I’ve been out this morning to do a full “tour de course.” I wanted to try and get a proper feel for what the players will be facing when they tee it up on Thursday.
The big chat so far has been about the rough and how much/how fair of a challenge it is presenting. I said yesterday, after a brief sortie out over the first few holes, that I didn’t think it was as brutal as I’ve seen on other courses recently. I’ll stand by that. Yes, it will certainly be very punishing – a pitch back to the fairway in most cases. But, unless, it strays a long way off line, it’s not going to be a lost ball. A couple of times I heard spectators saying something along the lines of, “If they think this is bad, they should see what it’s like at my place.”
Phil Mickelson is clearly not impressed by it. I was chatting to a marshal to the right of the 7th fairway who said Phil had played into the cabbage down the par-5 and had struggled to hack it back out to the short stuff. Apparently he then swished his club in frustration and said, “Ridiculous, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” I doubt that Phil, it’s just some long grass. And, the thing is: You missed the fairway by 20 yards and were suitably punished for the crime. That seems fair to me.
Perhaps Phil should adopt Justin Rose’s attitude. After a marshal found his ball in the clag to the left of the 17th, Rose thanked him warmly and then let out a little giggle as he examined his predicament. He managed to move it about a foot before picking it up and throwing it back to the fairway.
One thing’s for sure – the course looks fantastic. The lush, sweeping green fairways are lined by two cuts of semi rough, then the rust coloured wispy long grass that’s flecked with yellow, blue and white, wild meadow flowers. The greens look incredibly smooth and they’re receptive too. I saw a number of shorter shots stop quickly, even reverse a touch.
David Duval was playing with Stewart Cink, I followed them for a couple of holes and, at one point, overheard Duval reminiscing with his fellow American about his victory here back in 2001. There seemed to be more than a little solidarity between the pair.
Was it a co-incidence that European Tour chief referee John Paramor was following Elliot Saltman as he made his way up the sixth?
John Daly was out there in a suitably silly pair of trousers, he downed a pint of diet coke while standing waiting on the 7th tee, before cracking open another can then smacking a drive 30 yards right. Most players would have thrown down another ball and had a second go… not big John though, he just had some more diet coke.
Finally, I spied a chap and his two sons dressed in tiger costumes. Not quite sure why, Tiger was finished his practice round before they’d even got up. And I couldn’t help wondering on the outfits, was it the boys’ suggestion or dad’s?