Fergus Bisset forged out onto the course at Royal Troon to see how much action he could take in over an hour on the links.
Practice day at The Open Championship tends to be pretty relaxed and I always enjoy the atmosphere before the tournament kicks off properly. Players haven’t fully donned their game faces and most will joke and smile with each other and the galleries as they make their way, slowly, round. The fans are more patient, happy to wait at crossings and allow others to gain a view of the action. The general vibe is one of chilled expectation and it’s rather pleasant.
I decided to go out this afternoon and see what I could take in over an hour on the links at Royal Troon. I jotted down what I saw as I made my way round and this is it tidied up a little:
1.32 – Paul Casey, resplendent in peach, strides down the 1st under broody skies, smiling and laughing with his caddy. He fires a superb approach to the green and looks quizzically at his man as the effort elicits no response from the large gallery behind the green, the gaggle of spectators watching alongside or from me. “Well I thought it was a good shot,” his caddy says.
1.44 – Patton Kizzire is experiencing his first taste of links bunkers short of the 4th green. He looks down into the sand in disbelief to see his ball tight against the revetted face. The young American, on his Open debut, tries to go out straight at the pin but there’s no doing – the ball skews sideways after catching the top of the face and ends short right of the green. He shakes his head. Get used to it Patton.
1.50 – I’ve bought an ice cream – not sure I really want it but I’ll eat it anyway.
1.56 – Defending champion Zach Johnson is giving a running commentary of his drive on the 10th as he walks down the fairway. I’m not sure who he’s addressing but I can hear him from the back of the stand behind the 8th. Perhaps he’s speaking to me.
1.57 – Oblivious of Johnson’s booming monologue, two little girls race each other up a hill alongside the 10th fairway. “I’m faster than you,” cries one as she stumbles and trips her way ahead. “You’re nae,” screeches the other, clearly distraught at her defeat. “I’ve telt you two to quit this messin aboot!” Dad is catching up.
2.03 – Branden Grace, Ernie Els, Brandon Stone and Scott Piercy are spending some time practising all manner of short shots from around the 11th green. They clearly don’t fancy hitting this one in regulation. It is a seriously tough hole!
2.07 – They finally realise that putter is always the best option (even from the light rough,) and move to tee off the 12th. Four great drives but when they get up there, Brandon Stone is the longest. He celebrates as though he’s just won his girlfriend a giant cuddly toy at a funfair. To consolidate his sense of smugness, he then stiffs his approach. Grace looks solid to me.
2.10 – Struck by the range of outfits spectators have opted for today. Some feeling the cold – one chap looks set for an Arctic expedition, others determined that it is, and will be summer. Shorts and a vest is a bold choice though I feel.
2.13 – What do you call a group of Marshals? I think perhaps a busyness… A busyness of marshals has gathered halfway down the 15th. Who knows what they’re up to? They do a great job but they can be a touch officious at times. One red-jacket-wearer just told me to stop leaning on a rope. I wasn’t even touching it!
2.18 – Arran is looking strikingly beautiful in the distance. Blue silhouetted mountains are topped by a crest of billowing clouds. Expansive skies over the links. Beautiful.
2.26 – I bump into the parents of a university friend. Jo and Andy Middlemiss are headed for the “Postage Stamp” as I begin the walk back towards the media centre. Their son, my friend, Tom is in New Zealand and he and wife Rachel are expecting a baby next month. It’s great to see them and catch up.
2.32 – Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland are having a sand splashing competition short of the 16th green. It looks like they’re trying to impress Butch Harmon. Gary wins when the wind gusts and sends a cloud of sand back into his face. Well-played sir.
Time’s up and I must return to the media centre where I belong. It’s been an excellent hour.
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