One of the most vital ingredients for a productive Open is decent accommodation that provides a restful night and a place to relax. That's why Tiger Woods is staying on the Sandwich Bay Estate in a luxurious dwelling called the White House, costing goodness knows how many tens of thousands of pounds for the duration. (As long ago as 1993, the former Tory Minister, Jonathan Aitken, rented out his own house in the area for £12,000 for four days, in the era before he impaled himself on his trusty sword of truth and then sold the gaff).
That's why Mike Weir has got himself a place a decent distance from the course. When the Canadian played in his first Open, at Carnoustie four years ago, he was last out in the second round with a 4.00pm tee-off time, but the announcer on the first tee had him out of bed at 6.30am. "I could hear the microphone all day for seven hours straight." And that's why Greg Norman has eschewed the luxury of a private yacht to stay in a house on dry land. It had been rumoured that he was billeted aboard an £80m boat, complete with helipad, in Ramsgate harbour. His manager assures us he's on dry land but stopped short of saying why. Perhaps it was the lack of exclusivity in Ramsgate. "To be honest," said the harbourmaster's office yesterday, "I don't know if there's an £80m yacht here or not. We get so many of them these days, it's hard to tell who owns what."
Not all the hazards at Royal St George's are to be found on the course. On Tuesday, after the Association of Golf Writers' dinner - the most prestigious social occasion of the week - The Independent party was making its way soberly to the car park when a terrible fate befell one member.
"This is the way," said Peter Corrigan, the Independent on Sunday's esteemed columnist, making for the headlights in the distance. Suddenly he pitched headlong into a deep ditch full of dank and slimy water.
"We started laughing because we thought he'd be up to his ankles in the water," Richard Dixon, the secretary of the Welsh Golfing Union, said. "When we looked over the edge, he was practically under it."
After Dixon had lent a hand, literally, to facilitate a rescue, the pair were dismayed to discover their taxi driver would not allow a soaking journalist in his vehicle without protection for his upholstery. Dixon was thus required to remove his shirt to use as a seat cover.
The ditch in question has claimed victims before, most notably in 1993 when Bev Norwood, a vice-president of the IMG management group, took a seriously soggy tumble. After that incident it had been anticipated that a warning light would be placed next to the ditch at night. "We warned [Royal St George's] to illuminate it," a security worker said yesterday. "Maybe they'll actually do it now."
"I've been trying to complain about the incident," Corrigan said. "But every time I explain it to someone in authority, they fall about laughing."
Peter Dawson, the secretary of the Royal & Ancient, has nailed his colours to the mast on the subject of who he hopes will win here. Someone from Japan. "Ten years ago Greg Norman won the Open here," he told a gathering of Japanese media yesterday at a press conference featuring several of that country's players. "That was the last time a previous winner won. Ever since, we've had first-time winners. It would be good to see another first-time winner this year, and this time from Japan." A murmur of approval rippled round the room, punctuated only by a whisper from a representative of a Tokyo TV station. "He says that about everyone, I suppose." Surely not.
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