The Open 2008 golf blog

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Sunday 20 July - Day 7 of The Open 2008

The final day of this year's Open Championship has drawn to a close and what a day it was.

Shortly after arriving this morning, I headed out to the infamous green of the par 5 17th in search of some drama - believe it or not I hadn't seen a birdie all week and was beginning to think I was the Jonah of the golfing world.

Luckily, it wasn't long until I'd seen quite a few birdies and even a spectacular pitch-in eagle from amateur Tom Sherreard.

One of my ambitions at the beginning of the week was to witness a tournament defining moment that I could look back on and say I was there and Sherreard's lofted shot from the rough was one that produced an earth-shattering cheer.

As a massive fan of Ian Poulter, seeing him charge up the leaderboard and contend at a Major was a real highlight for me and being stood at the side of the cauldron of the 18th green when he holed out for the par that at that stage looked like it might force a playoff was electric.

The ovation made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and it's a moment that I'll never forget in all my life.

But as good as that was, witnessing Padraig Harrington defend his title surpassed it and was the perfect end to a wonderful week.

The Irishman showed his class by negotiating the back nine in just 32 shots including arguably the shot of the tournament - his 5-wood in to just three feet to set up an eagle on the 17th.

This week's been everything I hoped it would be and more. I may be bright red (yes, there was some sun), a little heavier than when I arrived and in desperate need of a good night's sleep but I've had a superb seven days and seen and experienced some amazing things.

I'm looking forward to Turnberry already!

Saturday 19 July - Day 6 of The Open 2008

It's windy at Royal Birkdale today, very windy. The 50 mph gusts are causing real problems for the players and it's not making it great in the media centre either - the roof's making some interesting noises and it's the coldest it's been since I arrived on Monday.

It's a battle for the players out on the course just to tread water and maintain their positions on the leaderboard, and it's a battle many of them aren't winning.

Sat in the grandstand beside the 18th green for just over an hour earlier I saw a number of groups come through including the likes of Phil Mickelson, Robert Karlsson and Trevor Immelman, but didn't see a single birdie.

That's not to say there weren't any goosebump-raising cheers and stirring ovations for the players. There were some great up-and-downs which prompted whistles and whoops from the wind-battered spectators.

Hearing the ovations and cheers from beside the 18th hole is like no other sporting atmosphere I'd ever experienced and after watching it for so many years on television it was special to actually be part of it.

I may not have seen them, but there have been some birdies out there today, and even the odd eagle courtesy of 2003 champion Ben Curtis and American wonderkid Anthony Kim.

As I sit here typing away with frozen fingers, the final pairing of Greg Norman and KJ Choi are wandering down the ninth fairway and it's still impossible to call.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk are looking good but with the weather as it is there are a lot of potential disaster holes for them and the rest of the players to negotiate today.

And then there's tomorrow...

 

Friday 18 July - Day 5 of The Open 2008

The second day of play is reaching an exciting and unpredictable climax as the players out on the course jostle for position and those in the clubhouse wait with baited breath to see if their scores will be enough to make the cut.

It's been another day of blustery winds, although it's not been as wet as yesterday, and many of the players have acknowledged the slightly improved conditions.

Even so, scoring has still been pretty high with Camilo Villegas' superb 65 and a 69 from Soren Hansen the only completed rounds under par as I write this.

The top of the leaderboard has really started to tighten up with Greg Norman sat atop the standings on level par, Villegas behind him on +1 and almost 30 players within a couple of shots further back.

Having been a bit too young to remember watching Norman fight it out with Faldo et al in his heyday, I've thoroughly enjoyed the Australian's resurgence and hope it continues over the next couple of days.

The interview room was packed for the Great White Shark, who seemed amazingly relaxed considering his position, but I don't think even he expects to still be there on Sunday evening. This lack of expectation may just be the thing that ensures he is.

It's good to see Ian Poulter challenging and I'm also glad that Robert Allenby's up there on +2, as he was my outside pick at the beginning of the week and I selected him in my TG Fantasy League team. Although I'm regretting not putting my money where my mouth is and having a cheeky each way bet on him now.

With the cut looking likely to fall at +9 or +10, there are going to be some big names with a free weekend to enjoy Southport pier, including Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Vijay Singh and maybe even Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.

It's a shame that so many big names won't be around to contend but it's exciting to see other players throwing their hats into the ring for a Major championship.

With a whole gaggle of players bunching at the head of the field and even stronger winds and more rain forecast for the weekend the Claret Jug is still anybodies to win and we're looking nigh-on guaranteed some nailbiting golf right to the conclusion.

Bring on the weekend...

 

Thursday 17 July - Day 4 of The Open 2008

To say I wasn't best pleased to wake up this morning to the sound of rain on my hotel window would be somewhat of an understatement.

But it was the first proper day of my first ever Open Championship and I wasn't going to be put off by a bit of heavy precipitation.

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that the same couldn't be said for some of the players who soon began racking up some big numbers in the wet and windy conditions.

Pars were definitely not to be taken for granted for the early starters and not even the world number 2 Phil Mickelson and British Ryder Cup hero Paul Casey could stop the bleeding.

I followed their threeball, played with Japan's Hideto Tanihara, for the front nine and the two players were +7 and +6 respectively at the turn on their way to disappointing 79 and 78 totals.

Despite the lack of sunshine and the high scoring, the mood amongst the spectators was good and the atmosphere got even better as the weather and the scores steadily improved as the afternoon wore on.

There was some great golf played as the likes of Rocco Mediate and Graeme McDowell shot under par rounds, and Retief Goosen's 71 in the worst of the days conditions is worth a particular mention.

It's been an intriguing first days play and I can't wait until tomorrow when the pressure will begin to rise on the world's top golfers as they strive to make the cut and position themselves to challenge over the weekend.





Wednesday 16 July - Day 3 of The Open 2008

Last night was a bit of a fairy story. A group of us went out for a meal to a lovely Italian place and who should be sat at the table next to ours but Phil Mickelson and his short game guru Dave Pelz.

Having previously met Dave and his son, Eddie, at the opening of the first Dave Pelz scoring game school outside of America at Killeen Castle, near Dublin, last week I thought I might chance my arm and say hello.

But before I got the opportunity, Eddie, the definition of a gentle giant and one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, came over to me.

A quick conversation followed which paved the way for an interview with Dave Pelz about Mickelson's preparations this week that you can watch right here on the TG website. Just in case you were curious, lefty had the snapper and apparently it was lovely.

After the meal we headed to a bar for a quick night cap and happened to wander into the very same watering hole where Boo Weekley was having a few (or a lot) of alcoholic refreshments. It just goes to show that the pros are here to have a good time as well as take the Claret Jug home.

TG Instruction Editor Carly Cummins missed out on meeting Mickelson et al last night but another of the world's greatest golf teachers, David Leadbetter, was at the restaurant she ate in and told her a great story.

The world renowned coach revealed Ian Poulter spent four hours on the putting green on Monday and didn't move an inch from the same spot. This left footprints on the green, much to the despair of a R&A boss Peter Dawson and it's easy to see why - two brown footmarks can clearly be seen where the grass on which he was stood has since perished.

You can tell the first tee off is just hours away as the atmosphere and sense of expectation has really gone up a notch and the players have begun to put their game faces on today. The laughing and joking of earlier practice rounds is no longer quite so apparent.

One reason for this may be the bitter wind that's now blowing into Birkdale making the course a real challenge. At the 499 yard par-4 6th which was being played straight into the wind today, Steve Stricker hit two drivers and still came up short of the green.

 

Tuesday 15 July – Day 2 of The Open 2008


It’s day 2, and after waking up to blue skies and sunshine I’m starting to feel optimistic about the weather for the rest of the week.

Yesterday was a great welcome to The Open, as I met American world number 34 Hunter Mahan and his caddie Woody at Hesketh Golf Club in the afternoon.

It was a pleasure to meet an American who was actually pleased to be here and really relishing the challenge of playing a golf course that takes him out of his comfort zone.

The fact that he seemed to be genuinely enjoying his time in Britain and his obvious focus on having fun on the practice range and the course is a refreshing attitude from a tour pro.

After my interview with Hunter it was straight to Formby Hall for a Callaway get-together. A host of pros were there hitting balls including Nick Dougherty, Craig Parry and former US Open champion Michael Campbell, and I even spied Monty sat on a couch in the corner.

The evening was topped off by eating at the very same table that Justin Leonard had graced the night before.

Things in the media centre are starting to heat up – defending champion Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson and two of the players at the top of many people’s predictions, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, are just a few of the players who will be giving press conferences today.

So, after a cracking first day, today has begun with a sense of optimism in the air and the very real feeling that the week is starting to pick up pace as we head towards Thursday’s opening tee shot.

 

Monday 14 July - Day 1 of The Open 2008


So, it's my first day at the first golf tournament I've ever been to and it's The Open! I think it's safe to say I've fallen on my feet and I can't wait to get into the action.

And what a great setting I've got to pop my tournament golf cherry - Royal Birkdale is a beautiful and testing course and Southport is one of the most picturesque towns I've had the pleasure of visiting.

But enough about the backdrop, let's get onto the reason that I and the thousands of other golf enthusiasts have made the pilgrimage here - the greatest golf tournament in the world.

I had my first adventure out onto the links shortly after arriving this morning, and the first thing that hit me (fortunately not a stray golf ball) is how narrow the fairways are. There really is no margin for error here with some of the fairways narrowing to as little as 10 yards between vicious bunkers.

There wasn't too much action on the course, with sporadic tee times that fail to feature many of the game's biggest names, but my first chance to see pros hitting towering drives and finesseing their balls to inches from the hole is something I'll never forget.

Equally memorable are the first sightings of my heroes who I've watched on TV for years as I grew up. Justin Rose was in a very relaxed mood on the putting green and Johan Edfors was taking no notice of the no mobile phones rule as he happily chatted away on his as he wandered off the 10th tee.

I'm just a few hours into the week but already I've seen some amazing things and I'm practically frothing at the mouth at the prospect of seeing even more top golf, not to mention the atmosphere when the punters flood in when the tournament really kicks off on Thursday.