Well, only six days to go until the 148th Open kicks off at Royal Portrush Golf Club heralding the end of a 68-year wait for the return of the Championship. The excitement is building across the world and everyone’s preparing in their own way.
A week or so ago Tiger Woods began getting into the zone, the time zone, that is, by setting his alarm clock in Florida for 1 a.m. Why is he doing this? “It is now 6 a.m. at Royal Portrush,” he said. “I will be playing the Open Championship there. And in order to be prepared for the time change, I am getting up.” Meticulous or what?
I suggest you, too, get up early to watch arguably the greatest player ever to take on Portrush. He’ll undoubtedly opt for those preferred, quiet, early practice rounds of his and that may be the best time to catch him. The tussle for a good view of him on Thursday and Friday will be immense and I’m not overly confident he’ll be around at the weekend.
I know he won the Masters in April and I know many feel he is back at the top of the game but, remember, this is a man who has played only three tournaments since that magical Sunday in April. With a missed cut at the PGA Championship that is a paltry total of ten competitive rounds. Hard for anyone to be competitive when that lightly raced. So, don’t think you’ll definitely be able to catch him on the weekend – and don’t say I didn’t warn you! (Of course, Tiger exists to confound, astound and do the impossible.)My own Open preparations are gathering pace as hubby, sis and I ready ourselves for a Tuesday arrival back in the wee North. Brian and I are ferrying over, Patricia flying a few days ahead of us. Having said that, Patricia has done her usual trick of secreting her passport away so securely she can’t find it. Ditto her driving licence. We’ve been through this before and waiting for the triumphant text declaring all is well and said documentation has been located is akin to waiting for the white smoke to go up from the Vatican.
The other inconvenience is that Patricia’s phone is grumbling with the effort of sending any text, triumphant or otherwise, since she dropped it down the loo ten days ago. And to think this woman once held down a responsible job….! However, she remains relatively unfazed as she operates on her favourite life principle that it’ll all turn out all right in the end.
This will be a very, very different Open for me. I decided after Carnoustie last year that I definitely wasn’t going to do the BBC TV highlights this year – too many hours locked away in a tiny studio having to concentrate and too little time to see my friends.
No, I’ve been a member of Portrush for more than 50 years and I’ve far too much socialising to do and this will be a fun, grand, celebratory spectacle that I intend to enjoy to the full without the responsibilities of having to be across every nuance and every storyline over the week. So far I’ve stuck to my guns and have surpassed double digits in terms of the number of gigs I have turned down.
My husband says I won’t know how to watch an Open from outside the ropes (I’ve done 21 inside the ropes) but he forgets that I was a seasoned golf watcher long before I started working in the media and Patricia and I were at the last Ryder Cup as paying customers. My periscope – the most essential piece of kit of all – and binoculars are laid out and ready. So are my waterproofs, thermals (it IS Ireland, remember) and sunscreen. The car will be full to bursting with a few essentials for our hostess and fellow guests and if Patricia doesn’t find her passport we’ll be able to squeeze in an extra case or three of wine. Every cloud………!
One group of people who are pivotal to the success of the Open and who will have a much more arduous week than me are the talented and tireless greenkeeping staff at the club, headed by Graeme Beatt, the course manager. I have been following Graeme’s blog over the last three years as he has been keeping the membership informed and up to date with all the course work and preparations required to host the largest and most prestigious golf tournament in the world.The course staff of around a couple of dozen has expanded to nearly three times that size with volunteer greenstaff from other clubs being drafted in to help during the last ten days or so. Never mind the relentless demands of the past few years since Portrush was awarded the Open, the routine during the actual Championship week for the team is a challenge.
“We will start at 4 a.m. and work until set-up is complete,” Graeme said, “before returning for evening set-up at around 5 p.m. The volume of work is really dictated by the weather and possible rainfall.”
By all accounts the course is looking absolutely superb and all I ask is for a few frisky breezes to allow the greatest players in the world the opportunity to showcase their skills on a piece of turf I am so very, very proud to call home.
We’re in for a great week.