(First Printed in July 2007)

No, that’s not the name of the firm where your ex-wife’s lawyer works:  it’s the dreaded Carnoustie, home of this year’s Open Golf Championship in Britain.

Now, for all those Philistines who are going to moan about boring golf and “a good walk spoiled” and all that jive, save your comments and your time, because I’m going to ignore your bleats.

There is golf as we normally see it on TV, played on immaculate fairways which resemble fine carpet and greens which resemble beds of moss, and in weather which is sunny and warm.

And then there is Carnoustie.

It is a vile, fearful and awful place:  way in the north of Scotland, right next to the cold and dreary North Sea, it’s the northernmost course of all those which host The Open.  So Carnoustie can and does provide the foulest weather imaginable — freezing winds, icy drizzle, leaden skies — and all that’s before you hit your first ball off the tee, whereupon your troubles really begin.

Because the Scots are terrible liars, almost all pictures of Carnoustie show a benign, sunny place with smiling, happy golfers playing off the fairways.  But the closest picture I’ve seen to the horrible reality of Carnoustie is this picture, even though showing balmy skies and no hint of a breeze (which conditions were last reported for a two-hour period back in 1845):

Note the foul bushes, deep rough and ubiquitous bunkers.  Now add the aforementioned freezing winds and icy drizzle.  Here’s another pic (note the clouds):

And here’s a more representative one (note the coats):

Someone once said of Carnoustie that it’s a course which will remind you of the Old Testament God — the vengeful, capricious and spiteful God — and not the warm, loving and gentle God of the New Testament with all that kindness and forgiveness nonsense.

Carnoustie just wants to be left alone;  therefore, it hates golfers, forgives nothing, and seems to delight in punishing golfers past all endurance.  One does not play Carnoustie, one attempts to survive it.

Which is why I love to watch The Open when it is played here:  those confident, masterful golfers who stride around the typically comfortable and forgiving U.S. PGA courses while they plot how to get 12 birdies over the last 13 holes;  those same golfers are all humbled here, and are reminded that their skills are pitiful and inadequate as they scramble to salvage pride with a bogey, and consider a par score as remarkable.  Yes, I confess to feeling a profound sense of schadenfreude as I watch those sleek millionaires with their private jets and corporate sponsorships hacking around in the thick bushes and heather like just so many weekend golfers, looking forlornly for a ball which seemed perfectly struck off the tee or fairway, but which was plucked away by a sudden malicious wind and thrown carelessly into one of the countless unplayable lies which fill Carnoustie like so many minefields.

And that’s the rough.  In the fairways and around the greens are deep, unplayable pot-hole bunkers (paradoxically the only places on the course where you don’t feel the wind cutting through your clothing);  and of course, there’s also the Barry Burn, an innocuous name for a treacherous, icy little creek which meanders through part of the course and lies in wait for a ball struck too hard, too soft, or, maddeningly, just right.  (Sometimes a “good” bounce is not what you want…)

The fairways are narrow, which means that every shot off the tee requires a superhuman effort to combine a reading of the gusting winds off the sea with perfect execution of the shot itself.  (In shooter’s terms, you need to be a golfing sniper to succeed here — shotgunners pay a fearful price.)

The winning aggregate score in 1999 was six over par*.  The course measured just over 5,340 yards back then; it now measures close to 7,400 yards.  Nearly a mile-and-a-half more of added torture awaits this year’s crop of human sacrifices qualifiers, and as we all know, the harder you have to hit the ball, the less precise the shot is likely to be.

And Carnoustie’s legendary rough awaits…

The Open is hardly ever played here, I suppose because the Royal & Ancient wants to show a little pity towards professional golfers.  If it were up to me, Carnoustie would host The Open every two years, just to keep everyone humble.

The common argument leveled against golf on TV is that it’s boring.  That is never true of Carnoustie.  This is not golf:  this is a fight for survival, and only the toughest of the tough will survive the tournament.

The Open starts on Thursday July 19, one week from today.  I can’t wait.

* In 2007, the winning score was 11-under, mainly because over the four days of the tournament there was not a drop of rain and the wind was but a gentle breeze.  That won’t happen again.  The 1999 score and conditions were far more in keeping with the spirit of Carnoustie.  We can but hope that Global Warming holds off for a week or two…

As Time Passes (2)

Last week I showed how Christina Robinson grew up from a beautiful child into a gorgeous young woman.  Today continues the theme, only this time it starts with a gorgeous young woman, and shows how the passage of time has changed her.  It’s Ali McGraw:

And here she is, taken recently at age 78:

Mercifully, Ali hasn’t gone with the cosmetic surgery thing, and you know what?  She’s still beautiful.

Other women of her vintage went under the knife and emerged looking like grotesque gargoyles, with stretched, shiny faces that resemble cartoons (and no, I’m not going to post any of those pics because I want to be able to have breakfast sometime today).

It just goes to show that often, if you’re truly beautiful then you’ll age beautifully.  Like Ali.

One Step Better

I remember that back in the late 1960s, Ford (Europe) came out with a little gem of a car which was, quite frankly, the coolest car on the block.  It was meant to be the European version of the Mustang, and to be honest, I actually preferred the Capri’s shape and styling:

Of course, most of the car reviewers sniffed and called it “Cortina’s cousin” (Cortina being Ford’s top-selling brand everywhere outside the U.S.), but the hell with them, because they knew nothing.

A buddy had one and I loved going out with him and our girlfriends of a weekend night, because the Capri not only looked cool, it was a joy to drive, with handling which rivaled the Fiats and Alfa Romeos of the time.  Even its little 1600cc four-banger had excellent performance, and was only constrained by its silly 4-speed gearbox (which was still silky-smooth, and its tiny stick-shift made gear changes quicker than any Alfa).  The Capri was, I think, the best-looking compact car of its class during the 1970s, bar none, and I wept bitter tears when Ford stopped making them.  (Hell, I wouldn’t mind one today.)

I don’t know if GM (Europe) copied the Capri or it was just coincidence, but in 1970 they released a similar model called the Manta under their Opel brand.  Here’s its first incarnation, the Manta A:

Of course, it never sold anything like the numbers of the Capri (over 1.9 million Capris, vs. fewer than 500,000 of the Manta A), but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

While the Capri was progressively “souped up” over its lifetime, the Manta wasn’t (except in the United States, where the imported models were often modified).  But what Opel did (and which Ford never did for the Capri) was to make a sporty GT version of the Manta.  Here it is:

Apart from the headlights, this is one seriously-pretty little car*.  I saw several of them back in South Africa, and let me tell you, they were crowd-stoppers.  (Many people scoffed at them, of course, calling them the “poor man’s Dino” but hell:  I was poor, couldn’t afford a Dino, and I would have bought a Manta GT in a flash if given the opportunity.)

Okay, this is yet another in the series of “Stuff That Kim Thinks Looked Better Back Then”, but I challenge you to find any modern-day GM (or Ford, for that matter) car that can compare with the Manta GT.  The front looks a lot like the Corvette Stingray of the the 1960s, of course, but in terms of size the Manta was a midget by comparison.

*Yes, I also know that the Manta GT looks something like the Renault Alpine A110 (also of the 1960s), but then again I think the Renault’s gorgeous too: