2012 Open Championship
The highlight of the golfing year is always The Open… If this tournament doesn’t get your juices flowing then nothing will. I had skipped the Scottish Open the previous week as my wife was giving birth to our daughter Emma Louise. Thankfully everything went well and she entered the world on the Thursday of the Scottish. We got her home on Monday and then I was off to Lytham on Monday evening. Paul’s son Craig had stepped in to carry the bag at Castle Stuart and did a sterling job. It was a great experience for both him and Paul, I’m sure Dad was very proud to have his son caddy for him in his national championship.
I had a quick scoot round the links at Lytham early on Tuesday before Chippie arrived and it was very evident what the game plan was going to be for the week….. Avoid the fairway bunkers 206 bunkers littered the course and most of them were an instant hack out sideways. The course was pretty soft due to a lot of recent rain making the rough very lush and thick… Hitting the fairways was going to be of huge importance. We played 13 holes on Tuesday before the rain pelted down and 8 holes on Wednesday…. We were ready to go..
You get a great buzz in the build up to to big tournaments but the Open is like no other. Players get applauded on to every green, every tee, even along the fairways… Chippie duly obliged the fantastic support with an opening 65.. What a start.. We were only one shot off the lead held by Adam Scott. The support he was getting from the crowds grew as the round progressed… I said to him “ Do you normally get this support down south?” “Not really “ he said. Even Davis Love our playing partner seemed surprised.. I eventually worked it out though… I called it the Andy Murray syndrome… If your doing well you’re British , if not your Scottish !! So Chippie was well and truly British and we were right in the mix from the off.
Friday was a rollercoaster of a day… Double bogeys, birdies, holed putts, three putts all added up to a 71 and we were still well in contention, lying in fifth spot going into the weekend. Our tee-time on Saturday was 3pm so I had loads of time to kill in the morning. I went a wander down the prom in Blackpool where I was staying for the week. At 10.30 in the morning there was already stag and hen nights underway. People all decked out in the weirdest get ups , getting stuck into a drink or two already … Unbelievable.. It was a short walk, let me tell you..!!
Our third round started steadily with an front nine of level par. When we turned for home Paul’s putting suddenly deserted him and despite his excellent ball striking his frustration was growing. These days happen very rarely thankfully and we signed off with a 76. Chippie felt it was the worst he had ever putted in a tournament and it was certainly the worst I had seen him perform on the greens. Onto Sunday and the wind had picked up. Anything under par would rocket you up the leaderboard. Chippie struck the ball well again from tee to green but again the putter misbehaved. A two over 72 was the result and we held our position, finishing in 34th place. While this would normally be considered a steady week in a major Chippie left Lytham feeling it was an opportunity missed. It had been an excellent week – the course was fantastic, the weather had been kind and the atmosphere was at times electric… The buzz walking up 18th in the Open is unique. We have a week off now before a two week trip to America for two big events – The Bridgestone World Invitational in Akron and the USPGA at Kiawah Island. The weather is very hot there especially at Kiawah. Lets hope the golf matches the temperature……
My journey from Germany to Ireland was meant to be simple… Dusseldorf to Manchester , then Manchester to Belfast . Unfortunately , Flybe had other ideas. They had cancelled a flight to Southampton , so those passengers were lumped onto my flight , then we dropped them off in Southampton. No big deal , but the airport authorities deemed we all had to leave the plane , and go through customs and then back through departures. I was now going to miss my connection to Belfast. Fortunately , there were a few players and caddies in the same situation , and they held back the Belfast flight for us…Phew… Nearly a horror start to the week. I managed to cadge a lift from Supercoach Pete Cowen to Portrush , so the day ended well. Chippie wasn’t arriving until Tuesday afternoon , so I walked the course on Tuesday morning. I had heard so much about the course , and I wasn’t disappointed. If there is a better course in Europe I have yet to see it. Royal Portrush is way up there.. There are no two holes remotely the same , and there are risk/reward options on every par 4 and par 5. I was looking forward to the week already…
The tournament had been a sell-out , and this was evident on Thursday morning when I walked past the public entrance at 6am.. People where queuing at the gate!!! The first tee time wasn’t till 7.30… Amazing..
We were drawn again with Ryder Cup Captain , Jose Maria Olazabal and Nicolas Colsaerts. This was the 3rd time this year we had played with Ollie , and Chippie was keen to impress. We started on the 10th hole , and with nothing much happening on the greens for Paul , the frustration was building. After another missed chance on the third, and a hooked tee shot on the fifth, the Chipmaster had reached boiling point. Walking off the fifth tee , he headed straight for the portaloo , looking to unleash some frustration!!! As I walked forward , I heard an almighty bang , and I guessed he had given the door a hefty boot…. Unfortunately for Chippie, he didn’t realise that the Ryder Cup Captain was already in there, mid pee, and nearly having an involuntary number two after Chippie’s attack.. Talk about laugh out loud!!!! “Oh , sorry . I didn’t realise you were still in there!!” we heard a mortified Chippie grovel to Ollie.. Myself and Colsaerts caddie laughed all the way down the fairway. Nothing like endearing yourself to people…HawHaw . To Ollie’s credit , he saw the funny side of things , and everyone had a good giggle. Even Nicolas Colsaerts remarked that it was by far his most entertaining day on the golf course with Paul. The day ended well with an eagle 3 on the ninth hole for a 3 under 69. On Friday Paul had it going , four under at the turn and flying up the leaderboard. The back nine is a bit tougher , playing back into a strong breeze , and we dropped four shots coming home. Paul was to put it mildly , raging!! We made the cut , but it could have been so much better. On Saturday the weather was miserable , and so was Chippie… Walking down the fourth hole , he was still blaspheming about Friday’s back nine. Throw in the constant rain, strong winds and Chippie struggling with his game ,and it was a day to quickly forget. The course was playing so long , we hit a three wood from 200 yards on the par 3 14th. On Thursday it had been a 5 iron!!! A four over par 76 was the result… No long lie for us on Sunday….
In golf , every day is a new start , and Sunday proved to be the case… No bogeys , six birdie resulted in a lovely 66. We moved up almost 30 spots into 33rd place. Not a disastrous week after all !! The weather hadn’t been great , but the crowds were spectacular , as was the course. For Chippie it was a few more Ryder Cup points , and excellent preparation for the Open in two weeks time. The atmosphere was as close as you will get to the British Open. There have been many cries for the Open to be hosted at Portrush , and after this week , there are few who would argue…