In golf circles the "downturn" sounds like the treacherous 10th hole that topples over the Turnberry rocks here, but the economic dip is responsible for a sharp decline in corporate attendance at this year's Open Championship. "That's just a fact of life," said the R&A director of championships, David Hill, yesterday. But there may be another reason for the falling off: this year's Open clashes with the Ashes cricket Test at Lord's, which also starts today.
Shrewd sporting governance might have ensured that these two events – twin peaks of the British sporting summer – did not coincide. But this year's Lord's Test was knocked out by the Twenty20 World Cup. "For us, this mid-July date is fixed," said Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A. "So the Open is when it always is."
It would be an irony, given the reputation for wild weather in these parts, if golf was saved by the rain – the forecast does predict more water in St John's Wood than in south Ayrshire.
Round-the-world-trip pays off for Senden
The last man into Turnberry was the 2006 Australian Open champion, John Senden, who was summoned yesterday when the Indian No 1, Jeev Milka Singh, pulled out with a "nagging rib injury". It meant that Thomas Levet, who was called in at the start of the week when Brett Quigley withdrew, was only the second happiest man on the links. Fortunately, Senden was already here: he had gambled on being included and crossed the world. "As soon as I became first reserve I decided to come," he said. "It wouldn't have been nice to come all this way and not play, but it would have been worse sitting at home." After four top-10 finishes in America this year, he intends to do more than make up the numbers.
Six-year-old putts the pros in their place
As part of the "Scottish Homecoming" celebrations, Turnberry staged a "putt-against-the-pro" contest here yesterday. One of the early leaders was Josh Harding, a six-year-old from Eastbourne, Sussex, who has already broken a hundred at his local course (off the men's tees) and looked every inch the miniature pro. You heard the name here first.
Babies and hernias have players on edge
Family matters are intruding on many of the competitors here this week. Ross Fisher has a helicopter standing by to airlift him back to his wife's bedside in Surrey should their baby, due yesterday, decide to arrive, but he was still draining putts on the practice green in the sunshine yesterday. The only Welsh player in this year's field, Rhys Davies, has a more precise anxiety. His father suffers from a hernia, and during the practice round needed the occasional lie-down. At one point he was alarmed to be surrounded by nervous policemen rushing to anything out of the ordinary. That's how thick the rough is, and how tight the security.
Who'll be on the greens in red, white and blue?
It was at the Open five years ago that the fashion guru that is Ian Poulter unfurled his natty Union flag trousers to the world. Royal Troon didn't know what had hit it. Today, the very English man will be draped in this cardigan, the latest number from his own clothing range. And to finish the look, the trousers will be tartan. A must-see.