Jim McCabe: Great players will always play great golf, regardless of the elements

It is a ritual understood by many like-minded individuals who harbour an inner passion for golf and thus indulge in pilgrimages to the great links of Scotland, Ireland, and England.

Jim McCabe: Great players will always play great golf, regardless of the elements

Of course, the topic of conversation is the act of walking off of a seven-hour flight from the US, collecting one’s luggage, and proceeding as quickly as possible to the nearest links. For us on Sunday, it was Turnberry and the fact that we were greeted at the first tee by a pelting rain hardly dented our enthusiasm. That we trudged on through cool rain and wind for all 18 holes may be seen as proof our insanity, though we’ll chalk it up to our commitment to a game that never fails to thrill us.

Having arrived from a country that is pretty much enveloped in drought conditions and blanketed by temperatures well into the 80s and even the 90s, playing at Turnberry and then moving on to Royal Troon for coverage of this week’s 145th Open Championship was a bit of a culture shock.

OK, so 15 degrees doesn’t feel so bad when it is converted to 59 in the world of fahrenheit, but given that we’re being told to expect a steady diet of that cold in addition to rain and wind and a blanket of grey, well, nothing to do but unpack the bucket hat, unfold the waterproofs, and let your spirit motor you along the sand dunes of Royal Troon, where no one is citing the Zika virus, thank goodness.

The debacle of golf in the 2016 Summer Olympics having taken another blow with Jordan Spieth’s withdrawal, though no such problem exists in the Open Championship.

All the heavyweight attractions are assembled and while we’re not likely to have the firm and fast conditions that are favoured come mid-July, other elements will surely be in play to challenge world No. 1 Jason Day, the recent US Open champion Dustin Johnson; Masters winner Danny Willett; defending champ Zach Johnson; and other top 10 names such as Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, and Branden Grace.

Each of them appreciates the challenge involved, as much of it physical as it is mental.

The ability to keep shots below the wind and allow for whatever run the course affords you is a must, but so, too, is a frame of mind that demands you not think about things beyond our control.

The weather, first and foremost.

Day, for one, merely shrugged. Sure enough, there is rain in the forecast, especially Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But “it’s Scotland; it could change,” Day said.

To dwell on weather conditions on the eve of a golf championship has always appeared to be unnecessary, for the great players will always play great golf, regardless of the elements. Tom Watson, for instance, won in the rain of Carnoustie and the blistering heat of Turnberry. Tiger Woods won on the rock-hard turf of Hoylake and the blustery winds of St Andrews.

Maintaining focus and commitment and not fretting about what Mother Nature provides is a 15th club for any champion.

“A mudder, I think I fall into that category,” said Zach Johnson, who won in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman at the Old Course last summer, and also owns a Masters green jacket.

“Maybe it’s where I grew up (Iowa, smack in the middle of the US) where the weather’s not always terrific. Or maybe it’s something just innately in me, I enjoy and love difficult, challenging conditions.”

Just as high rough and absurdly fast greens eliminate a lot of contenders at the US Open, weather tends to take a lot of players out of the mix at the Open Championship. But they are difficult animals these US Open and Open Championships golf challenges and if forced to choose, put me down for links seven days a week. Even in the sideways rain presented at Turnberry on Sunday, it was clear to me that competing on links is rich in flavour and steep in entertainment.

Wet and cold, it mattered not in the least. The golf was satisfying, as always, and there’s no doubt that emotion will be maintained moving from recreational player to professional chronicler this week at Royal Troon.

So, let Mother Nature toss a bit of fury at the lads in the 145th Open; the waterproofs are ready and so is the spirit.

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