Golf’s greatest major

The Open Championship is the greatest of golf’s majors – this year’s event at Carnoustie cemented that fact

Sundays at the Open Championship have always been special, particularly when you’re following the final groups around the toughest course on the Open rota having set off at 4.30am that day.

Watching players tee off from the first with the Claret Jug on the tee, then experiencing the buzz around the final groups – the frantic checking of scores as players file past, the chat among the crowd who give you an insight into the last hole as they walk by, the thousands of spectators coming to complete silence as the players get over the ball… there is no better Sunday experience in strokeplay golf.

This year Carnoustie showed the beauty, skills and changing nature of links golf as well as any Open in my memory. A course presented to challenge, but never undermine, the best players in the world proved a fantastic stage – that the winning score was eight under-par when three leaders started the day at nine under-par shows Carnoustie has teeth should anyone underestimate its challenges. That defending champion Jordan Spieth crumbled as the wind blew on Sunday proved how tough Carnoustie can be.

There was also a moment on Sunday afternoon when Tiger Woods stood alone at the top of the leaderboard. We watched him play the 10th – where his miraculous bunker shot made it to the front of the green and meant he stayed on top of the leaderboard. What happened next on the 11th, a double bogey, dashed the dreams of what seemed like every spectator on the golf course.

Through it all Francesco Molinari, the hottest player in the world in the last few months and one many picked to dismantle Carnoustie’s challenges, was calm. To play the weekend without a bogey, while partnered with a charging Woods backed by thousands of fans on every hole on Sunday, is one of the most incredible finishes in recent years and he, of all the players we saw, showed what it takes to be the champion golfer of the year.

The Open will head to Royal Portrush next summer, in its new spot as the final major of the year. The Irish fans will have been without an Open for 24,849 days – Max Faulkner the only man to lift the trophy outside of Scotland or England when he won it at Portrush in 1951. I can’t wait to experience another stunning golf course, one which is sure to be as stern a test as Carnoustie, with a crowd which has been starved of major championship golf for so long.

There’s only 11 months or so to go…