Beem lays ghost of Carnoustie to rest

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The Independent Online

After six years of sleepless nights the American finally got Carnoustie. He got it quite nicely as it happens, a 67 giving him a share of the Dunhill Links pro-am lead with the Italian Alessandro Tadini and the irrepressible David Howell. "I was a little gun-shy coming back here," admitted the 2002 USPGA champion and he had every right to pack the bullet-proof waterproofs.

At The Open that dropped a decidedly black curtain on the last century, "Carnasty" took Beem's dignity with an 80 and 81, while the Ayrshire Constabulary took his liberty. The rookie playing in his first major spent the night in the cells after being caught drink driving in Ayr. He happened to be more over the limit than he was over par. A missed cut and an 18-month ban saw him trot off to the airport (by taxi) a very sorry boy.

But not too sorry. The book Bud, Sweat and Tees recounts how Beem got over that experience and, indeed, how he got over every experience that year, including winning his maiden title at the Kemper Open. By drinking, and drinking, and drinking...

In fact the party went on until 2001 when it dawned on him - in a bar at dawn, more than likely - that his career was going down the pan at such a rate he was in danger of losing his card. But then came the major turnaround at Hazeltine and with it arrived an attitude more befitting a professional.

"The worse punishment than my £450 fine was the humiliation that went with it," said the 35-year-old from Arizona. "It was a pretty low time in my life. I'm still very embarrassed by it, but I did it and I move on. That whole week at Carnoustie was no fun."

Yesterday sure was, though, as it should have been to all those lucky beggars who tiptoed past the monster in conditions that forecasters stress were a mere calm before today's storms. As they happened to have included most of the star names - Howell, Tadini, Paul Casey (68) Darren Clarke (68) and Nick Dougherty (68) included - those professionals and amateurs on either St Andrews and Kingsbarns must have been feeling a tad aggrieved, even Sam Torrance who rolled back a proportion of his 52 years to conjure a four-under par 68 at St Andrews. "Yeah this was the perfect day to get Carnoustie out of the way and kind of give a sigh of relief," said Beem.

Howell would advise him not to breathe in too readily, however. "If you get the wrong conditions at the other courses they can be tough as well," said the 30-year-old, who will head this morning with his co-leaders to the Old Course. "St Andrews can be really hellish in a strong wind."

It just might need to be biblical to stop the Swindon swinger in the form of his, and most other lives at the moment.

It seems whatever he touches turns into euros, as a holed five-iron from the middle of the seventh (his 16th) fairway proved. "That turned a quiet day into a great day," he said. It may yet even turn out to be a definitive day.

Lying fifth in the Order of Merit and with the three leaders - Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen and Angel Cabrera - all absent Howell is aware that this £450,000 first prize could give him a legitimate shout. But 26 players are within two of the lead and nothing lasts forever but the courses in Fife. Gusts could be claiming shots like confetti here today.