View From The Sofa: Numbers game comes down to No 1 for Faldo the knowing wise guy

The Open, BBC One
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The Independent Online

Way back in the morning, before the leaders had set out, Ken Brown pondered the 205 bunkers dividing one of them from the Claret Jug. With a monastic squint, he cautioned them against the "tempting lips" guarding these ravenous orifices.

The sun was shining but fear, palpably, stalked the course. The mood found incarnation in footage of a strange, simpering little goblin carrying Andres Romero's bag.

It turned out to be merely his compatriot, Carlos Tevez. But who could say what other diabolical familiars might shadow Adam Scott, once he took a lead of four shots into the gathering winds?

Sure enough, one player after another would be devoured by those malign jaws. Watching Tiger Woods waggle his wedge over a plugged ball, Brown gasped weakly. "Oh my," he breathed. "Jeez. Like a Joe Frazier punch." When the ball spat back off that tempting lip, Woods was obliged to get down and play on his knees. "Position 47 here," pronounced Brown. The mind boggled.

Sir Nick Faldo would in turn pity Woods, up to his fetlocks in the rough, "coming up out of the gooey hay". But then he had long sensed the dread. Hours before, he had predicted that Scott might "have three bogeys in a row and scare himself".

Sir Nick himself, of course, had always thrived on pressure. Standing over a putt to win the Open, your stomach churning? That was what you do it for. "But guess what?" he said. "If you hit the little suicide switch on the way there, you won't make it."

Suicide switch? Good grief. No wonder he had recommended the stoical, steady approach that served him so well. "You've got to be sensible," he said. "Carrying a lead is hard work. The good old 18 pars will work occasionally. There's no pictures on the scorecard, you know. It's numbers that go on it."

That's just the kind of thing you would expect him to say. As a broadcaster, however, Sir Nick has now introduced an unnerving hint of flair to domestic viewers. Having spent the last eight years discovering the inner wise guy, for American audiences, he has now perfected a thoroughly weird amalgam of Phil Tufnell and John McEnroe: at once matey and masterly.

If he seems just a little self-conscious, in this persona, at least he remains reliably unabashed in his opinions. "We call it right, we call it wrong," he shrugged. "My No 1 goal is to entertain myself."

Which is, of course, precisely why he can never be a David Feherty – who might well suspect that his first priority should be the entertainment of other people. As for Peter Alliss, covering his 51st Open for the BBC, he resembles ever more closely The Oldest Member.

Naturally, he is fully aware of his status as an institution. He was getting a bit worried, in fact, by all the awards and accolades he has been receiving of late. Did everyone think he was about to "snuff it"? He scoffed. He reckoned he would get through the day all right.

Others, however, remained in the grip of foreboding. Andrew Cotter spoke of the bunkers as "graves". Scott duly found one with his 18th drive. "There it is," Sir Nick said bleakly, as the putt slipped by. "Congratulations Ernie. And Adam Scott's gonna be scarred for life."