Not an Open-and-shut case for naming a major championship

So is it The Open or the British Open? ESPN.com's Jason Sobel surveyed competitors this week at Royal Birkdale, including Englishman Paul Casey, and the answers are as varied as where players are from and whom they are speaking with. Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTHPORT, England -- In the moments after their ceremonial opening tee shots at Augusta National this year, while regaling with tales of the good ol' days, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player each did it. A month later, speaking about his schedule, Rory McIlroy did it. They're hardly alone. Tiger Woods has done it, too. Even -- gasp! -- Tom Watson has done it.

Each of these men -- each of whom has held the Claret Jug aloft in his hands, the triumphant symbol of not just a champion but The Champion Golfer of the Year -- has been guilty of an act so heinous that the R&A has denounced the very terminology.

They've all referred to the year's third major as the British Open.

Look around here at Royal Birkdale and you'll see references to The 146th Open Championship and The Open Championship and finally just The Open. What you won't find are any allusions to the British Open, a moniker from which the tournament's governing body has distanced itself.

That doesn't mean it doesn't still happen, of course.

Even the competitors themselves are divided on this debate heard 'round the world.

"It's the Open Championship, clearly. It's never, ever been referred to as the British Open," Ross Fisher insisted.

"I call it the British. Growing up, that's what it was always called. It's just ingrained in me," Aaron Baddeley explained.

It should be noted that Fisher is British, and Baddeley isn't.

Therein lies the line of demarcation, at least in theory. Players from this side of the pond usually refer to it by the proper name, while those from other parts of the world will choose the more colloquial version.

Paul Casey has seen both sides. A native of England who has lived half of his life in the United States, he understands the conundrum.

"It's a geographical question," he said. "I will refer to it as The Open, but if I'm talking to somebody who doesn't know golf and they have this slightly blank look on their face, I'll say, 'The British Open.' So I have used the term, yeah."

That seems to be a popular strategy for players who simply want to get a message across without simultaneously crossing any lines.

"When I'm home, I call it the British Open," said 2009 champion Stewart Cink, who lives outside Atlanta. "To me, it's all about communication. I'm trying to get my point across to someone, tell them what my schedule is or whatever, then I usually need to say the British Open. I don't feel like it's disrespectful to the tournament."

Or as Germany's Martin Kaymer succinctly explained, "When I'm in America, I call it the British Open. When I'm in Europe, it's The Open."

That might be a smart rule of thumb, but it's hardly a rule by which everyone abides.

Tommy Fleetwood grew up just 2 miles from Royal Birkdale -- yet at the beginning of his Monday news conference this week, he proclaimed, "It's a massive privilege to be playing at a tournament so close to home, and it being the British Open."

(When informed of his countryman's faux pas, Fisher shook his head and said, "I'll have to have a word with him. That's awful.")

The simplest explanation for adding British to the Open is to avoid confusion with the U.S. Open. Or in the case of Casey, who resides in Arizona, to avoid confusion with that other Open.

"In Phoenix in February, people say, 'I'm going to the Open!' -- which means the Waste Management Phoenix Open," Casey explained with a laugh. "I used to scratch my head and go, 'But there's only one Open.' Now I don't care anymore."

Others care -- but only because they're skittish about saying British.

"I call this tournament the British Open all the time," American Charles Howell III said. "But over here, because I don't like getting into fights and a lot of people are bigger than I am, I will gladly call it The Open."

This fighting has to stop.

In times like these, the world needs a unified front, not a great divide. We need to get along. As the Beatles (of Liverpool, not far from here) once sang, "All you need is love."

"I love the tradition of the game, but call it whatever you want to call it," Casey maintained. "If you love the game, then you love the game. We shouldn't exclude people for calling it the wrong thing."

Open-and-closed case. Or, if you prefer, British Open-and-closed.