Nowhere men on the scent of glory

The winner might be a big name, but more likely he'll be a Curtis, a Hamilton or a Lawrie

They strike while the seven-iron is hot, and nobody knows who on earth they are or where they have come from. Beautifully camouflaged to melt into the background, they creep up on the leaderboard like a fifth columnist and walk away with the old silver Claret Jug before anybody has noticed. Security is tight at The Open, but it is powerless in the face of the advance of the tip-toe champion from Palookaville.

Whereas Wimbledon know that a man from Switzerland will be dominating Centre Court, the Royal & Ancient have not got a clue as to who will be leading their tournament when they assemble in front of the clubhouse at Royal Liverpool next Sunday evening.

The odds are it will be an American, but it will not necessarily be Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. No, the recent phenomenon is for a player who is totally anonymous from Los Angeles to New York and all points north and south to take The Open by stealth rather than storm.

Beginning with John Daly - the Wild Thing will be at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on Tuesday, launching his latest opus to overkill - at St Andrews in 1995, the Americans have won nine of the last 11 Opens and, of course, Tiger triumphed when the tournament returned to the Old Course at St Andrews 12 months ago.

However, the world No 1 has never won the championship back to back, and as he was not even born when Hoylake last hosted the championship, it could be argued that this, The 135th Open, is more open than ever.

Few people could spell Mark Calcavecchia's name when he won at Royal Troon in 1989. Ben Curtis posed problems of a different sort when he emerged victorious at Royal St George's in 2003. It was Ben who, how, why? Ben Hur stood a better chance of winning.

Ranked 396th in the world, Curtis got to play in Kent by virtue of finishing joint 13th in the Western Open on the US PGA Tour, but he had never competed in a major tournament. In the event he shot rounds of 72, 72, 70 and 69 and his aggregate of 283, one under par, was a stroke in front of Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn and two better than Woods and Davis Love, who were tied fourth. Curtis was the first player since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open to win a major at his first attempt.

When he returned to The Open the following year the man from Kent, Ohio, missed the halfway cut at Troon, but in every other regard normal service was not resumed.

Enter one Todd Hamilton, aged 38. He blew in from Galesburg, Illinois, a journeyman player who thought of packing it all in until he discovered he had a yen for the Japanese Tour. He finally made the US Tour in 2003 after eight appearances at the qualifying school, but he did not know a pot bunker from a pot noodle.

Hamilton had missed the cut in The Open at Royal St George's, but at Troon 12 months later he did a Curtis. He scored 71, 67, 67 and 69 to go into a four-hole play-off with Ernie Els, a former champion and the overwhelming favourite.

For the second year running, the bookmakers were not so much laughing all the way to the bank as splitting the sides of their satchels. Nobody, but nobody, had a dime on Hamilton, whereas Els had been backed from here to kingdom come.

In the play-off Hamilton reeled off four pars and Els made his faux pas with a bogey four at the short hole. The American writers knew as much about Hamilton as they did about Curtis, which was zero.

How can this happen? Britain's ancient links are supposed to be mastered by craftsmen who have spent years learning the tricks of a trade wind that is alien to America, not by wannabes from the Hooters Tour.

So who will be the man from nowhere, the stranger to strike fear into Hoylake? America has any number of bounty hunters lurking in the undergrowth, including J J Henry, who qualified by winning the Buick, Sean O'Hair, Bart Bryant, Brett Quigley, Brett Wetterich, Ben Crane, Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan, who all sound as if they have been made up by Raymond Chandler. The player who stands out, however, is the 6ft 4in Bo Van Pelt.

When he turned pro in 1998 he struggled to make a buck - "I had no chance, I couldn't keep it on the planet" - but at the third time of asking on the US Tour he is beginning to make a name for himself. Wearing fluorescent orange trousers, he was joint sixth recently in the Wachovia championship. From Richmond in Indiana, he is the son of Bob Van Pelt (Bo obviously sounds better than Junior), who played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Bo, who is 31, is no rookie when it comes to The Open. He played at Royal Troon two years ago and finished joint 30th, and last year he was tied 52nd at St Andrews, 14 strokes behind Tiger. Curtis and Hamilton, by the way, both missed the cut on the same two-round total of 148.

Van Pelt is very good at making cuts. In hitting greens in regulation he is 83rd, but nobody on the US Tour makes more birdies. He took time out to locate the John Lennon Airport and withdrew from the Booz Allen Classic - it was won by Curtis - to prepare for The Open. Next year the Championship returns to Carnoustie, the Scottish course where in 1999 Paul Lawrie, another rank outsider, capitalised on Jean van de Velde doing a sort of Zidane at the 18th in the final round. Although the Frenchman came to grief at the Barry Burn it is Lawrie who has since disappeared, almost without trace.

Van Pelt, who lives in Tulsa, went to Oklahoma State University, Todd Hamilton's old college. Scary. Bo has never won a tournament worth a lick, which should make him an ideal contender in the 1,000-1 category at Royal Liverpool. It could be that his name is written all over the Claret Jug, and better that for the engraver than Arron Oberholser.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London