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Carnoustie's reputation is restored

Even during such a gloomy week, Carnoustie shone at the Open.

For years reputed to be the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie had become somewhat of an enigma for the younger generation. It had gone 24 years without hosting a British Open, and when it returned to the rotation in 1999, the setup was so outrageous that it became known as "Car-Nasty."

There was nothing but high praise this time around.

The Royal & Ancient proved that a golf course that can be a strong test without rough up to the knees and fairways cut at the waist. The conditions could have not been more ideal for scoring last week. Rain all summer in Scotland made this a green British Open with lush fairways and soft greens, and the wind rarely got stronger than 10 mph all week.

The result was the first winning score all year in a major (7-under 277), and by far the most exciting major of the year.

It allowed for a dynamic charge by Andres Romero, who made 10 birdies in 16 holes before the pressure overcame him. Romero's play over 16 holes rivaled Johnny Miller at Oakmont in 1973. If not for an approach into the gorse bush for double bogey on No. 12, and a bounce off the stone face of Barry Burn that went out-of-bounds for double bogey on No. 17, golf might have had its first 62 in a major.

Train wrecks were a certainty.

One only had to watch Padraig Harrington twice hit into the burn on the 18th hole and make a gutsy double bogey, then see Sergio Garcia make bogey by playing an iron off the tee for safety, leaving him a 3-iron to the green. He went into the bunker and missed his par putt from 10 feet to set up the playoff.

Harrington twice had birdie putts inside 10 feet in the four-hole playoff, far more entertaining than hanging on with pars.

It should be a lesson that nasty rough might make it a tough test, but not a good one. Ian Poulter and Romero had good rounds evaporate because they were given a chance to advance the ball out of the rough and paid dearly for it. And the wild fluctuation in scores along the back nine, such as Harrington's eagle on the 14th and double bogey on the 18th, made for better golf than seeing who can get to the clubhouse with the fewest bogeys.

Augusta National will always be the most mystical major because of its history and familiarity. St. Andrews will always have the tradition as the home of golf. And with one week, Carnoustie was such a good show that the British Open can't return soon enough.



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