Maureen drove us up to Royal Troon on the Monday of Open week and we wondered how it would feel because neither of us was working in an official, accredited sense.
Blog stuff, which is of course a 24-hour-a-day pressure, is also a bit of a minefield for the R&A, who have had to accept that mobile phones are now an integral part of the human condition and only detached from the human body under general anaesthetic. There are little booths labelled ‘Digital Advisers’ scattered around the place at Troon and they are manned and womanned by mostly young patient helpful people who attempt to provide novices like me with a map to the magical mystery tour that is the Open app. Mind you, I was heartened to learn that they had to leave the booth to get a signal to connect to the wi-fi.
Total control is totally impossible, hurrah.
There are people with blue bibs proclaiming them ‘Official Social Media #The Open’ and they’re the ones allowed to do video stuff. There are signs warning the rest of us off video but it’s impossible, sorry, we can’t help it because even the photos move now. You take what you think is a happy snap, a still slice of life and whenever you have a wee look at it, to check the heads are in and there’s no thumb over the lens, the damned thing moves, like some portrait at Hogwarts. You can’t legislate for that.
For some reason the video edict did my head in (a phrase that is nearly as irritating as ‘growing the game’ but as infuriatingly useful) more than the hideously dull, sanitised, expensive one-brand Open Shop (what’s open about a place devoted to a single company?); more than the ridiculous notion that if you pay for your hideously expensive burger or your ice cream with a certain credit card, you’ll get a discount (paying for an ice cream with a credit card, it’s some sort of inflationary joke surely?); and more than the stupid little wrist band (thank you for the song Paul Simon) you get if you go out the gate and want to come in again later, so you can’t pass your ticket on. Not very open.
I didn’t mean to rant but it’s because I still love the Open, because it’s still special and should always remain open, a little anarchic and unpredictable. There’s a thrill and a buzz like no other – that’s undoubtedly why Colin Montgomerie, first to tee off on his home turf at 0635 on Thursday morning, was nervous enough to take 6 at a wee hole he’s probably birdied more times than he’s had a meat pie.
On Tuesday night, he was presented with an award at the AGW (Association of Golf Writers) dinner because covering golf was rarely dull with Monty about. Rory McIlroy got an award; Diane Bailey ditto, as the last president of an independent LGU before its absorption into the R&A; Steve Willett, dad of Danny, said grace; Caroline and Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Gary Player, Pierre Fulke, Peter McEvoy, Christian Hardin, Wilma Erskine and numerous other luminaries chatted and posed for photos, some of which turned out better than others.
It was a celebration of golf and that’s what the Open is and why we keep coming back year after year, to catch up with friends and remember those no longer with us, put the world, golfing and otherwise, to rights and watch the best golfers in the world tackle the best courses in the world. It’s still magical.