Golf: Heat treatment floors Thomson: Hero of the Fifties falters in the Nineties

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONE of the more endearing aspects of watching the seniors at play is that spectators can get close enough to the action to feel the draught on the downswing. None of that nonsense of stay still], stand behind the ropes], no cameras], and put that bag of crisps down]

The posse of marshals here has no need to leave the saloon. Indeed, the atmosphere is so relaxed that Peter Thomson's caddie went about his duties with a camera draped around his neck. The camera belonged to the great Australian and they would have needed fresh rolls of film to capture every incident of the first round of the Forte PGA Seniors' Championship over the Old Course here.

Thomson, who monopolised the Open Championship in the Fifties, found Sunningdale hard going in the Nineties which was almost what the temperature aspired to. Thomson shot 82, 12 over par and 18 over his age. It had all started so promisingly. Thomson, making possibly his last tournament appearance in this country, birdied the first.

His playing partners were Christy O'Connor, the legendary Irishman, and Antonio Garrido, the less than legendary Spaniard. Garrido, who has joined the transfusion of new bloods on to the Seniors Tour after recently turning 50, used to play on the regular tour using his son Ignacio to carry his bag. Ignacio, who won the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship a couple of years ago, is currently pursuing more profitable employment as one of the brightest prospects on the European Tour.

Yesterday Antonio employed a caddie who looked as if he had come straight from kindergarten. The boy was barely taller than Garrido's putter. The League Against Sending Children Up Chimneys would probably find this disturbing. Anyway, all three were going along quite nicely until Tommo and Christy began to feel the heat.

An idea of how venerable Christy is is that his grey-haired nephew, Christy O'Connor Jnr, one of Europe's heroes in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1989, is almost eligible for senior service himself. Christy, who will be 70 in December, still has an effective swing but his round of 75 included five three-putts.

They began to waver around the turn. Thomson rolled in a massive rollercoaster of a putt for a birdie three at the seventh but his charge was halted by a traffic jam on the ninth tee. The ninth is a quirky par four of 267 yards and can therefore be driven. While they were waiting on the tee a man sat on a wooden rail which collapsed beneath him. Thomson, looking down at the crestfallen spectator, said: 'He's all right. He's more alive than the piece of wood.'

Thomson then hooked his drive so far left of the green his ball shot across the tee of the 10th green. It was the 10th that did for Christy. He went into the heather on the right, the heather on the left, the trees on the left. When he reached the green he took three putts to get down for a triple-bogey seven. Thomson, meanwhile, hit a cracking second shot to about 20 feet past the flag.

(Photograph omitted)