Not being at Carnoustie this week I’m watching on the telly, listening to the radio and waxing a bit nostalgic about the last time I was there, not least because I realised it was the last time I was at an Open with Dai, the last time we shared our traditional Open ice cream as we meandered around taking in the atmosphere. If this dry spell continues, all ice creams will have to be consumed quickly before they run away in the heat, a welcome change from having to protect your cones and yourself from icy Angus blasts of wind and rain.
Carnoustie Opens are relatively rare birds but they don’t do dull, from Armour to Cotton to Hogan to Player to Watson to Lawrie to Harrington, there’s always been drama, in spades more often than not. Why should this year be any different? I’ll have to schedule my exercise breaks carefully, probably going against the grain and getting them in early. Perhaps that’ll help ease the guilt and sense of failure I feel every time I remember that Aidan O’Brien is up and about by 0500 every morning. The other day I woke up at 0645, went back to sleep and didn’t surface until 0845. Crikey, I’m four hours behind Aidan already. There’s no hope! Even if I do work on the blog until 0500 in the morning and go to bed when Aidan’s getting up……
Dai used to say that the Open was the hardest week of the year – more punishing even than the Masters with its testing time difference. Big teams of writers; endless previews; long, long days on Thursday and Friday, with the almost inevitable unexpected unavoidable unknown (or near unknown) leader coming in at half past nine at night; then trying to make sense of the final day’s toing and froing in the run-up to deadline; and the added stress/excitement of being the back page lead. A home major is a special test for everyone.
It’s a special year for the AGW (Association of Golf Writers) who are celebrating their 80th birthday and I suddenly realised that I was celebrating my 30th year as a member. Blimey. All sorts of memories come flooding back, ranging from playing golf with Henry Cotton at Penina – terrifying because Henry was still fiercely competitive and Toots, his wife, was watching every septuagenarian move like a small but formidable hawk; admiring a waistcoat worn by Seve Ballesteros only to have him give it to me a couple of days later – I still have it of course, despite a couple of late addition Midlands moth holes; Dai got a pair of socks because Seve claimed he had nothing else that would fit him.
There was the Open when Dai’s final piece disappeared into the ether because he’d changed the batteries – the sort of things you’d put in a torch or a small radio – in his Tandy without switching it off first. That turned out to be a no, no, NOOOOOOOOO because it wiped whatever it was you were working on off the face of the earth. There was nothing for it but to do it all again, dictating to a copytaker, I think, because there was no time to type it all out, especially with Dai about to spontaneously combust.
A Tandy, for those lucky enough never to have used one, was an early computer with a narrow screen that showed about five lines and could sometimes be connected successfully to the office computer system even by technophobes brought up with typewriters. Only sometimes though. Getting through wasn’t always easy, especially from America and I once had to dictate one of Dai’s pieces to a very bored, supremely unhelpful copytaker. It was tortuous and she was even moved to utter the immortal line: “Is there much more of this?” The best I could manage in response was, “I really have no idea.” Which was true because I could only see the few lines on the screen and hadn’t a clue how much longer we were going to suffer.
After that it was a joy to deal with the cheerful man from the Daily Mail who made light of a panicky rookie (me) and a very crackly transatlantic line and didn’t miss a beat when I nervously spelled out the name Danielle Ammaccapane. “Ah, normal spelling,” he said, which cheered me up no end. Life is so much easier when people who know what they’re doing employ a light touch and a bit of humour. I still smile when I think of that lovely man and try to follow his example. Not always successfully.
I believe the bookies now have Tiger as the favourite to win at Carnoustie but I’m keeping my money in my pocket because my Open prediction record is about as dire as it is possible to be. My men usually miss the cut. The one year I did win something I had to leave early and the AGW bookie, who will remain nameless, gave my winnings – 30 quid I seem to remember, which was a tidy sum back in the day – to Dai. The cash never made it into my hot little hand and I never forgave Dai and am still reluctant to forgive the bookie.
I’ve just checked my AGW PYP (Pick Your Pro) predictions for this week and they seem to be up to standard: Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Padraig Harrington. Apologies gentlemen and good luck. There’s a reason why I’m languishing at the bottom of the PYP pile, the only person without a winner to her name.
Which reminds me, many congrats to Dame Laura Davies on winning the inaugural US Senior Women’s Open by a country mile with some splendid golf at Chicago Golf Club last week. Here’s to the R&A taking the hint and introducing a Senior Women’s Open before too long.