Beem and Lyle join Cheech Marin

July 18, 2008 | Drew Forrester

They’re playing the British Open (err, sorry, it’s “The Open Championship”…my bad) at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England and all hell is breaking loose.

First, as of this writing, Greg Freakin’ Norman is winning the golf tournament.  Yeah, THAT Greg Norman.  More on that later on.

The big story in Merseyside has been, predictably, the weather.  It’s been nasty.  Well, actually, it’s worse than nasty.  It’s something else.  It’s rainy, windy, cold and – uh – just plain old nasty. 

Pat Perez shot 82 on day one and then complained about the conditions by saying, “It got to the point where I didn’t care at all.  I don’t care now.  I’ll be back on Friday, play, and go home.  It’s no fun playing in those conditions.  I shot an 82.  I don’t shoot 82.”  Uh, Pat, you DO shot 82.  You just did.

I always like when a guy who hasn’t really won anything on the PGA Tour (Perez) starts bellyaching about the weather, the course set-up, how unfair it is…blah, blah, blah. 

Perez might be a whiner, but at least he finished.  Rich Beem and Sandy Lyle didn’t. 

Beem was threatening a score of 90 when he packed it in on hole #10 and Lyle was +11 through ten holes when he pulled out.  At least they both were honest.  Neither feigned an injury or anything like that.  They simply said they couldn’t take it anymore.

Beem and Lyle now join Cheech Marin as the most celebrated quitters in the history of golf.  Marin, you’ll recall, was Kevin Costner’s caddy in the movie “Tin Cup” (playing the character, “Romeo”) and he quit on the 10th tee of a U.S. Open qualifier because Costner snapped all of his clubs in half except for his 7 iron. 

Romeo came back later on to caddy in the U.S. Open for Costner.  He recovered from his quitting incident.  I don’t know if Beem and Lyle will be so fortunate.

There are legitimate reasons to withdraw from golf tournaments.  Injuries, of course, lead the list.  If you’re playing in an event somewhere on the PGA Tour and you shoot 81 in the first round because your swing has left you, withdrawing from the event to fly to Texas and visit with your swing coach for a few days is also a reasonable excuse for departing early.  Quitting because the weather is bad and your score is worse?  That’s NOT a legitimate reason for quitting.

Rich Beem, Sandy Lyle and Romeo…quitters.   

Now, back to the tournament.  Is it possible?  Could Greg Norman reach deep into his golfing soul and extract a weekend of past glories and somehow win the British Open at age 53?  I realize Tiger NOT being there is the story of the tournament, but I’ll say this right now:  If, somehow, Greg Norman is holding the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon, it might be the biggest win in the history of golf.  A 53-year old non-playing professional (he competes in 4-6 tournaments a year these days) winning The Open Championship?  With or without Tiger in the field, that just can’t happen.

Or can it?  I say “no”, but only because I have a fairly good idea of how golf works and history says Norman’s nerves won’t hold up over four days.  Then again, when you gave your ex-wife $375 million a year and a half ago as part of a divorce settlement, maybe nothing can be as unsettling as having to write THAT check.  Let me think about that.  I’m standing on 18 tee needing a par to win the British Open.  Or, I write a $375 million check to my now-ex-wife and give her half of everything I own.  I’ll take the par attempt, thank you.

This is the British Open we all remember.  Wind, rain, and “the last man standing, wins”.  Some say it’s the way golf should be played.  This weekend, you can either beat the weather or let it beat you.

I’m hoping Greg Norman beats it.