Ive been out for my first inspection of the course and my initial reaction is this is going to be a tough Open Championship Im predicting a winning score of level par. The recent wet weather has caused the rough to grow up and it looks to be pretty brutal. It is rather pretty though – thick with wispy grasses and meadow flowers. If we were here for the Open Botany Championship, it would be an absolute thriller.
Although it appears a good deal greener than you expect a links course to look, the fairways still seem to be running well and the greens are firm. I saw a number of approach shots hit the front edge and run right to the back of the putting surface particularly downwind. Maybe they just werent striking it very well.
Ill try to summarise what I witnessed on my travels around the links:
– The first group I came upon featured a fashion showdown between Aaron stack and tilt Baddeley and Camillo the housewives favourite Villegas. Although Baddeley was impressive in a pair of blue and lilac pastel checked strides, he narrowly lost out in the trouser-off to Villegas in his skin-tight pin stripes. When it came to the golf, however, both were outplayed on the 10th hole by wily veteran Greg Norman. He smoked a great drive into the wind that finished at least 20 yards beyond the young bucks, then he punched a mid-iron in to about ten feet.
– Then there was an exciting moment as Norman was ready to putt – he was disturbed as he settled over the ball by Padraig Harringtons caddy who stormed past the green holding a bundle of clubs. He was pursued, at pace, by Harrington himself who, in turn, was being chased by a Setanta camera crew.
– Boo Weekley was out there going head to head with Kevin Stadler in a farmers walk competition. The pair made quite a spectacle as they lurched their way side-by-side down the 13th fairway. I think Weekley was the narrow victor.
– There were some interesting goings on at the short game area Mark Roe is in high demand these days when it comes to advice around the greens. This afternoon he was coaching Steven Webster on how to play a flop shot over a pot bunker. I couldnt make out exactly what was said, but he appeared to be warning Webster against getting too steep in his angle of attack. On the other side of the green I spotted something rather worrying Trevor Immelman practising the chip and run shot with his rescue club, á la Todd Hamilton. Has he got the chipping yips?
– I got my first view of the, much fancied, Hunter Mahan. He played two pitch shots into the controversial 17th green. One finished in the pot bunker to the right, one flew the putting surface by 20 yards and hit the grandstand behind it. He failed to get up and down from either position.
– That re-modelled 17th green is pretty ridiculous. Its extremely narrow with run-offs into pot bunkers right and left and its massively sloping with huge swales and, seemingly, very few potential pin positions. I did, however, see the Japanese golfer Hiroshi Iwata hole a ludicrous 40-foot putt from the back edge that fell down three separate slopes and moved some 10 feet from left to right.
– Some good news for fans of Jeremy Ellwood. Our beloved Associate Editor has a well-documented penchant for Magnum ice creams and during the hour or so Ive just spent on the course I spotted six ice cream vans and Magnums were available at each and every one.
Practice days are my favourite time to walk the course there are less people around (although there were impressive galleries for so early in the week today), the marshals are friendly as theyre still in the honeymoon period of their jobs, the players are relaxed and you can get much closer to them and you see them attempting some far more adventurous shots. Im very much looking forward to a full day here tomorrow.