Silky signs off

Apart from Padraig, there was no one more relieved than I was to see his Championship-winning putt drop into the cup on the last play-off hole. I honestly didn?t mind whether he or Sergio won, so why was I so pleased? Quite simply, I couldn?t take any more. Four days of great golf and a roller-coaster of a final afternoon left me physically and emotionally drained. The prospect of going back up the 18th was about as unappealing as another helping of treacle pudding and custard when you?ve just finished a five-course meal. Give me 12 months to recover and I should be just about ready for Royal Birkdale. If it?s half as thrilling as this Open Championship has been, it?ll be a corker. And let?s hope for another European triumph. Me, I?ll be rooting for Sergio next time.



Bunker Payday

While the eyes of the world are focused on Sergio and whether or not he can capture the claret jug for Europe, I?ll be hoping he, and the rest of the field, can avoid going into too many bunkers. For, after three days of enthralling bunker watching, I stand on the edge of the biggest payday of my golf career.

Those of you who have been kindly following this blog since the start of the Open may recall that I entered a competition to predict the number of bunkers that players will enter over the four days. Using a subtle combination of applied mathematics and instinct, I plumped for 1248.

The figure for the first round was 442. Now you would have thought that players would have learnt from their mistakes and found fewer bunkers on day two. Sadly not as the second round total was 482. Interestingly, the first day?s total was a little down on 1999, when the Open was last here in Carnoustie, while day two?s was a little up.

Saturday?s figure has just come in and it?s 193. That brings the grand total to 1117. So if today?s is 131, I will win! As well as all the prestige, there?s the not inconsiderable matter of £100 worth of Marks and Spencer?s vouchers.
However, 131 is a rather low number when there are 70 players out there. I basically need everyone to concentrate that bit harder, lay up rather more often than they might ordinarily and keep off the beach.

Although I haven?t yet been told the details of the presentation, I would imagine that they will probably fit it in somewhere between giving the Silver Medal to the leading amateur Rory McIlroy and the claret jug to the Open Champion. If the latter is Sergio, what a great treble triumph for Europe that would make.





Speed and spin to win

Although words are my… er, thing, I am moderately comfortable with figures and therefore feel qualified to explain what those little boxes that you may have noticed beside the sixth and tenth tees are all about.
Because I struggle understanding anything that uses electricity, I shall leave the technical stuff to one side and instead concentrate on the things that make some sort of sense.
Well, the box contains a Doppler radar system which measures a host of bewildering data, the least confusing of which is clubhead speed. The average clubhead speed generated by players on the 16th tee at Hoylake last year was 114 mph. The highest was 130mph and the lowest was 100mph. The simplest way to convert clubhead speed to ball speed is to multiply it by one and a half. Thus a clubhead travelling at 120mph fizzes the ball away at 180mph.
If you are still there and are as fascinated as I am, you will be interested to learn that every one mile an hour of extra ball speed will generate an extra two yards of carry. Presumably, therefore, if you bring the clubhead down at 1mph, the ball will travel about two yards through the air, which means you?ll struggle to reach the par fives in 102, let alone two. All other things being equal, a player hitting at 130mph should carry the ball an extra 90 yards compared with a player whose clubhead speed is 100mph.
Reluctant though I am to overwhelm you with figures, you should be aware of the following averages: launch angle, 12 degrees; spin rates, 2700rpm; peak height, around 30 yards; time in the air, 6.5 seconds; and 35 yards of roll.
From the general to the specific and the figures for this week so far. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that Tiger leads the way with an average clubhead speed of 123mph. Who do you think is second? Well, it?s the remarkable John Daly, who is just 2mph behind. Johan Edfors is 1mph further back and four players are grouped together a further 1mph behind ? Angel Cabrera, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Won Joon Lee.

As if to prove that a little anger can sometimes help, the longest drive on Friday was achieved by Aaron Baddeley, who smacked it an awesome 367 yards down the sixth. Unfortunately, it was achieved with his second ball as his first went out of bounds.


Phonephobia

Having succumbed during my so far spectacularly unsuccessful golf career to those appalling afflictions the ?yips? and the ?shanks?, I now have to confess that I have fallen victim at this Open Championship to a third, Repetitive Compulsive Disorder. Since repeatedly typing Repetitive Compulsive Disorder could well bring on a fourth, Repetitive Strain Syndrome, I shall abbreviate it to RCD.

Before I reveal the precise details of when and where it first struck I should explain that the principal preoccupation at the Open this year has not been whether or not fatherhood has affected Tiger?s appetite for success or if the European famine at major championships would at last come to an end. No, the big issue at Carnoustie is undoubtedly mobile phones.

The considerable fuss that was stirred up when the announcement was first made some little while ago that mobile phones would not be allowed on the course has matured into, dare I say it, a major obsession. Tickets have the simple and stark message ?No Mobile Phones? emblazoned on them in a much larger type size than the other banned items ? cameras, pets and step ladders. So climbing a step ladder in an effort to obtain a better signal is definitely out.
There are notices everywhere reinforcing the message and security staff ask every entering spectator if they are carrying a mobile phone. Those that are have to surrender them and pick them up on the way out. It would be a nice extra touch at Royal Birkdale, perhaps, if a couple of volunteers were detailed to answer the phones and say something along the lines of: ?I?m sorry but whoever you are calling is watching the golf at the moment. Please try later.?

Had I been required to give up my mobile like everyone else, it?s unlikely that I would have fallen victim to RCD. Anyway, as a privileged member of the Fourth Estate (in other words a Golf Monthly blogger) I am allowed to hold on to my phone which, you would have thought, would be an advantage rather than the cause of anything unpleasant. Not so.


Rear gunners

Everyone has sympathy for the poor saps who go out just as the sun rises over the Tay estuary, but no one feels sorry for those who sweep up at the back. Not only does the final trio have to contend with spiked greens and failing light, they also have to put up with a whole host of unwelcome distractions such as the noise of the scoreboards being disassembled, bins being emptied and stewards bidding one another goodnight. And then there is the buggy behind collecting all the flagsticks.

I joined Portugal?s Jose-Filipe Lima, Australia?s Terry Pilkadaris and England?s Benn Barham as game 52 at 4.21 on Thursday evening. They weren?t the only one?s feeling a little aggrieved as the bunker raker explained that he was really redundant. Since there was no group behind us, there wasn?t much point in him raking the bunkers as the green staff would do them all again in the morning. Being in the final group has no appeal at all unless, that is, it?s Sunday evening and then everyone would like to be part of it.


CLIVE AND EXCLUSIVE
Those persistent critics of mine who think I?m only capable of writing inconsequential, light-hearted, frothy pieces about nothing terribly important will, I hope, be impressed to learn that I braved the drizzle this afternoon, ventured out onto the course and risked getting my shoes muddy solely to give you a vivid account of real live action.

Rather than select a fashionable three-ball, I simply latched onto whichever group were next off the first tee. With all due respect to Jerry Kelly, Paul Broadhurst and Mark Hensby, Game 27 wasn?t made up of the game?s greatest names.

Hensby?s was the shortest of three decent drives and, after he hit his approach onto the green, Kelly called the referee over to his ball lying just in the rough and asked for a ruling. Scenting a big story, I hastened across the fairway to listen in on the conversation. ?My ball?s got mud on it,? observed Kelly, ?it landed on it when Mark hit his shot.? Hensby confirmed Kelly?s account of the incident and the referee allowed the American to mark, lift and clean his ball before placing it back in the rough.

?If the wind had blown stuff onto his ball,? the referee revealed exclusively to me, ?that would have been bad luck. But as it was there as a result of another player?s shot, he?s allowed to clean and replace it.? Kelly took full advantage and birdied the hole while Broadhurst and Hensby had to settle for pars.

Chatting to the bunker raker attached to the group, I learned that he was a Scottish greenkeeper now looking after a course in Norway. This was his first Open and I was soon privileged to watch him rake his first ever Open Championship bunker when Hensby tugged his tee-shot a little left on the second on his way to a bogey. Both he and Kelly then dropped another shot on the third after driving into the thick rough in the middle of this tricky little hole.

Worried that it might be me who was responsible for the misfortune that was befalling Group 28, I furtively slipped away from the third green just in time to witness Retief Goosen miss a short par putt on the 15th to slip back to two under.

The closing three holes, I?m reliably informed by my knowledgeable colleagues, are particularly tough and so I was keen to examine them at first hand. A 248-yard par three into the wind, the 15th is extremely difficult and no one in Game 10 made the green. Bjorn and Leonard save their pars whilst Goosen dropped another shot.

Leonard then pulled his tee-shot at17 into the burn on the left. Presumably his caddie must have forgotten the ball retriever ? for which I imagine he was admonished by his master ? as Leonard was obliged to drop a brand new ball.

Whilst all this was taking place, I glanced across to the 18th fairway and was delighted to see that my man Jacquelin, one of the three players I had chosen for the Golf Monthly House Sweep, was still in red figures. My joy, however, soon evaporated when I saw him drop another ball and play a provisional approach to the final green.

Worrying what had befallen the likeable Frenchman, I didn?t really enjoy the rest of the round. I watched my new group finish and then dashed in to discover than Jaquelin had a wretched eight at the last. Ah well, there?s always tomorrow.


QUIRKY COMPETITIONS
Although not an excessively competitive creature, what minimal winning instincts lurk in my bosom have been aroused by the intense battle being waged all around me here in Carnoustie. Desperate, therefore, for a piece of the action, I?ve entered not one, but two competitions.

The first, organised by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, required entrants to say, ?How many bunkers the world?s finest golfers will locate during the Open Championship at Carnoustie?? By way of help, they reveal that in the last 12 Opens the cumulative total is 12,891. Although not myself a mathematician, I can readily see that this averages out at approximately 1000 each time.

Since all golfers recognise that preparation is vital in order to achieve success, I dug deep into the bunker archives and discovered the following more or less fascinating facts. Lytham and St Anne?s is the most troublesome Open venue from a bunkering point of view, ensnaring 1585 balls in 2001 and holds the modern, Open Championship, record tally of 1618 in 1996.

The lowest total, incidentally, was achieved at St Andrews in 2005 when only 676 balls found bunkers. St Andrews also holds the modern record low total of a miserly 448 in the 2000 Open when Tiger, you may recall, famously avoided the sand in all four rounds.

In the previous Open here at Carnoustie in 1999, the total was 1474. The conditions then were rather trickier than are likely to be encountered this week and so I?ve gone ?under? at what I am confident will be the correct total, 1248. Whilst applying a rigorous statistical methodology to arrive at this figure, I have permitted an element of slightly less rational influences in opting for one that just happens to be the month and year of my birth, December ?48.

The other, rather more straightforward, competition is being run in the Golf Monthly house and simply required me to choose one player from each of three groups ? the world?s top 50, 100 and outside the top 100. Unfortunately Tiger had been taken by the time it was my turn to choose so I went for Vijay Singh, Vaughan Taylor and Raphael Jaquelin.

All that I require of them is that their cumulative total number of shots is less than that of any other selected trio. Vaughan Taylor has started badly and is seven over at the time of writing. Well, my consolation is that at least he might be contributing to my bunker total of 1248.


DOUBLE CELEBRATIONS
Those who like trivia might like to try and guess what my wife Rose and Nick Faldo have in common? Not a lot, you might think, because she doesn?t like golf but has a great sense of humour whereas he? well, they aren?t at all alike. The correct answer, if you?re really interested, is they were both born on July 18th. For Nick that?s no problem but for Rose it means having to celebrate her birthday without her husband, who is invariably away at the Open. Happy birthday, Rose!

When we first starting going out a quarter of a century ago, it never occurred to me to ask when her birthday was. By the time I found out it was already too late as we were deeply in love.

One of the most appealing aspects of her personality is her sociability ? she loves company, whereas I understand that Nick is quite happy on his own.

Although golf appeals to the sociable, you can, of course, happily play it on your own. Indeed, some prefer it that way. On practice days here at the Open, you can go out as a single, a twosome, threesome or foursome. Whilst recognising that you might choose to go solo for a perfectly legitimate reason, such behaviour inevitably leads to rumours that you?re either a loner of just not terribly popular. Inevitably, therefore, questions are now being asked of Stephen Ames, Bradley Dredge, Vaughan Taylor, Robert Allenby, Anders Hultman, Oliver Fisher, Sean O?Hair, Mark Calacavecchia, Markus Brier, Trevor Immelman, Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley, Kevin Harper, Won Joon Lee, Rich Beem and Ben Curtis who, at the time of going to Press, are scheduled to tee off on this final day of practice on their own.

Since no one gets waived through, they might be in for a long day with nothing more than Nick Faldo?s birthday party to look forward to at the end of it.


BLOG SLOG
Sitting in the press tent all day yesterday left me feeling in desperate need of exercise and so I set off in the evening to walk from Carnoustie to where I?m staying in Broughty Ferry, just eight or so miles south along the coast. Since plodding on the roads is no fun or much of a challenge, I cut across country.

After leaving the course I rather tentatively entered the adjacent Ministry of Defence firing range. Although I have been hit by a couple of errant tee shots in my time, I really didn?t fancy tangling with a cluster bomb. Not much, however, seemed to be going on and so I was able to take a detailed look at hundreds of acres of glorious duneland. Quite why the MOD is allowed to occupy what God quite clearly intended for golf is an absolute scandal. Although the defence of the realm is quite important it is clearly far less of a priority than providing golfers with the very best courses possible. So, while walking along the beach, I mentally sketched out a layout for what I hope will be the first Clive Agran (Handicap 14) Signature Golf Course and Health Resort.

Since I was too exhausted when I eventually got in last night to do anything about it, I left it until this morning to move things forward. Discreet enquiries have revealed that the land is presently only leased to the MOD by the local council. Although I haven?t yet ascertained precisely when it expires, I propose to find out, even at the risk of antagonising the security services.

As soon as I have an opening date, I?ll let you know.