‘The Open’ gain­ing no­tice in Amer­ica

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NEIL BEST

News­day calls it the Bri­tish Open. The As­so­ci­ated Press calls it the Bri­tish Open. Nearly ev­ery Amer­i­can golf fan calls it the Bri­tish Open.

But on ESPN and NBC, it is never that. It is “The 146th Open Cham­pi­onship” or “The Open Cham­pi­onship” or sim­ply “The Open.”

“The Open Cham­pi­onship is in­cor­rect,” said three-time win­ner Nick Faldo, an an­a­lyst for NBC this week at Royal Birk­dale. “It’s now The Open, you see? It’s gone from The Bri­tish Open to The Open Cham­pi­onship. Now, it’s The Open. In an­other five years it will be just called ‘The.’ ”

Faldo is Bri­tish, and like every­one there for the past cen­tury and a half he has thought of it as “The Open” — or vari­a­tions thereof — be­cause it is the orig­i­nal, as op­posed to the U.S. ver­sion, a new­comer that came along in 1895. Fair enough.

Un­til re­cently, though, Amer­i­cans al­most ex­clu­sively have called it the Bri­tish Open, just to keep the sides of the At­lantic straight.

Then in the mid-2000s, The R&A, which runs the event, suc­cess­fully per­suaded its Amer­i­can TV part­ners to use the old-school term, pre­sum­ably for brand­ing pur­poses.

It was sim­i­lar to NBC’s de­ci­sion in 2006 that Turin, as Amer­i­cans re­fer to it, would go by its Ital­ian name, Torino, for the Win­ter Olympics, be­cause then-NBC Sports boss Dick Eber­sol thought it sounded bet­ter.

Mike Tirico, NBC’s host for the Bri­tish Open, has been on the front lines of the shift, which oc­curred dur­ing his time at ESPN/ABC around 2005.

“It was the Bri­tish Open when I started, and we kind of moved to The Open Cham­pi­onship and now it’s not re­ally The Open Cham­pi­onship any­more. It’s The 146th Open Cham­pi­onship. I miss that. The Open Cham­pi­onship still sounds bet­ter to me.”

Tirico said us­ing The R&A’s pre­ferred name is sim­ple cour­tesy.

“If he says, ‘Call me David, not Dave,’ it’s his name, I’m go­ing to say it the way he wants me to say it,” Tirico said, point­ing to his NBC col­league, David Fe­herty. “It’s their event. That’s the way they want it re­ferred to. That’s OK. If you go over there, there is not one thing that you can buy that says ‘the Bri­tish Open.’

“So just be­cause we re­fer to it that way, in a shock­ing de­vel­op­ment as an Amer­i­can, we could be wrong … As a rights-holder they asked. That’s the way they’re brand­ing their event … It’s their cham­pi­onship, for God’s sake.”

Fe­herty, who is from North­ern Ire­land, said, “It’s The Open Cham­pi­onship to me. Even when it was [called] the Bri­tish Open, [play­ers from the United King­dom would say], ‘Are you go­ing to go play in The Open?’ That’s how we would call it.”

NBC an­a­lyst Johnny Miller, an Amer­i­can who won the event in 1976, said he still strug­gles with the ter­mi­nol­ogy.

“I have trou­ble with it,” he said. “I screwed up one time last year, if you call it a screw-up, which is pretty good in four days. But, yeah, it was al­ways the Bri­tish Open, be­cause you had the U.S. Open and the Bri­tish Open. It just made sense that you dif­fer­en­ti­ated them as an Amer­i­can.

“When I talk to groups or cor­po­rate groups, I will still re­fer to the U.S. Open and Bri­tish Open be­cause they say The Open, but a lot of Amer­i­cans, ca­sual golf fans, they don’t know what you’re talk­ing about.

“So I don’t know if the po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness has got­ten to Britain or not. But bot­tom line, you’ve got to do it right. We have a whole sheet of things you’re sup­posed to say or not say. So: The Open. That’s right.”

Tirico has read com­ments on Twit­ter from Amer­i­can view­ers about how an­nounc­ers re­fer to the event, which he said is a le­git­i­mate ques­tion. But he in­sisted, “It wasn’t a jack­ham­mer from on high that said, ‘You have to call it this.’ ”

The R&A has his­tory on its side, as al­ways.

“The U.S. Open be­came much big­ger to Amer­i­can golfers, so it su­per­seded it in ref­er­ence,” Tirico said, “but The Open Cham­pi­onship pre­dates the U.S. Open, so they have first dibs on it.”

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