Golf / 123rd Open: Robertson the lone ranger: Guy Hodgson watches one of the unheralded hamburger heroes perform to an empty gallery

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The Independent Online
IF STEPHEN ROBERTSON did not have an inferiority complex as he arrived on the first tee in his first Open Championship he was probably soon developing one. 'I'll go and get something to eat,' one marshall told a companion as the 28-year-old flexed in preparation for his drive, 'so I can get back for when the big names start.' Charming.

There were two events taking place at Turnberry yesterday. The first was filled with millionaire sportsmen whose every movement was witnessed and analysed by hundreds; the other comprised lonely souls who wandered round the Ailsa Course with so few witnesses they could have held up the Royal Bank of Scotland caravans in the tented village and no one would have noticed.

Some, like Jonathan Lomas, managed to slip from the second rank into the public eye but for most of the great unwatched the anonymity clung to them like a clammy golf shirt. You had to shoot either 66 or 86 to prevent becoming what the pros call a hamburger golfer ('Who's that? Oh, I'll go and get a hamburger') and Robertson's 75 managed to fall near the middle of the range.

His write-up in the players guide emphasised his lack of renown and he was probably the only player yesterday who had a caddie with a bigger profile. His father Ralph has won the Wiltshire Seniors for the last two years and he was runner-up in the English Seniors in 1993.

There are times in life, however, when you are grateful that no one is batting an eyelid, and Robertson's introduction to major tournament golf was one of them. 'I want to soak it all in,' the assistant professional at Swindon Golf Club had said before he hit a ball. 'Gary Emerson (another competitor at Turnberry) told me his first Open went by in a blur.' After two holes he would probably have settled for a dose of amnaesia.

Within 25 minutes of teeing off, Robertson, who had made the Open proper at his eighth attempt, was about as teed off as he could get. While he walked up the first fairway a car alarm went off, a suitable metaphor. From rough to bunker he bogeyed the first and when he dropped another shot at the second and took the jungle route for the third humiliation seemed to beckon.

Then a putt was dragged from his nervous hands on the third green that will obliterate the more painful moments when he looks back on the day. From 25 feet he rolled the ball in for a par four. The net result was 75 and respectability, if not overwhelming contentment.

'If he could drive the ball as well as he putted and played the short game he'd break par virtually every time,' Ralph Robertson said. His son was less diplomatic about the five- over-par effort. 'I played absolute rubbish,' he said. 'I could hardly find a fairway all day. I've got another driver in the car and I think I'll try that in the second round.'

Yet, on calmer reflection, he breathed in the atmosphere and exhaled excitement. 'To be at the Open, to see my name on the scoreboard coming up the 18th, it's been fantastic. I wanted to do better but it's been enjoyable in a way.'

Distinction of a kind is heading his way today. His tee- off time is 7.15am and his place in his threesome ensures the honour of hitting the first shot of the second round.

(Graphic omitted)

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