Paul wasn't arriving in Troon until Monday evening, so I nipped down in the morning for a look at the course. I had been down about a month earlier, just for a quick look, and it had changed a lot in 4 weeks. Due to a lot of rain, the course was much greener, and the yellow gorse bushes around the course had become lush green. The course was in tip top condition, and as is normal with the Open, the huge infrastructure around the course makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
I met Paul early on Tuesday, and we spent a fair bit of time on the range and putting green. Paul had just re-signed with Wilson, so there was a few things to do on that front. We then nipped out and played four or five holes, before play ground to a very slow pace, so we decided to head back to the range. Roger Maltbie, who is an ex PGA tour player and currently works as an on-course commentator , kindly drove us back in a buggy to the practice area. Paul had done some work with his coach, Andrew Locke , over the weekend, and was keen to reinforce what they had worked on.
Wednesday morning was a very early rise. We were playing with Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke, at 6.45. Normally the first practice time at the Open is 7am, but being a Ryder Cup vice captain, and playing with the captain does hold some Kudos, so off we went. Darren and Paul aren't renowned for messing around, and we were off the course by 10am..... Lovely. A bit of breakfast, some more practice and we were done for the day. We had a good draw for the opening two rounds, playing with Thongchai Jaidee and Brandt Snedeker. The weather on Thursday morning was dry but breezy, and probably the toughest part of the day. Paul played nicely from tee to green, giving himself a few chances, but the putter was misbehaving, and a one over 72 was the result. The wind dropped in the afternoon and the field took advantage, none more than Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 63. On Friday the weather turned sour, and the afternoon starters got the brunt of it. As we warmed up on the range, it was pouring down. By the time we teed off, it was a little better, but the umbrella was hardly down for ten minutes before it started raining again. Paul played decent again, but a couple of bogeys around the turn meant we had to birdie two holes coming in. A driver off the fairway to ten feet on the the par five 16th secured the first one, and an 8 iron to 5 feet on the 18th gave us our opportunity. As the putt slid past the hole, the scoreboard changed, showing the cut mark going from +3 to +4. We had managed to sneak in after all. Having missed the last couple of cuts, it was a welcome result.
On Saturday we played with Jim Furyk, which is always fun thanks to his caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowen, who is great company. Again Paul played nicely in tricky conditions, returning another 74. On the Final day, we were paired with Masters Champion, Danny Willet. He and Paul had played several times together, and both play quickly, so it was a good pairing for us. Again Paul's ball striking wasn't quite matched by his putting, and another 74 was the tally. Within 35 minutes of walking off the 18th green, I was home with my feet up, ready to watch the exhibition of golf from Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. Lovely. Our next event is in Scotland again..... None other than the Paul Lawrie Matchplay, at the glorious Archerfield links. Another home tie.....love it