Day One: McIlroy carves slice of history while Daly fashions a colourful return
Happy Saint Rory's Day. Rory McIlroy's last eight rounds on the Old Course: 69, 69 (both as an amateur), 67, 68, 67, 68, 65, 69. And now 63. Easy as you like. It's the lowest opening round in Open Championship history and ties the best score in any major. And all done with a wiry mop styled at the Mark Bolan School of Hairdressing. He's the first round leader. "Seeing Graeme [McDowell] win the US Open at Pebble Beach made me realise that winning a major might not be as far away as I thought," McIlroy says. "I don't want to be the only Irishman at the Ryder Cup that hasn't won a major."
The BBC is one commentator shy at St Andrews, courtesy of Andrew Coltart (right) making it through the qualifying tournament. After a 66, he wants his old day job back again, please. You remember Coltart, right? He was one of Mark James' wildcards at the 1999 Ryder Cup but only played in Sunday's singles at Brookline and got dumped 3&2 by Tiger Woods. He has spent the last two years as an on-course analyst for BBC Radio 5 Live. "It's great to be back playing well inside the ropes," Coltart says, "enjoying the crowd getting behind you. I was wondering how much longer I could go on. The family was making sacrifices. Self-esteem was quite low." His sense of humour was clearly unaffected, though. Asked how nervous he was walking to the 17th, he remarks: "There should be a toilet fairly close to that tee." They're going to miss him in the commentary booth.
John Daly does it again in his lucky pants – a statement that's much funnier in St Andrews than it is in his home state of Arkansas. It's a lost in translation thing. He shoots 66 sporting trousers that look like they are from the Jackson Pollock Number 5 collection. He's back in the media centre at the Open for the first time since 1995 when he won with a mullet. And he's loving the attention. "The good thing about these pants is you can get dressed in the dark, and any shirt is going to match," he says. He's 44 now and claims he's no longer the Wild Thing. "I'm not drinking and I just can't eat as much of the bad crap as I used to," he says. So what do we call him now, then? "Oh, I dunno," he says. "Mild Thing?" Belly laughs all round. Though it's not half the belly it used to be.
Paul Casey is six off McIlroy's lead after a 69.
Day Two: St Andrews has its Mary Poppins moment as Poulter stops for tea
Wind stops play. At the Open. Whatever next? Sun stops play at the Masters? Ball stops play at the World Cup (forget that last one). Torrential rain in the morning.
Welcome to Scotland. Does Ikea do flat-pack arcs? Gale-force winds peak at 41mph in the afternoon. Hang on to your umbrellas (below). St Andrews is in danger of turning into a Mary Poppins Convention. Balls are oscillating on the greens. No play for 65 minutes. Just enough time for Ian Poulter to nip into the Old Course hotel for a nice pot of tea and a cake. "Luvvly jubbly," he says. "And no, it's not Earl Grey. That's like drinking my nan's perfume." Nice.
Rory McIlroy has curry and Diet Coke for supper on Thursday night in the Jigger Inn adjacent to the 17th green and the hotel. Then shoots 80. Wind problem? Still, the Northern Irishman keeps his record intact of never shooting in the 70s at St Andrews.
Tom Watson becomes blurry-eyed walking down the 18th. Well, he is 60, after all. It's his last Open at St Andrews. He kisses the Swilcan Bridge, poses for a farewell photograph then almost chips in for eagle. "Standing on the bridge I thought of Arnold [Palmer], I thought of Jack [Nicklaus]. And their last Opens were both right here." But there is no repeat of last year's Turnberry heroics. Missed cut. Thanks for the memories. Pass the hankies. Not so keen on the brown checks, though.
This year's recipient of the Greg Norman/Tom Watson Last of the Summer Wine Silver Plate is Mark Calcavecchia, champion in 1989. He goes out in the first group at 6.30am and is back indoors with a 67 before the wind has properly got out of bed. The 50-year-old enjoys his customary couple of pints each night. They're not all athletes. He's old- school. "I haven't grown up any," he says. "I'm still 30."
Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen (real name or the sound of someone sneezing?) shoots 67 to get to 12 under par to lead the championship while the biblical weather takes a bathroom break. No vuvuzelas at St Andrews for the South African. Yet. He makes the big mistake of mentioning his nickname – Shrek. "My friends say I look like Shrek. It's the gap in the teeth. You can't choose your friends, so what can I say?"
Day finishes with Paul Casey six behind Oosthuizen after a second 69.
Day Three: Lovable ogre keeps his cool as he continues to hold off Casey
Shrek still leads. And he's wearing green. "I have a green and white pair of shoes I was planning to wear today but I thought that, being called an ogre, I didn't want to look like one," he says. "I have a hat with green writing on it, too. I'm very glad I didn't wear that either." Are we laughing at him or is he laughing at us? Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen is clearly embracing the joke. He really is a lovable ogre. But he's no joke. He's a fighter. He is expected to panic and run away back to his swamp in the forest. But he refuses to back down.
Top Brit is Paul Casey, in second place at 11 under par. He makes the last group at a major for the first time, four shots behind Shrek, sorry Oosthuizen (did somebody sneeze again?). Weird stats: only two of Casey's 16 birdies all week have come on the back nine and both were at the 18th in rounds one and two. He has 24 back-nine pars and one triple-bogey seven at the 17th from Friday. He hits every green in regulation in round three in a five-under-par 67. "Sir Nick [Faldo] is a hero of mine," Casey says. "It would be the ultimate for me to replicate what he did and win here."
The top American on the leaderboard is Dustin Johnson (right). Remember him? He's the guy that threw away six shots in four holes after starting the final round of the US Open at Pebble Beach in the lead to become Dustbin Johnson. He's the guy that Tiger Woods calls "stoopid long". He's the guy that was forced as a 17-year-old to buy bullets that were used by a gang member to commit murder. "I learned that I couldn't hang around with hooligans," Johnson says. The gently-spoken dude from South Carolina has become a cult hero for his grip-it-and-rip-it style. Remind you of anyone? "As a kid I remember John Daly bombing it around here to win in 1995, and people say we are similar in a lot ways," he says. It's doubtful, though, that Daly has ever slam-dunked barefoot. Unless we're talking doughnuts.
Shot of the day (above): Miguel Angel Jimenez. He faces the wall at the 17th and hits his ball at it. He turns to see it loop over his head and on to the green. He's available for children's parties, too. Give that man a cigar. Oh, he's already got one.
Day Four: Crowning glory of King Louis gives engraver a case of the yips
The Claret Jug engraver has been having nightmares since Friday. Ooosteehozing. Easterhousing. Oozinghypen. He was praying for Casey. Paul Casey is the first Englishman to go out in the final group since Nick Faldo in 1993, when Greg Norman won.
Lodewicus Thoedorus chooses green for the final round. He is clearly embracing the Shrek joke. Or maybe it's a nod to South Africa's rugby colours. Questions before the final round: is he going to panic and run back to his swamp? Can Prince Charming, Paul Casey, catch him? As the trailer for Shrek 4 says: "It ain't ogre 'til it's ogre."
It's ogre by the 12th. Casey hits into a gorse bush. Triple bogey. The engraver starts chiseling. Plenty of time to get his spelling correct. The fat lady is already singing in her dressing room.
So whatever happened to the America's St Andrews specialists? Tiger Woods' love affair with the Old Lady is over. The champion here in 2000 and 2005 finishes three under par. He tries a new putter for three days before going back to his old faithful for the final round. Another short romance fails. "I didn't win," Woods said sulking when asked to sum up his week. Yeah, we noticed. His promise to open up and to try to be a better person doesn't quite seem to be going too well.
In case there is anyone left out there who isn't quite sure which country John Daly is from, he's the one sporting the Stars and Stripes trousers. The 1995 St Andrews champion finishes with a one over par fashion faux pas.
Jin Jeong is an impressive winner of the Silver Medal for best amateur. The 20-year-old South Korean is having quite the links adventure this summer: he won the Amateur Championship at Muirfield, too. He drives the green at the 18th and eagles to finish four under par. "I like fish and chips," Jeong says. "But haggis came out for breakfast and my coach said don't try it!"
So it's a Happy Forever After ending, then, for South Africa's King Louis. Thankfully, vuvuzelas are not for sale in the R&A tented village. Wait a second; what's that droning noise? Bagpipes.