Not many elite sports events begin with such an unobtrusive lack of fuss as the Open Championship. The first shot of this year's tournament was struck at 6.30am by England's Paul Broadhurst. The sky was blue; mist spilt off the hills; the sea was like a lake; flags hung limp around the 18th green, and a gaggle of early-bird spectators whispered and nudged each other behind the tee.
It was a typical threesome: one Brit, one American and one international player. Mark Calcavecchia was there with his wife as his caddie ("She gave me a couple of good reads, and some cute smiles," he said) along with the out-of-form New Zealander Michael Campbell. The horses grazing in the nearby field ignored them all, and the celebrated starter, Ivor Robson, cleared his throat (having denied himself dinner or anything to drink the night before to make sure he did not need a comfort break). Early starters rarely sleep, and Broadhurst had been up since 3.45, but it is an honour to launch the Open, and he wasn't yawning. "I can sleep all I like tonight," he said. He knocked a hybrid club towards the bunkers, parred the first hole, and the Open was under way.
A bogey at the Open beats a building shift
Spare a thought for the qualifiers. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry," said England's Jeremy Kavanagh when he qualified for this year's Open at the very first of the qualifying shoot-outs, held in Durban in February. At the turn yesterday he was three under and riding high on the leader board. He dropped half-a-dozen shots on the last three holes to finish on 74, but nothing could dent his good humour. "There's no disappointment coming from me," he smiled, "it's been just an amazing day." A year ago he was working on a building site. This was more fun: "I even loved that bogey at the last."
Ellebye proves to be the last of the late breakers
How thin is the skin on a man's teeth? It can't be flimsier than the margin by which the Danish player Peter Ellebye sneaked into this year's Championship. At regional qualifying in Dublin last month he birdied 17 and 18 but missed out on a spot in final qualifying by a single stroke. He was called up as a reserve, however, and leapt into contention at Kilmarnock Barassie last week when he holed a six-iron on the par-five eighth for a remarkable albatross. "Trouble is, I bogeyed the very next hole," he said, but he did find two more birdies on the back nine to earn his place in the Open.
Poulter's bright idea backfires
Ian Poulter's attempt to turn the back tees into a catwalk for his designer sportswear backfired somewhat when his garish Union Jack outfit inspired him to plonk his first tee shot into a left-hand bunker, letting the device on his chest down somewhat with a clumsy bogey. Nor could John Daly's mint-green, do-not-adjust-your-set clown's trousers prevent him from dropping a shot at the opening hole. Poulter's playing partner, Miguel Angel Jimenez, meanwhile, made a serious golfing case for mud-brown by nailing a birdie putt on the first, and doing the same at the fourth and fifth (Poulter bogeyed both) to turn at four under, seven up on the limp British flag. The early leader John Senden wore sober blue and Tom Watson also found drab clothes helpful. Grey uniform clearly encourages bright play. If Daly had worn black, the approach that hit the flag on the seventh might well have dived in for an albatross.