The Phantom of the Open opened in New York and Los Angeles on June 3 and will roll out in select theatres in the US and Canada through June 24. Look up showtimes in your area here, or check out the trailer.

Something was already amiss when Maurice Flitcroft teed up on hole 1 of the Open on July 7, 1976. He was an unknown name to the crowd. Something peculiar sat in the way he watched the other pros on the tee box, wide-eyed with a twinge of fear. Maybe it was the daunting world-class course. Maybe it was because his being there stood somewhere between a clerical error and a miracle.

You see, this was Maurice’s first true round of golf. His historic round at the 1976 British Open is at the center of The Phantom of the Open, a dramatic and comical retelling of Flitcroft’s almost unbelievable life.

An entire world of hacks related as the announcer commentated Flitcroft’s ’76 finish on hole 13. “He’s celebrating like he just holed for a birdie, but that was for a ten.” Flitcroft ended his round that day with 121, the worst round in British Open history. Phantom of the Open shows us how a dreamer made a smashing success out of 49 over par. 

From an outsider’s perspective, Maurice Flitcroft, played by Mark Rylance, might be mistaken for any other ordinary, soft-spoken crane operator at a small town shipyard. But it only took watching Tom Watson’s 1975 Open victory through his television set to spark Flitcroft’s fascination with golf. From that point on, he had his sights set on the claret jug.

The Phantom of the Open -- Christian Lee as Gene Flitcroft and Mark Rylance as Maurice Flitcroft -- Photo by Nick Wall

The film introduces you to the Flitcroft family in a way that feels like you’re listening around a corner or peeking over a shoulder. With a keen sense of duty to his family, true respect for pursuing one’s dreams, and a matter-of-fact attitude, we begin to understand that Flintcroft is much more than he lets on. 

In one scene, Flitcroft tells Seve Ballesteros, “love your errors, and you can’t go wrong.” That is the crux of what sets Maurice apart: his abundant willingness to keep at it, no matter how badly the round seems to be shaking out. 

In a way, there’s a bit of that intrepid hacker in all of us with above-average handicaps. And this story goes beyond the course. The Phantom of the Open shows the power of persistence, hope, and family. 

Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2016 for his performance in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. His counterpart in this film, Sally Hawkins, is best known for her role as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water. Phantom of the Open is directed by Craig Roberts and adapted by Simon Farnaby from his book The Phantom of The Open: Maurice Flitcroft, the World’s Worst Golfer (co-written by Scott Murray.)

The Phantom of the Open opened in New York and Los Angeles on June 3 and will roll out nationwide through June 24. Look up showtimes in your area here, or check out the trailer.

Bailey Shelton

Bailey Shelton is the Managing Editor and Lead Graphic Designer for Stick & Hack. She graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Journalism News and Telecommunications. Aside from her work with Stick & Hack, she has been published in NUVO and St. Louis Magazine. She also recently released a short collection of personal essays called "Home".