ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Hello, Dr. Truth here.
What I learned at the British Open: Nobody travels to Scotland for the food. Golf is the No. 1 priority, haggis ranks about 843rd.
Dr. Truth will now entertain your toughest questions. Ask away. Because this is a major championship – the oldest and perhaps most important major championship – no subject is too contentious or too controversial. The doctor is in.
QUESTION: How do you pronounce Oosthuizen, as in British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa?
DR. TRUTH: From the mouth of R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, it sounded like Oooossth-zen. Dawson started slowly and then abruptly swallowed the rest of the name. Oosthuizen himself said it something like this: Woost-hey-zen. His first name is tricky, too – Lou-ee and not Lou-is.
QUESTION: How did R&A officials react to Oosthuizen continually referring to their Open Championship as the British Open?
DR. TRUTH: They were not amused. Among R&A brass, British Open is a dirty word. Well, two dirty words. In effect, they view the Open Championship as the one and only world championship.
QUESTION: Where does the U.S. Open fit into the R&A scheme of things?
DR. TRUTH: For a bunch of revolutionaries who fled the motherland, we’ve done alright, but the U.S. Open is second in historical significance and contemporary clout. Just ask the R&A.
QUESTION: What does R&A stand for, anyway?
DR. TRUTH: Rigid & Aloof.
QUESTION: So a British Open champion from South Africa is a good thing?
DR. TRUTH: Absolutely. It had been eight years since the last South African winner, Ernie Els. The British Open sustains its reputation through the participation and success of international players.
QUESTION: Who won more British Open titles, Gary Player or Bobby Locke?
DR. TRUTH: Now there’s a question only a South African or a golf fanatic could answer. Player and Locke, the two most successful South Africans in the history of the British Open, won seven titles between them – four for Locke, three for Player.
QUESTION: Who are the most important Americans in the history of the British Open?
DR. TRUTH: Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. Hagen triumphed four times in the 1920s, when Americans faced an arduous journey by boat. Jones claimed three titles, his last in 1930, the Grand Slam year. Palmer revived worldwide interest in the championship when he won in 1961 and 1962. Watson was a five-time champion.
QUESTION: Why did you leave out Jack Nicklaus?
DR. TRUTH: No disrespect intended. Nicklaus is an extremely popular figure here and everywhere else. However, he won the British Open fewer times (three) than any other major.
QUESTION: Did Paul Casey play himself off the European Ryder Cup team with his closing 75 at the British Open?
DR. TRUTH: Probably not. This guy is an awesome ballstriker. He made two triple bogeys (unheard of at this level) and still tied for third.
QUESTION: Where is the best place to stay in St. Andrews?
DR. TRUTH: You’ve heard of the Old Course Hotel, the Rusacks, the Scores and the Jigger Inn, but Dr. Truth advises all his friends to stay at the Dunvegan. Not only is the Dunvegan located 100 yards from the first tee, but its lively, golf-oriented tavern is the pulse of the off-course game in St. Andrews.
QUESTION: Why didn’t American golfers play well at St. Andrews?
DR. TRUTH: There is a temptation to say they ate the haggis, but really it seemed to be their inability to adapt to bigger, slower, not-so-perfect greens. In the United States, PGA Tour players are spoiled by flawless greens week after week.
QUESTION: Where did Dustin Johnson’s tee shot end up on the 72nd hole?
DR. TRUTH: So far to the right it’s probably still bouncing down one city street or another. Let’s put it this way: It never made contact with grass.
QUESTION: In recent years, which champions gave the best acceptance speeches?
DR. TRUTH: Justin Leonard, 1997. Terrific speaker. And Jean Van de Velde, 1999. What an orator.
QUESTION: But Dr. Truth, Van de Velde didn’t win. He surrendered a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole, then lost in a playoff. Remember?
DR. TRUTH: Van de Velde’s victory speech was memorable. The highlight came when he thanked me: “Without Dr. Truth, my golf psychiatrist, I never would have had the patience to win. I actually was thinking of hitting driver off the 18th tee and then going for the green with my second shot. Can you believe it? The best decision I ever made was to hit 8-iron off that tee.”
QUESTION: Are you on medication, Dr. Truth?
SPOKESPERSON FOR DR. TRUTH: Dr. Truth has gone into seclusion (some would call it hiding) after a nervous breakdown. That’s what the British Open does to people.