ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Ian Poulter is taking this major as seriously as he’d take any other major.
You wouldn’t have known it if you’d seen him on Monday evening at about 10 p.m., though.
The figure of a man and his son playing golf is nothing new in Scotland, but when it’s a man and a little boy on the Old Course three days before the biggest championship in golf, then eyebrows are raised.
Yet there was Poulter and 5-year-old son Luke hitting putts to the 17th green in the twilight, what we Scots call the “gloaming.”
“Are you winning, Luke?” I asked the cute blond-haired kid.
“He always wins when I play,” Poulter replied, and then was off to have his picture taken with Luke and daughters Aimee-Leigh and Lily-Mai on the Swilcan Bridge. Wife and mom Katie walked nearby. Just a normal family outing on the links.
Only at St. Andrews.
What’s our tee time?: You’d have thought Fluff Cowan and Scott Tway, bagmen for Jim Furyk and Scott Verplank, respectively, would be ready for a rest after toting their men’s bags all day. No way. They’re just like any other American visitors to the Home of Golf. They looped 18 holes in practice and then headed over for 18 more holes at Crail. Cowan and Tway finished playing Crail’s Old Course at 10 p.m. These are two Americans trying to soak in as much of the Kingdom of Fife as possible.
Viva Spain: The Spanish contingent is in a buoyant mood this week after Spain’s World Cup victory. Alavaro Quiros was celebrating his team’s success by quite literally wearing the flag. Quiros turned up on Monday morning on the practice ground with a huge Spanish flag and proceeded to drape it around himself. The flag is in Quiros’ bag, so if he wins this week expect a victory lap with the flag held high.
Hirsute Harrington: Glad to see journalists aren’t the only ones who forget to pack essentials on trips. Padraig Harrington does, too. Harrington showed up for his Monday press conference with two days of stubble on his face.
Why the hirsute look, Padraig? Is this new mean and tough appearance meant specifically for the Open Championship?
“No, I just forgot my razor.”
Be on the tee at what time?: One of the beauties of a Scottish summer is that you can play golf late into the evening. Early birds benefit, too. With the sun coming up just after 4 a.m., it means there’s enough light for about 90 holes in a day, if one was so inclined.
That’s a possibility this week. The first tee time at Crail is 4:45 a.m.!
Old Course Interruptus: Most players soak up the whole Old Course experience. Why wouldn’t they? Playing at the Home of Golf is something to be savored. Yet for two days in a row, Tiger Woods has walked off the golf course without finishing. He’s skipped the 18th hole both days. Guess when you’ve won two Opens at St. Andrews, then there isn’t much you don’t know about the Old Course’s home hole.
Just a quiet round: Maybe the reason Tiger didn’t feel like playing 18 came with the large entourage following him and Mark O’Meara. Bodyguards and two police officers in accompaniment isn’t exactly normal for a round of golf in Scotland.
The heart of town: Hanging out at the Dunvegan is a pretty good way to get the Open Experience. People-watching is mandatory at this bar/hotel on the corner of Golf Place and North Street, just 112 yards from the Old Course’s 18th green.
Butch Harmon was enjoying a beer outside on Monday night. Brian Gay and his wife were sipping beverages, too. Inside, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard were enjoying dinner in the Niblick restaurant, where Dunvegan owner Jack Willoughby re-creates a little bit of Texas by serving steaks with jalapeno peppers.
Players and caddies passed by, some coming in for drinks. If you spend enough time at the Dunvegan, then almost the entire Open Championship eventually will find its way there.
Mea culpa: “I’m just trying to become a better person,” Tiger Woods said about how his persona has been transformed in recent months. Tom Watson has openly criticized Woods for his on-course behavior, saying he needs to clean up his act. Woods’ every move will be criticized here at St. Andrews this week, and the Scottish fans won’t waste any time letting Tiger know whether he lives up to his promise.