Nicknamed The Phantom of the Open, Maurice Flitcroft shot an opening round of 121 at the 1976 British Open. Yes, that is the worst round ever recorded at The Open, but what would you shoot in the first round of golf you ever played? Based on a true story, The Phantom of the Open hits it long and straight down the middle. As a feel-good British comedy, it’s arguably the best film of the weekend. Heresy, I know, to suggest this little movie could compete with Elvis (Black Phone doesn’t count), but it certainly has a better ending, bound to bring a tear to the eye.
Working at a shipyard as a crane operator in Barrow-in-Furness, Maurice meets Jean and soon proposes. Only then does he found out that she has a child, Michael. “He now has a father,” announces Maurice. Not long after, they are blessed with twin boys. Years later, the family gets their first TV and Maurice sees a golf tournament. Knowing he put off his dreams for household responsibilities, Sally encourages him to pursue golf. With a slogan that “practice makes perfection,” Maurice pursues golf with a passion, but without golf shoes or a club membership. Certain that he has the right stuff, he enters the British Open. The Phantom of the Open is born. The 102 minute movie gets 4.0 Gavels and receives an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.3/10 IMDb score.
Since an amateur has to have an official handicap, why not declare yourself as a professional? It seems the Royal and Ancient are not too tidy in checking the credentials of the pros. After shooting 49 over par, is Maurice an embarrassment or a hero? A family member and the shipping yard certainly have their opinion. So, how does Maurice become an international star? People can relate, especially those duffers struggling to master the game.
Before Bridge of Spies, I didn’t know the name Mark Rylance (Maurice). Since then, seen in Wolf Hall and Chicago 7, he’s another of the brilliant Brits who never gives anything but a quality performance. Standing alongside Rylance is Sally Hawkins (Jean) who seems to get nominated for a major award in every film she appears. It’s difficult to pull off naivete with a little bit on con-artist, but both manage splendidly.
The Phantom of the Open presents a scene where Maurice meets Seve Ballesteros. Below is their picture. Banned by the R & A for life, Maurice entered the Open numerous additional times over the years under aliases and in disguise. If the protectors of the Open weren’t suspicious of Arnold Palmtree, then let him play!
“It has a bit of the mood of The Full Monty or Brassed Off about it, and if its not as good as either of those it has a gentle upbeat cheeriness that’s hard to resist.” Time Out
“A fond and funny exploration of how one ordinary chap discovered renewal on life’s back nine.” Wall Street Journal
There’s a lot of heart in The Phantom of the Open. And, there’s a good chance you’ll find yours on its 18th green.