Finally made it out onto the course this morning in search of GM columnist Graeme McDowell, who was supposed to be practising with Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson – except he wasn’t, which meant I went for a wander in the general direction of the lighthouse.
In almost totally calm conditions, neither Westwood nor Wilson even thought about whipping the headcovers off on the first and second, opting for a 100% iron strategy to take the bunkers out of play. Bored with the lack of wood action I headed across to the 5th and 6th to find Markus Brier and German amateur Stephan Gross. This got me pondering what is the best ever finish by an Austrian in The Open? I rummage long and hard, but it seems that diminutive Markus Brier’s 12th place at Carnoustie in 07 is the Austrian nation’s best ever effort – even Belgium has fared better thanks to Flory van Donck in the 1950s.
Next up I wander down the 7th to witness South African James Kingston hit his approach with a utility about 2 inches fat. The ball limps two-thirds of the way to the green and the disbelieving ooohhhs of the watching fans convey a strong sense of “I could have done better than that”.
Just then I spot a scruffy, blonde-haired bloke walking down the 17th fairway with a piece of straw in his mouth. It’s slightly maverick American Charley Hoffman. When he plays a shot he tucks the foot-long piece of grass into his cap, instantly switching it back to his mouth once the ball is on its way. Interesting. Both he and Rod Pampling find the fairway bunkers off the tee on 18 and neither can get up. But Hoffman manages to save par with a 12-footer that elicits a few-days-too-early fist pump.
Talking about Charley Hoffman always makes me think of Dustin Johnson, and the thought crosses my mind that perhaps for the first time ever there are three Johnsons in the field this week – Dustin, Zach and Richard S. What mischievous confusion the R&A could have caused for ball spotters, scorers and fans by putting them all in the same group. But then, mischievous confusion isn’t really high on the list of R&A priorities.
Just 16 hours to go now till it all gets underway for real. I can hardly wait…