Despite the unpredictable weather and hassle of international travel and finding unconventional accommodations, I’ve quickly grown to love the British Open. In fact, it’s my favorite week of the year (maybe with the exception of Hawaii). It’s not the easiest to cover, but it’s the experience that makes it so special. There’s the history and tradition, along with the intrigue of links golf. Oh, and I can’t forget Pimm’s!
In the mere two years I’ve had the privilege of covering the Open, I’ve had quite a few adventures (and I’m always up for one!) off the course. Remember my spooky night with old Tom Morris (and Jim Nantz) last year in St. Andrews? I didn’t hop any old stone walls to trek through a graveyard in Sandwich, but I wouldn’t have had to wander far since I was staying next to one. The cottage was part of the former abbey, which had been converted to individual homes at some point. It was 460 years old — young by the town’s standards!
Actually, I almost had to scale a wall on Saturday morning because I was trapped. I know that sounds strange, but the courtyard/garden is bordered by tall walls. Here’s a pic of the path as you walk in the gate:
Turned out my housemates had accidentally double-locked the gate door. It’s a pretty embarrassing situation, but trust me, I explored all options before I made the call. You see, the windows on the second floor overlook the garden. There’s a small window in the kitchen I probably could have pried open (I don’t think anyone had tried in a century), which led to the neighbor’s home. Good news is that I know the place is really, really secure — at least if you’re inside the walls.
I found it amusing that I was probably one of few adults who didn’t have to duck to walk through most of the doors to the homes in town. I’m 5’2″ and here’s a photo for a better idea of the proportions.
I didn’t exactly kick off the week on a good note. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I had some car trouble. On Monday that week I was driving on a side street in Sandwich — which was narrow, but wide compared to some of the roads — when I suddenly hit a parked vehicle! (Cue for Asian female bad driver jokes.) I was only going 20mph at most (I think).
Apparently, the front-left tire fell off, which caused me to lose control and veer into the other car. In retrospect I’m lucky it happened where and when it did. (Other possible scenarios are still haunting me!)
Yeah, I was a walking disaster, but I embraced it and found some amusement in the…err…experiences.
I had a few fun nights at the Admiral Owen, a pub in the center of town and a favorite hangout for players and caddies (especially the ones who missed the cut). Kevin Streelman may or may not have made an appearance as a guest bartender briefly on Saturday…
I ran into Joe LaCava, Dustin Johnson’s caddie, on Sunday night. I joked, “So, 3-wood instead of 2-iron on 14?”
Let’s ask (faux) Seve what he thinks.
In case you can’t tell, that’s a cut-out larger-than-life poster of Seve Ballesteros, who passed away in May after his long battle with brain cancer. Speaking of the legendary golfer, there were tributes all over Royal St. George’s honoring Seve. Here’s the walkway near the main entrance/exit:
I stumbled across a bunch of photos I’d taken at RSG, but forgot to post the other week. Better late than never, right?
Bubba Watson, who two weeks earlier had caused quite the controversy after his ignorant and rude comments at the French Open, was the model tour pro. He patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans after walking off the 18th green (where there were no ropes in the walkway — remember, that was one of his issues in France. There was better security the rest of the week, but Monday afternoon was pretty lax).
The board showing the practice round starting times on Monday afternoon. It was periodically updated with the current hole each group was playing to make it easier to find the one you wanted to follow.
The 18th from another angle — the far-right rough.
Scenes from the practice tee…at the Open the media isn’t allowed on the driving range. Instead, there’s a fenced-off area in front of the stands about 30 yards back where we can wait around for a player or try to get his attention.
In my opinion, it made it tougher to do our jobs as well as usual because it limited our access to the players. With the exception of the Open and the Masters, we’re free to politely approach players on the range (You use your best judgment, meaning don’t interrupt a guy who is obviously working on something with his coach. But if the player knows you, he might acknowledge you and sometimes even initiate the conversation). I understand why it’s that way, but from a media standpoint, it’s just harder to wave someone down from 30-40 yards than 10 yards. Obviously, you didn’t want to holler at someone too loudly. I’m sure some guys prefer the setup — it’s easier to dodge the pesky reporters.
At the end of the day, it is what it is!
Even so, there were more people surrounding Rory McIlroy than usual while he hit balls. And then there were the fans. Yep, Rory-mania was in full effect. It was insane. I’d never seen a player draw such masses of adoring fans — well, except for Tiger. Unfortunately I don’t have a great picture of a scene! Crowds even gathered to catch a glimpse of Rory’s parents near the manufacturer trucks (Rory was hiding in the Titleist van for what seemed to be longer than usual).
The Italians took over the far-right side of the range on Tuesday. Here’s Matteo Manassero and Edoardo and Francesco Molinari practicing/chatting.
Must have been one hell of a swing they were checking out…
Miguel Angel Jimenez working with his instructor. You can’t see from this angle (sorry), but of course, he was smoking a cigar.
Drenched fans heading for the exits on Saturday. There were still many, many more who stuck it out ’til the very end, though! Others, including my housemates, were safely drinking away the day in the clubhouse. Random observation: Maybe it’s just me, but I found fewer fans with beers in their hands on the course. Most drank in designated areas — whether it was near the concession stands, inside the tents or clubhouse. My housemates would drink before heading out to the course to watch the golf for a few hours, and then go back to drink more…*repeat.*
On that note, it’s a wrap! I’m happy to say that I’ve finally recovered from my Open hangover. I’m already counting down to next year, though. Cheers!
(Chubby Chandler and Champion golfer of the year Darren Clarke sent champagne to the media center.)
*Update (July 26, 12:57am): Well, this is embarrassing. I can’t believe I forgot the best highlight of the week! — WUP’s European correspondent Conor, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, and whom I met in real life for the first time during the first round! (No, it’s not that strange I haven’t met my lone employee.) Very exciting! I met his dad Colm, too. A lovely man.
Conor was having a tougher time processing it all. He kept saying, “I can’t believe it, it’s really you!” Or something like that. I shrugged and told him to calm down. You see, it used to be slightly weird for me to meet people whom I’d connected with via the internet (no, I’m not talking about online dating). I quickly got over it and now I’m a veteran. But this was a first for Conor. Don’t worry buddy, you’ll catch up soon and have a lifetime of meeting online acquaintances and friends in real life!
Had someone told me I would write the above sentences three years ago, I would have looked at them like they had three heads.
And this might come as a surprise, but unless someone is a complete sociopath, their personality translates pretty well from the web to real life. Conor was exactly what I expected and I felt like we were old pals.
We walked around and chatted with his dad in one of the tents on Thursday. Then we got a little more adventurous on Friday and followed some groups. I had to watch Ricky Barnes skid pretty badly for a few holes on the back nine for an assignment, but otherwise, I gave Conor carte blanche to lead the way. He had the best seats in the house on 15 and 16 to watch the group of Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker, followed by Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen.
Please forgive me, Conor, for forgetting to include our meet-up! I blame the dreadful migraine I’ve had all day. And we miss you, Conor. Readers are asking about you!