TURNBERRY, Scotland – Enveloped in glorious Wednesday sunshine, the Ayrshire Coast had a dash of paradise mixed with doses of clear tranquility, which produced a magnificent view of the Ailsa Craig.
Which, in turn, seemingly sent Lucas Glover scrambling for his all-purpose cell phone after hitting his tee shot at Turnberry’s par-3 fourth.
Kodak moment, eh, Lucas?
“Nah, I was just looking to see if my (phone) battery is still charged,” Glover said.
Then your reigning U.S. Open champion flashed a sheepish grin, stopped, and cast a respectful gaze toward as spectacular a natural wonder as you will ever see, a massive and breathtaking rock rising out of the ocean.
“But I got a picture of it the other night – from my room,” Glover said, turning his stare to the right where the sprawling Turnberry Hotel sat high atop a hill.
“Beautiful picture, too.”
So he’s happy here in the land of haggis and heather, pot bunkers and round-abouts?
He shrugged and said he probably wouldn’t give up Greenville, S.C., for Scotland, “but this is where you want to be this week.”
Among his American compatriots, Glover is hardly alone in that sentiment, despite the impression that is often bandied about. What generates publicity of the negative sort is when an American player turns down a British Open spot, like Brett Quigley did the other day or Kenny Perry did in 2008 or Fred Funk did in 2004.
Legitimate reasons though they may have had, Perry and Funk absorbed stinging criticisms and Quigley was prepared for it, too.
“I knew it was part of the deal when I made the decision,” Quigley said, the day after rejecting his spot in the field that came for being the highest top-five finisher at the John Deere Classic not already exempt into the British Open.
Quigley wasn’t being disrespectful to a major championship in which he’s played twice; rather, he was being respectful to a friend and colleague by attending a Tuesday memorial service for the wife of Nationwide Tour member Chris Smith.
Maybe such personal heartache will extend to Quigley some slack, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if it didn’t. There is a history of American players bypassing the British Open (Curtis Strange several times in his prime and Scott Hoch makes two) and getting roasted for it.
“There are always a few,” Davis Love said. “In our days it was Joey Sindelar. Great player, but he didn’t care for playing over here.” (His only appearance was Turnberry in 1986.)
Sadly, that flavor of the story lingers – sometimes without justification.
Says here that Glover’s presence and his passion for this Open Championship should be filed under the rule and not the exception. Certainly, Glover thinks so and to prove he’s studied the subject, he said to check out the draw for Thursday’s opening round.
Of the 52 “games,” which is to say, the three-man pairings, only nine are devoid of an American. That’s right, there’s at least one American in 43 games (two in Game 44), which translates into 44 Americans in all, or 28 percent of the 156-man field.
By comparison, the United Kingdom is represented by just 36 players.
“Guys are going through qualifying, making every effort, coming early,” Love said, “and when we come over, the (Royal & Ancient) officials come right up to you and say, ‘Thanks for making the effort.’ ”
An effort made necessary by the ever-changing face of the pro golf landscape, it should be noted. When told that Americans make up nearly a third of this week’s field, Love quipped that there are times when it doesn’t feel as if Americans comprise a third of a PGA Tour event.
But he insists that it signals an American passion for the British Open, one that burns deep within his golf spirit. How so? One of Love’s biggest regrets is 1986 when he didn’t try to get into the British Open.
“I was on Tour, but I didn’t know any better. I should have been here,” said Love, playing in his 23d straight Open Championship. “It would mean this would be my third time here (at Turnberry) and not my second.”
Often overlooked when Americans are cast as reluctant travelers is the fact that they have pretty much staked claim to this mid-summer gem. They’ve won 11 of the last 20 British Opens and 27 of 49 going back to a watermark year, 1960.
That was the summer when Arnold Palmer pretty much re-invented the British Open and made it a must for Americans who wanted to be a world-class player. Americans won four times in the 60s, then cleaned up in the ‘70s as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, and Johnny Miller combined to win eight of the 10.
Three decades later, the American passion for this Open Championship has not waned, despite grumbings to the contrary.
“This,” Love said, “is a big deal to us.”
The numbers back up him, too.