Sunday 22 July, 4.10pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Luke and I have just returned after following a disgruntled Tiger for five holes. On our way back we decided to walk down the last hole to take in the atmosphere. The grandstands are quickly filling up as crowds take their positions on one of the finest finishing holes I have ever seen.
Richard Green was on the tee when we arrived and a member of the public informed us he was eight under and needed a par for the course record. The Australian struck his drive well but found the left hand rough. He was forced to lay up, pitch on and his putt for par shaved the hole ? a fine 64 none the less.
Nice guy of the week has to go Green?s playing partner Jerry Kelly. In the knowledge that Green was doing well the American made sure the crowds were still when Green was playing. He then stood and applauded the Australian as he crossed the burn. After the customary handshakes Kelly took his driver and presented it to a young boy in the crowd who was in a wheelchair. He left the green with an ovation from the crowd ? great stuff from the likable American.
Sunday 22 July, 1.20pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
It?s a very weird feeling sitting here in the media centre watching the rain pelt down. Every fibre of my body wants to be out there, lapping up the final day of the Open Championship (quite literally at the moment) but every time I pop my head out of the door, I begin to realise that there is something absolutely vital that I need to do back at my desk? I have now doodled an extremely impressive looking spaceship manned by a strange dog creature.
It hasn?t helped that the GM Team?s heads are just a little sore. Well in fact that is not exactly accurate, in a move that was every bit as surprising as Todd Hamilton?s victory in 2004, Clive ?Silky? Agran turned down the offer of an all-expense paid trip to the local boozer last night. Those of you who have been reading his blog (he has a huge following in Korea) will probably have gathered that this is not normal? we are still wondering quite what happened and have only surmised that he must have had a secret date with Sue Barker ? his ultimate pin-up girl.
Anyway an intrepid trio headed down to the glorious Ship Inn, located on the edge of the estuary in Broughty Ferry. It was all going nicely until we did a Van de Velde and were hit by a moment of Barry Burn madness as a hefty slug of local Whiskey was added to our extensive rounds. It all gets a bit blurry after that but I do know the conversation got spicy and we all got to know each other a lot better. I would love to fill you in with all the gory details but unfortunately I can?t remember any of them? damn it.
We returned home to find Clive tucked up in bed (with Sue?) and our attempts at a late night chipping contest were eventually abandoned when the guinea-pig hutch at the bottom of the garden started acting as our 9th hole. It was a sad looking table at breakfast this morning I can tell you Paul O?Hagan seems to have been affected by a sudden case of narcolepsy.
The BBC keep saying the weather is lifting but I am not sure I believe them. I think I?ll add to my spaceship or maybe try some of Paul?s tactics.
Sunday 22 July, 11.30am, Media Centre, Carnoustie
It?s Sunday morning and the press are huddled in the media centre taking refuge from the torrential rain that?s been pounding down since play finished last night. Entertaining us all is a huge TV that sits next to the giant scoreboard – it?s been playing re-runs of the ?99 Carnoustie epic on a loop. I?ve seen Van de Velde doff his shoes and socks four times already today.
I?m not exactly sure what Sergio Garcia is doing at the moment but I sincerely hope that he?s not in sight of one of the many big screens currently broadcasting the same repeats around the course. The events of eight years ago will live with this golf course like a wonderfully unique blemish on the landscape forever. With all the physical challenges of the final hole comes a significant mental hurdle as today?s would-be Champion stands on the final tee, he?ll need a strong mind not to think of the Frenchman?s disaster.
The image of Van de Velde standing in the Barrie Burn is particularly vivid at the moment ? even for those not watching the big screens?
Saturday 21 July, 6.30pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Day three is rapidly coming to a close and Sergio is on a mission. It was about six weeks ago now since I interviewed the Spaniard at his parent?s home in Castellon in which he talked about how much he?d love to win The Open. As we got onto the subject, his eyes lit up. Now, having followed him for a few holes today I can see why. The crowds here love Sergio ? screaming his name they?ll try their hardest to will him to victory. The atmosphere surrounding him is less Open and more Ryder Cup ? perhaps that will spur him on. I hope it does.
On a different matter, there are some real perks to working at Golf Monthly (hopefully, Mike is still sleeping off the week?s excesses and isn?t reading this or the pay rise I?m expecting might not materialise). One of the best perks is the ?Inside the Ropes? access. Earlier this afternoon I followed Ernie Els and my mate Paul Broadhurst (I?ve only met him twice but he?s been charming on both occasions) as they played the last three holes. I matched them stride for stride down the 18th into the grandstand arena and I felt a serious shiver run down my spine.
Being a complete loser I decided to shut my eyes and imagine that it was me walking towards the title. I began to believe that, having hit an imperious long iron to 3ft, the cheers were for me. That the old engraver man was etching my name into the Claret Jug. I was however, brought back to reality by a marshal who told me that I was in the way? I?ll be back for more dreaming tomorrow.
Saturday 21 July, 4.30pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
This morning I took the opportunity to watch Tiger preparing for his round on the range. Having managed to get myself a pass earlier in the week courtesy of a friend who works for Hippo, I was able to stand on the range, directly behind the world number one. As he worked through his bag from wedges to woods, I was captivated by the quality of his ball striking. It sounds obvious I know but his golf was nothing short of perfect – every shot flew with the same trajectory, with identical shape. For half an hour I watched Tiger at close quarters moving with grace and power. No other player bashing balls came close to matching his crispness of strike or faultless flight.
Convinced that the main man would shoot 62, I ran back to the media centre, blanking anyone I knew and immediately put some money on him. As I write this blog Tiger has just dropped a shot at 10 to go back to level par and fall down the field. Once again, this just proves that I know absolutely nothing about this bloody game!
Saturday 21 July, 3.30pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Just back from a satisfying lunch of chicken and noodles from the ?Taste of the Orient? stand – there are only so many bacon baps you can eat, and anyway bacon always tastes better in the morning.
I plonked myself down in front of the big screen on a white plastic seat and soaked up the atmosphere, scoffing the noodles. The support for Sergio Garcia in the tented village is immense. Every time his massive tango-clad figure popped up on the big screen the group of Welsh lads behind me would shout ?go on my son?. Could this be the European breakthrough we?ve been waiting for? Then KJ Choi came on and everyone sipped their drinks quietly. There was a soft sigh as he missed a putt then Harrington appeared and the rallying began again, though at the moment Garcia is everyone’s favourite.
The drizzle turned into rain and the crowds started to pour off the course and flooded the tented village. It’s no warmer in the draughty media centre. I might have to resort to wearing the winter mitts that Paul McGinley’s got on?.
Saturday 21 July, 1.00pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
A huge event like the Open always brings its share of corporate hospitality clients who dress like they are enjoying a day at the races. Scoffing a bacon bap on the way back from a bit of retail therapy in the merchadising tent I past a lady in a hot pink suit and matching stilletto heels teetering across the mush of the tented village along with a man in a straw coloured linen suit. They looked freezing and in dire need of a pair of Galvin Green waterproofs. No doubt another case of silly dress codes on their invitation.
With the lunch rush in full swing the beer tent is getting lively with golf fans from all round the world swopping betting tips and making new friends. It’s a brilliant way to obtain invitations to play new courses. I’ve been invited up to play in a ladies tournament in Hoylake.. now where did I put her number?? Oh dear I’ll have to go back to the Bollinger tent to find her again.
Saturday 21 July, 11.00am, Media Centre, Carnoustie
As the final member of the Golf Monthly team to arrive at the Open I was anxious to get out on the course and experience the Open buzz. I fear that the atrocious weather from the south may have followed me up here and forecasts this afternoon do not look good. However for the time being the weather is fine and if the early starters can post a good score they may see their name fly up the leaderboard this afternoon.
What really struck me this morning as I walked the course for the first time was the Saturday pin positions. There are some evil placements out there today which highlight how good the bunkering is at Carnoustie really is. Expect to see a lot of difficult bunker shots this afternoon if players try to attack the pins.
There are definitely birdies out there though as Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan have proven early on. As the wind picks up and the rain comes in expect to see a very different leaderboard at the end of round three!
Saturday 21 July, 11.00am, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Wow, the change in atmosphere here in the media centre is pretty extreme, as we walked in this morning (fresh from a good night’s sleep) you could really tell that we have hit the weekend of a Major Championship.
The first thing that filled me with joy, apart from the Hog Roast aroma, was the sight of my main man Hunter Mahan putting in a charge that Ghengis Khan would have been proud of. Hunts (as he asks me to call him) had four birdies in six holes to put him on the leaderboard… yes! At 175/1 and with £10 of my English money on him I whorship his blonde locks and wish him all the luck in the world!
Neil “Honest” Tappin sitting next to me put a late night punt on KJ Choi (not quite as prophetic as my effort but nevermind), while Paul O’Hagan is getting very excited with Markus Brier on his books. Alicia Harney, being a bit of a dark horse, has just announced that she had a sneaky quid or two on Harrington… Golf Monthly could be vying with Greg Norman for private jet parking space next year if all these beauties come in…
Clive “Silky” Agran will not however be getting a new Fiat Punto – a dream about Tony Jacklin turning back the years at 3,000/1 proved to be more of a nightmare.
Off to watch some action now as we have just been warned that the storms are coming in this afternoon… when we shall be spending some of our winnings before they arrive.
Friday 20 July, 7pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
As I write this, day two is coming to an end and the leaderboard is taking shape. A well known and respected journalist who shall remain nameless said to me with absolute conviction that Sergio wouldn?t win. ?He has the worst last round record of any world class player,? he said. That he?s using a belly putter at 26 is also a concern that most in the media centre are struggling to see past. I, on the other hand, having been a long putter user myself in bygone days have cut a solitary figure telling anyone who will listen that if it makes him feel confident on the greens, then he?ll win. Nobody seems to care what I think.
The fore-mentioned journalist is firmly in the KJ Choi camp ? ?he?s the best player in the world at the moment,? he said. I was lucky enough to meet the Korean last Friday and I?m sure he?d be a very humble Open Champion. Unlike many in his profession, Choi is a genuinely nice man who seems to have time for anyone he meets. I wish him the best of luck.
The good news for us all is that the weekend looks set to be extremely exciting. No player has managed to distance himself from the field and most of the world?s best have made it to the weekend.
For what it?s worth (not a lot), I?m going to stick my neck out and pick a top five. If you follow me and lump your money on this lot, don?t blame me if you win nothing ? you were warned.
1 ? KJ Choi
2 ? Tiger Woods
3 ? Harrington
4 ? Garcia
5 ? Els
Friday 20 July, 6pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Today I jumped behind the ropes and followed the mighty John Daly, paired with Bradley Dredge and Robert Allenby. I thought I had best catch him today just in case he missed the cut. After dropping eight shots on the back nine yesterday that was entirely possible.
By the time I joined him halfway down the 11th his game was beginning to spiral into dispair. Lumbering up the fairway like a bear with toothache his shoulders were hunched, his big blue eyes staring at the ground. Daily took an iron, the ball hit the edge of the green then rolled into the bunker. It was going to be one of those days. Again. Would I even catch a glimpse of one of his monster drives?
The Bunker Raker commentated that he?d been in more bunkers today than Churchill. The lady scorer looked bored. ?It?s like watching amateur golf,? she said, shaking her head. Moving onto the 12th Daly outdrove his opponents without plunging into the wispy rough or a sandtrap. On the 13th it was a case of another hole another bunker. Without a second thought he dived in and recovered to within 10 feet of the green.
A couple of lads waved a poster that said ?we love you John? and shouted something encouraging. He barely glanced their way.
By the 14th Daly was crumbling. The wind funnelled straight down the fairway cutting through you like a knife. His caddy looked even more fed up, no doubt thinking of the miserly cheque he was no doubt going to receive. He snapped at the marshals to control the noise in the stand. Daly looked oblivious and slapped one down the middle. The crowd roared.
On the 15th he nailed a 30 foot putt to within a few inches, sunk the putt then tossed the ball to a little girl in the crowd who stared at it with disbelief. She probably didn?t know who the previous Open champion was.
The next hole, the lengthy 248 yard par 3, he pulled out an iron in defiance of his playing partners woods to land miraculously on the green, missing the birdie putt by a few inches.
Finally a glimpse of the Daly inspiration was beginning to shine through like the sun above. Using his driver he wacked the ball to an incredulous 60 feet short of the green. That?s almost 400 yards and 150 yards ahead of Allenby and Dredge who had played it safe with an iron. The crowds were jumping up and down and I started coming out of the boredom induced coma that had affected me for the past few holes. Daly’s game was starting to come together but it?s too little too late. After a celebratory cigarette the last is finally over and he slopes off looking somewhat relieved that he?s off home.
Friday 20 July, 1.45pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Minor observations from my fifth Open as a Golf Monthly staffer
– Carnoustie, from our team base at nearby Broughty Ferry, is proving to be comfortably the most accessible of the five Open venues I?ve been to. A quick 10-minute drive, and no queuing to get in means you arrive fresh and ready to go in the press centre rather than stressed and wound up. I hope it?s the same story for the spectators?
– Yesterday was clearly the Gary Player tribute day with an inordinate number of players dressed in black from head to toe. Nothing wrong with that I guess (as I sit here myself clad in black from top to tail), but perhaps slightly worrying for the retailers in the merchandise area where vibrant colour is very much the order of the day. Is golf attire about to enter a more sombre era after a period of ?anything goes? and ?the brighter the better??
– How refreshing it is to see players having to hit very long clubs into greens and off the tee in the case of the par-3 16th. I stood at the 16th for a while yesterday and saw only about two out of 15 people reaching for an iron, while if the wind really blows many players could be facing a serious decision about going for it or laying up short of the Burn on the 18th. This Championship is most definitely not a driver/wedge contest.
– Sad to see big John Daly slip from 5-under to 9-over in the space of a mere 18 holes. But I guess he?s always been that type of player?
– Good to see Sandy Lyle looking a fair bet to see some weekend action. He bogeyed his last two holes on Friday to drift to +4, but assuming scoring remains similar to Thursday that should be good enough to see him cleared for Saturday duty. He often seems to find something a little extra on the links even when the rest of the year seems a constant struggle. Very bad pair of shades though?
– When was the last time there were only two Spaniards in an Open field. Pre-Seve I would imagine?
– Australia is the third most-represented nation here behind America and England, but as I write around Friday lunchtime, only one out of the 20-strong Antipodean contingent is currently under par for the week ? Rod Pampling. Perhaps things have just been a bit too cold to bring out the best in our BBQ-loving cousins?
– This year I will be missing the cut in reporting terms and flying home Friday evening. Typically, as I prepare to leave for the Forth Bridge and Edinburgh airport the sun is poking its head out for pretty much the first time on one of the Championship days. Never mind, of more concern is news from my wife that Friday morning?s deluge back in the south-east has brought my home perilously close to flooding.
Friday 20 July, 1.30pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
I think I should make you aware of the perils the Golf Monthly staff have been facing in order to bring you the exceptional coverage that?s been appearing on this site since Monday morning. There have been a series of near death incidents but the whole team is still standing. Here?s what we?ve endured so far:
Trying desperately to get a better view of David Toms, Neil Tappin stumbled beside the 15th green and narrowly avoided becoming impaled on a particularly vicious looking gorse bush.
A strong gust of wind started Luke Norman?s press pass spinning wildly out of control this morning. The string tangled to such an extent it began to strangle him. Only the quick actions of a passing Good Samaratin saved our News Editor from a most ignominious end.
Jezz Ellwood almost met his maker when he attempted to consume just one more Magnum ice cream yesterday afternoon. The paramedics said he was in the early stages of hypothermia and if it hadn?t been for his Galvin Green waterproofs he might have slipped away.
I was accidentally tripped by Neil behind the 6th green (I think it was accidental anyway.) It wouldn?t have been too bad had it not been for a Biffa waste disposal van driving past at that very moment. Thank goodness for my cat like reactions and agility or I could have been toast.
Clive was almost picked off by a sniper as he stumbled across an army firing range while walking back from Carnoustie to Broughty Ferry. The fact Clive found himself in an army firing range is ironic as he?s such a loose cannon himself.
Editor Michael Harris came dangerously close to liver failure following a week of important industry meetings. He also nearly drowned twice, once in torrential rain around the Old Course at St Andrews and then in his lamb bhuna last night as he hit the wall just as the main course arrived.
Friday 20th July, Carnoustie media centre
This morning, Fergus, Luke and myself decided to catch up with the 1969 Open Champion Tony Jacklin. We were keen see the former great in the flesh to see if he could still cut the mustard. The answer, unfortunately was a resounding no. As we watched him make six up the par-5 6th it was clear that he is playing a totally different game from the other members of the field. Hacking it from deep rough to fairway and then into a greenside bunker his brand of golf was more akin to that seen at Panmure on Tuesday in the Golf Monthly chop-athon.
At least Tony was out there doing his bit for his sponsors by showcasing Slazenger?s K1 Speed driver. The Englishman represents the brand and helps Slazenger drive sales by telling us endlessly about the benefits of this great club (you must have seen the advert ? it?s the one where Jacklin and Torrance discuss how unbelievably well the club performs both in terms of accuracy and distance while sitting on wicker chairs on the edge of some sun-drenched course). You can imagine my surprise therefore when I spotted that Tony wasn?t relying on the K1 Speed but had chosen instead to play a TaylorMade Super Quad. He hadn?t even donned a Slazenger headcover ? it was as if he was admitting that the clubs he was promoting were in fact, not terribly good. Unfortunately, I was unable to get close enough to see if he was using Slazenger?s Bald Eagle ball and Big Easy irons?
Friday 20 July, 10.30am, Media Centre, Carnoustie
This is a very brief blog entry to pay homage to the bacon baguettes available for sale at the Hog Roast just beside the merchandising tent. I?ve eaten a considerable number of bacon sandwiches in my time but this offering ranks right up there with some of the best I’ve consumed. Not just because of the quality of bacon and bread used but also because of the sheer size of it. It?s obliterated my hangover today and it did the same yesterday.
I?ve just seen Henrik Stenson shank a shot on the eighth. He hit one out of bounds then stood up to his provisional and J. Arthured it thirty yards right of the green. In a fit of pique he then took a swing at the tee marker, splitting a large chunk from the top of it. Even I?ve never done that.
Friday 20 July 10.30am, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Thynne Friday no more…
An apology first and a lament second. I am very aware that large swathes of the country, not to mention the international community, have had this most auspicious of days marked out for many a week. Today is Thynne Friday? except now I have the terrible and onerous task of informing you that actually it?s not.
Where once we were looking forward with unadulterated glee to the sight of one tall, balding and very English assistant editor finally fronting up, breaking free of his marital bonds and taking on the might of the Tennents army, we are instead left with the rather empty prospect of another night in the curry house listening to blogger Clive Agran and his rather unique brand of table conversation.
Thynne, the object of so many hopes and not a little fear from some in Dundee, is not making it to Scotland this year ? our thoughts are with him as he is called away on personal business ? but he can rest assured that this is no cancellation? Thynne Friday lives on strong in our hearts and the Wetherspoons in Waterloo is already making preparations for our return.
Today does still hold a small amount of reverence though as it marks changeover day in the GM house. The big guns have done their worst and are ready to take their weary bodies home, leaving youth to run riot at the weekend. An opportune moment to take you through the current state of the team:
Mike Harris, editor
Six days is a long time in golf, especially when you are required by law, to partake in Kummel-fuelled five-course lunches. Last seen snoring gently on the sofa.
Jezz Ellwood, equipment editor
Jaded, weary and a little tired? just some of the self-confessed emotions pouring forth from this beaten man. He?s been brave, heroic even but home can?t come soon enough.
Fergus Bisset, contributing editor
Scot-watch has taken its toll, with this patriot beginning to resemble Monty after a mobile phone incident. Sandy Lyle to make the cut could be the tonic he needs.
Neil Tappin, instruction editor
The pressure of being here all week seems to be taking its toll ? spent the entire of last night playing ?Tour Trumps?, his Sergio Garcia interview beats your Marc Warren etc? strange lad.
Alicia Harney, travel &lifestyle editor
Flew in especially for the GM Party and performed admirably. Coping manfully with being the only (lucky) lady in a house of men.
Clive Agran, random
Possessor of a haircut that inspires millions (little on top lots on the side) Clive sleeps on the sofa, chats to the bunker rakers and leaves everyone often bemused but very amused.
Luke Norman, news editor
The gay abandon of yesterday has given away to deep mourning for Thynne Friday but nothing a swift bacon roll and a bit of Daly watching won?t sort out.
Thursday 19 July 6.10pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Stick with the BBC I say. Never mind the odd bit of skulduggery on Blue Peter (who?d have thought you could ever write that) or even a very Royal scandal, the corporation is the place to get your adrenaline fix. Let me explain.
I have just arrived fresh from GM Towers after a week spent longingly reading these blogs, desperately waiting for Thursday to finally come round (think five-year-old and Christmas). So, having successfully avoided having my bag stolen by a collection of Tennent’s-drinkers while waiting for my Carnoustie-bound train at Edinburgh railway station, I was extremely keen to get out and sample some action.
Armed with an orange armband that would legally (how nice after Oakmont) allow me under the ropes I went in search of some excitement. Pat Perez was not exactly what I had in mind and having followed him down the 1st I broke for choppier waters and by chance stumbled across Mickelson, Westwood and Taniguchi. Excellent.
Even better was that I fell in with Andrew Coltart who was working for BBC Radio Five Live. He had rather a pained expression as he watched brother-in-law Lee drive at the 6th. This was not actually because he has been forced to cede his double-bed to Bernhard Gallagher and sleep in a single, very pink bed in his rented accommodation but was in fact down to the news that Westwood is carrying a knee injury. Coltart explained that it shouldn?t cause major problems but it is stopping him putting his full weight on his left leg.
Rather pleased at being armed with this inside info I felt that it was time to move on and by coincidence Luke Donald and his crew had just arrived on the 13th tee adjacent to the 7th green I was on.
I didn?t have to wait long before the BBC again provided me with some classic entertainment (never mind Donald?s superb birdie) ? as a BBC buggy careered Lewis Hamilton-style into a conifer that was happily minding its own business by the green. Said buggy was last seen limping off with a bent satellite dish and some very red faces.
This gave me a good way in with Tony Adamson and Karen Stupples, the BBC Radio team as we followed Luke for the next five holes or so. Last British Major winner, Stuples was an excellent companion although I was a bit thrown when her first question was ?How is John Thynne?s (assistant editor) swing?? ? turns out that I am not the only friend of the stars atGM and John had been getting personal lessons at a media day at Royal Cinque Ports. For the record he is past helping.
?Donald is playing a bit like Tiger at Hoylake last year,? said Stupples. ?He is being very methodical and I wouldn?t be surprised to see him thereabouts come Sunday.? So with yet another bit of inside info and some rather high profile new mates, I returned to the media centre fully satisfied. Finding the editor and a cold beer waiting just finished it off. Good first day ? bring on the curry.
Thursday 19 July 12.15pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
I?m afraid six late nights on the bounce followed by early starts have taken their toll on me so this morning and I hit the snooze button about 17 times and made the executive decision to have a lie in.
However when I did finally arrive I was pleasantly surprised to find my selections in ?Honest Neil Tappin?s Open Sweepy? doing quite well. Not only that but it was great to see David Howell hoping on board the birdie train to bounce back from a hideous bogey, bogey double bogey start. The fact Howler is playing at all was a bit of a surprise as we had seen him walk off the course holding his back after just four holes of his practice round yesterday. Rumours were spreading around last night that he?d have to withdraw and the boys from Cleveland (David?s equipment company) were pretty downbeat when I saw them last night at the GM party. Fingers crossed his great comeback this morning will continue.
Talking of medical problems we have a man down in the GM house. Hippo?s Darren Phillips is staying with us this week but overnight he was a frequent visitor to the bathroom and when I left the house at 11 I could still heer some groans coming from the basement bedroom (aka Jezz?s dungeon) where he?s been billeted. Get well soon Dazza because we?re off for a curry tonight!
Thursday 19 July 11.40pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
Having been here since Monday morning I?m beginning to get rather possessive over this Open. I?ve just ventured out onto the course and was disgusted to find the fairways lined with people. On the practice days I had the run of the place. There were no queues at the Hog Roast, marshals were still in a good mood and you could actually watch the players hitting shots. Unfortunately golf is just too popular in Scotland and the crowds have arrived despite the damp conditions. I couldn?t get within 300 yards of Monty and I didn?t even bother attempting to catch up with Tiger Woods.
No, being serious, I think it?s fantastic to see real golf fans in such huge numbers. The excitement among the masses is palpable as they swarm in from the public car park and the train station. People discussing their plans for the day while absorbing every detail in the programme and the start sheet. Judging by the early scoring the fans are going to see some fabulous golf.
Last night at approximately 2.00am, following a very successful Golf Monthly party held at the Discovery Point in Dundee, we made our way back to the GM house. We really should have gone to bed at that stage but instead decided to organise a sweeper on the outcome of this week (the golf, not whether Clive?s back will hold out sleeping on the sofa.) We were each allowed three picks: one top player, one middle of the roader and one outsider. I?ve gone for Els, Monty and Graeme Storm. When I saw the selections scrawled on the back of an envelope this morning I was relatively happy with the first two, but Graeme Storm? Where did I pluck that one from? Looking up at the large scoreboard in the Media Centre I can see I was right to be concerned. He?s seven over par.
Wednesday 18 July 4.45pm, Media Centre, Carnoustie
I?ve never been inside the ropes at a golf tournament so it was with some excitement that I donned the press armband and stepped into the forbidden zone along the edge of the first fairway earlier this afternoon. Neil and I ventured into the drizzly rain to accompany GM Open blogger Benn Barham for a few holes as he headed out for the final day of practice.
As I flashed my armband at the official I did it with the air of somebody who belongs inside the ropes. I acted as if it was my god given right. But actually, my heart was pounding and the adrenaline flowing. ?Am I really allowed to do this?? I thought. ?Where do I stand?? ?Must I maintain absolute silence at all times?? I was sure I?d make some sort of embarrassing blunder and be asked to leave the course at any moment. These initial pangs of anxiety soon passed, however, and I became quite comfortable strolling along behind Benn and his playing partner Llewellyn Matthews (an amateur who got in through local final qualifying at Monifieth).
The first thing I noticed was the quality of the player?s ball striking: it?s considerably better than mine. Barham and Matthews may not be household names but they?re able to manipulate the golf ball as if they?re directing it by remote control. You can see the pros pounding balls on the range but it?s not until you see them on course you realise just how deliberate each shot is. They decide how they?re going to flight and shape it, then they execute with near perfection almost every time.
Something else you get more of a feel for inside the ropes is the course. You can really see how the fairways are shaped and where the best landing areas are. You can examine the thickness of the rough just off the mown surfaces (not too bad by the way) and you can see the best side to miss the greens. Primarily I noted how tough Carnoustie will play this week despite the less punishing rough and receptive greens. The reason for the difficulty is the course?s length, exaggerated by the fact there’s basically no run. As an example: The par four second was a driver followed by a good three wood for both Barham and Matthews.
After the fourth Benn decided to cut across to the 15th and make his way back into the clubhouse. As luck would have it 1997 Open Champion Justin Leonard and 1997 USPGA Champion Davis Love III had just finished the 14th. Benn joined up with them.
So we walked with two Major champions for the last four holes. I?ve watched these guys on TV since I was a teenager so it was exhilarating to see them playing up close. Davis strikes the ball immaculately and uses a beautiful set of shiny Titleist blades. Neil has his money on Leonard and it looks like a reasonable bet, although he did have to use his driving iron three times in the last three holes and he hit a three wood approach to the 18th out of bounds.
As we walked down towards the 18th green between the grandstands I was given just the faintest taste of what it?ll be like on Sunday evening. It felt pretty amazing for this lowly reporter on the final day of practice with just a smattering of spectators. For the prospective champion with thousands of roaring fans creating an awesome amphitheatre around the final green it must be beyond compare.
Wednesday 18 July 10.00, Media Centre, Carnoustie
I shook hands with Gary Player yesterday before the GM team played at Panmure (Neil?s described the game with some aplomb below). Making physical contact with a three time Open champion was a superb omen. How could I fail to perform after meeting the great South African? Well, I managed it and with some style. Let?s not dwell on the debacle. We?ll just say Panmure is a lovely golf course.
Returning to Carnoustie around 4.00 I had some time to get out onto the course and bask in the early evening sunshine. Between 5 and 7pm on a practice day is one of the most pleasant times to walk an Open course. There are just a few avid spectators left and there?s a sort of ?last men standing? camaraderie between them. The marshals are less stressed as they anticipate the end of the day and they chat and joke with the dispersing crowds. Even the players seem more relaxed as they enjoy the peace and quiet of the approaching dusk. I spotted a group at a picnic table having a beer in the sun outside one of the most remote ?Open Arms.? They were discussing the day and the impending tournament. Could there be any better place in the world?
I met one of the greenkeepers by the 10th green. He was waiting for Tom Lehman to come through so he could cut the greens. He told me he and the rest of his team would like to see the greens a little quicker on Thursday but the R&A want to keep them as they are.
Jezz and I had a rough time on our return to the GM house last night as we couldn?t find a single rom-com on TV. We resorted to some hardcore channel surfing and snippets of The Shining?. Not quite such a feel good flick as the schmaltzy Wimbledon we watched last night. Apparently Neil had a horrible nightmare about Darren Clarke bursting through his bedroom door wielding an axe shouting, ?Here?s Clarkey!?
The GM house is turning a bit like the Big Brother house at the moment in the fight for beds. I?m resisting eviction from my sofa bed as hard as possible but it looks like a case of first in first out for our roving blogger Clive Agran. Last night he took up residence in the Pirates of the Caribbean suite and was hoping to be relegated just one level to share the basement dungeon with Jezz. It looks, however, like he might be facing a night on the sofa.
Tuesday 17 July 21.00, GM headquaters, Broughty Ferry
It?s 9 o?clock and I?m penning this blog from the comfort of the GM living room. With a glass of beer by my side I feel this is the perfect time to reflect on the events of day two?
If you?re an avid follower of this highly interesting, informative and ? dare I say it ? amusing piece of award winning (coming soon I?m sure) writing, then you will have been disappointed by the lack of activity. But for myself, Jezz, Fergus and Mike there were far more important matters at hand. At 11 am we teed off at Panmure ? a fantastic links that hosted LFQ. It was to become the scene of an epic battle of attrition as Jezz and myself took on Mike and Fergus in a big money match. (We agreed that it was best to split up the rather worrying, blossoming Bisset/Ellwood relationship ? see blog below).
It would be fair to say that right from the off the quality of the golf was poor. Indeed, we embarked on a top-a-thon down the second that finally ended about an hour after it started. As the match progressed myself and Jezz improved as Mike and Fergus plumbed to the darkest depths of golfing depression. This of course was highly amusing. By the 13th the match was over and I was considering buying my own golf course with the proceeds of our mounting bit count.
Then on the 16th Fergus finally broke his stony silence (he hadn?t spoken since snap hooking his drive off the 6th tee) saying, ?Right. Double or quits down the last three.? This was exceedingly punchy considering that Fergus hadn?t actually completed a hole on the back nine. Jezz and I thought it was Christmas. However, displaying levels of grit last seen at the Battle of Bannockburn, Fergus finished with two pars and a birdie to redeem the deficit. Mike was the unwitting beneficiary of Fergus?a determined fightback.
The nett result was that Jezz and I won 16 quid each?
Tuesday 17 July 10.00 am, Carnoustie media centre Neil Tappin and Fergus Bisset?.
There?ll be a few fuzzy heads in the media centre this morning as last night was party time. Both Callaway and Taylor Made threw bashes at venues around Dundee, inviting some of the world?s best players to attend. While Jezz and Fergus took Callaway, Mike and I ventured to Taylor Made?s Burner party ? hosted by Vernon Kay and infiltrated by hired totty. Also on the menu were the TaylorMade staff professionals. Rarely seen not sporting baseball caps and logoed t-shirts, I?ll take this opportunity to tell you what they looked like, dressed as they were in smart casual.
Sergio Garcia ? A cardigan was a strange choice from the Spaniard who was clearly sweating up under the lights.
Retief Goosen ? Looked like ?man from C&A? in a long sleeved jumper and jeans. The Goose, sporting the biggest side parting ever seen by man, left promptly to take up a cameo role in Allo Allo.
Justin Rose ? snazzy black shirt with what looked like graffiti scribbled on it, he would have looked at home in Equinox night club.
Darren Clarke ? The extremely light-hearted and laid back Irishman had clearly stolen his white shirt from Harry Hill. Without a visor I found his hair not so much trendy as just plain uncouth.
Scott Verplank ? his wife obviously goes shopping with Mrs Goosen. The two men were wearing a slight variation on the same outfit. Lacked imagination.
Sean O?Hair ? looked like a generic American.
Graeme Storm ? classic shirt and jeans, it was a look very similar to that sported by the Golf Monthly team.
I arrived back at GM HQ (a large family house in Broughty Ferry) to find Jezz and Fergus sharing a bottle of wine and watching a rom-com. It felt like I?d stumbled in on a scene from Brideshead Revisited. In fact, I?m beginning to wonder if they?d been to the Callaway party at all.
Last night Jeremy and I attended the Callaway party at Forbes of Kingennie just inland from Monifieth. We were treated to a trick shot extravaganza by staff players, Michael Campbell, Nick Dougherty, Oliver Wilson, Niclas Fasth, Alastair Forsyth, Thomas Bjorn and Charl Schwartzel. Very entertaining, I just hope none of them feel it necessary to attempt those thins, hooks and slices when the competition starts in earnest on Thursday.
After a bite to eat Jezz and I took on Mark and Richard from National Club Golfer in a 36 hole putting competition. I?ll spare you the details but we lost at the last. We were despondent and had to go home early. Luckily an uplifting film was on ITV 2 +1 so we went to bed feeling a lot better.
Yesterday lunchtime the weather began to lift but few players had ventured on to the course. I took the opportunity to walk the course and assess the challenge waiting on Carnoustie?s legendary links. After my inspection I?m going out on a limb to say: An under par score will win this week. As long as the conditions remain benign I?m predicting a winning total of -6.
Here?s my reasoning:
– The fairways are considerably wider than in 1999. I remember then being astounded by the narrow strips masquerading as fairways. At some crossing points you could make it across the mown surface in three strides. This is not the case in 2007.
– The rough is definitely not as thick. Yes, there are patches that look like something Ray Mears would hack through while looking for a Coypu to roast on his camp fire, but in general it looks playable. I saw Jim Furyk in the thickest cut to the right of the second and he played out comfortably just short of the green.
– The greens are receptive. The whole place is green and lush so approach shots are stopping nicely.
– The putting surfaces are also rolling beautifully. They?re not overly quick at the moment but they?re exceptionally true.
Here?s another few things I spotted during my Tour de Course.
– John Daly hitting two balls out of bounds off the sixth tee.
– Nick Faldo playing a few holes with young amateurs Richie Ramsay and Rory McIlroy.
– Trevor Immelman playing by himself but accompanied by a seven man entourage including David Leadbetter.
– Aaron Oberholser refusing to give a boy his autograph. On the Monday of practice!
– Vijay Singh practicing his putting in exactly the same spot for one and a half hours.
I?ve also noted that Jean Van de Velde would have been OK this year had he qualified to play. That?s because there?s virtually no rough short of the Barry Burn in the shadow of the grandstand where he came a cropper in 1999.
Monday 16 July 11.25 am, Media Centre at Carnoustie Fergus Bisset, GM contributing editor…
The vanguard of Golf Monthly?s Open forces has arrived in what can only be described as horrific conditions in Carnoustie. Monsoon style rain and a hefty breeze is the current outlook. It was with some reluctance that Neil and I left the car to make the short walk from Car Park D to the Media Centre. By the time we made it to our desk (just beside the guys from the sentimentally named ?Golfers Companion?) we were absolutely soaked through.
Given it?s Monday morning and it?s raining torrentially there?s not a great deal of golf being played. Jezz has, however, already spotted Justin Leonard and shared a buggy with Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly. Apparently they were mightily impressed by the Scottish weather.
A rumour has been circulating that Nick Dougherty and Justin Rose are hard at work on the practice ground. From this we can surmise one of two things. Either they?re seriously up for it this week and each is determined to become the first British Open winner since Paul Lawrie, or, there?s something desperately wrong with their swings and on no account should we place any bets on them. If Neil or I can summon the courage to brave the elements and go to watch them we?ll let you know which it is.
At the moment we?re familiarising ourselves with the impressive facilities on offer in the Media Centre. Sitting here it feels like being on the control floor for a NASA space launch. Huge screens, computers everywhere and already there?s a constant hum of activity. It?s an exciting place to be. You also get free tea and coffee which is a bonus.
Friday 13 July 2.45 pm, Golf Monthly Offices, London, SE1
Luke Norman, GM news editor…
It’s so close that our esteemed editor, Michael Harris, has already touched down in Scotland. However, before the first ball is struck in anger there is some Transatlantic action to be taken care of. To get involved click here.
Friday 13 July 11.00 am, somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, Fergus Bisset GM Contributing Editor?.
Everyone, even GM?s most senior readers, will remember being at school. Think back in particular to the feeling you used to get when the summer holidays were just a few days away. Time passed agonisingly slowly as the state of frenzied excitement rose to critical levels. It was almost impossible to do any work. You convinced yourself there was no point as in just a few days you?d be playing football in the park, riding bikes and shooting catapults. You?d be free and schoolwork would be a million miles away.
Every year as the Open draws nearer I experience these sensations again. As a grown-up (in the loosest sense) I should be above childish anticipation and able to stay in the present rather than wishing the days away. But I just can?t concentrate on other things. I can?t wait until next week. Today, instead of doing anything useful, I?ll spend my time, checking the betting, looking at weather forecasts for next week, chipping on the carpet and watching Monty?s progress in the Scottish Open.
Where I live in Scotland, the cult of Monty (currently 33/1 for Carnoustie) is very strong and I admit to being a paid up member. I have a Monty calendar by my desk and would be the proud owner of a life size Monty cardboard cut out had my wife not vetoed the acquisition.
The Monty worshipping is partly because he?s Scottish but mainly because he?s such a fantastic golfer and such an entertaining character. If he wins I, and all my regular golfing pals, will be consuming a considerable amount of booze. Bad news?. Monty?s dropped back to -1 at Loch Lomond. Boo, shame.
Here?s one last piece of evidence confirming my eagerness for the first man to tee off at Carnoustie next week. As I write this I?m wearing my golf shoes.
Thursday July 12, 12.00 pm Golf Monthly Offices, London, SE1
Luke Norman, GM news editor…
Easter Sunday, Guy Fawkes Day, the Queen?s birthday, May Day? just some of the unforgettable annual memorials stuck in our national consciousness. Be prepared to add another, one of such magnitude that it won?t be surprising if George Dubya himself immediately declares it a day of international celebration ? THYNNE FRIDAY is coming.
Let me explain, assistant editor John Thynne is a friendly, albeit folically ?challenged, beast, one of those characters that you would be very happy to take home to your mother and father, if of course you happened to be a nice young lady (no Pamela Anderson types need apply thank you). Anyway back to business, Johnny Johnson (as we like to call him) is a very dutiful husband, Dad and brilliant second in command here, however, on the (very) rare occasions the GM team leave the office and head to the nearest watering hole, Johnson gives just the slightest of indications that a murkier beast lurks somewhere deep inside as he consumes his Guinness with true vigour and jealously eyes the flashing fruit machines, before of course, being reined in by his strong homing instincts. Not a trait shared by the general majority, I?m afraid.
So the GM Hit Squad (self-appointed) have decided that we ought to take advantage of all being at the Open together and take Senor Thynne out on the town, get him to let his hair down? metaphorically speaking of course. Endless meetings have been held, numerous calls placed and every policeman north of Watford alerted. Friday July 20 will be a day to remember.
The plan so far is to leave Carnoustie at around 8.00pm (after a day spent providing you with the best coverage out there), take in a couple of swift ones (for John at least) at the Open Arms before heading for a curry. After this the real fun begins as we plan to don shell suits and hit Dundee. Apologies if you hail from this neck of the woods but we have been reliably informed it is the perfect place for Thynne Friday. Various establishments have been suggested and more are readily welcome ? please got to the forum ? but as long as the words ?dentist chair, funnel and double tequila slammers? don?t seem unnatural, we will be there.
So if you happen to be passing through the eastern Scotland seaboard in the early hours of Saturday morning please don?t be alarmed if you spot a 6ft3in semi-naked, balding man in glasses bellowing about Bannock Burn and heaving a fruit machine on his shoulder. Just remember it?s Thynne Friday.
Wednesday July 11, 2.30pm Golf Monthly Offices, London, SE1
Luke Norman, GM news editor…
Nine days, 16 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds and counting? The clock on this website, although obviously a very cool addition, is adding to the current agony (and dare I say lethargy?!) pervading GM HQ.
It?s hard enough to tear one?s mind away from lengthy, highly imaginative day-dreams about being on hand to witness the greatest of all golfing odysseys being fittingly won by a Brit on a strip of land that defines the very term links golf, without a flipping clock chronicling exactly how many seconds there are left until take-off. And all this is before the Open Arms (the R&A?s moveable, annual and very amenable public house) flits into the mind?s eye.
Open fever has well and truly descended. Whether you are going, planning to go or looking forward to four days of utter indulgence on the sofa ? a great option ? you would be akin to R2D2 not to be feeling the anticipation hitting valve-busting levels.
Now that Monty has just avoided another chapter in his epic choking saga and managed to take the European Open I am sure that plenty of cash will be going on the Scot? mmmm, not sure. Not that I will insult your intelligence and give you a tip ? it?s still raw that Adam Scott missed the US Open cut by eight shots, taking my very hard-earned cash with him.
Members of the GM team are heading up at various stages of the next 10 days and the first live, onsite instalment of this blog will hit your screens on Monday July 16.
Just so you know it?s 837,300 seconds until the first group tee-off, well it was but it?s less now ? encouraging.