THE 126th OPEN: Troon Talk

Runaway on the Railway
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The Independent Online
The ill-wind which blew hard on Troon's back nine on Thursday broke a few hearts - and a few wallets. The London-based spread betting specialists, Sporting Index, had gauged before the Open that the notorious Railway hole, the 463-yard 11th would inflict damage on the professionals.

Offering six points for a double-bogey, seven for a triple and so on, Sporting Index put their spread for the field, for the entire four days at between 170 and 180 points. On Thursday the professional ranks were seemingly crushed on the 11th with 219 points of bad play scored just that day. And the cost to the betting firm? Wally (honest, that's his first name) Pyrah of SI said: "The boys in the office are not at all happy. It was our fourth worst day ever and we lost pounds 150,000 just on that hole. This was one we got completely wrong." The spread has now been moved for all new bets to between 455 and 475.

The other sporting disasters, just for the record, were Brian Lara's record innings and the New Zealand All Blacks crushing of Japan 142-18 and a complex equation of goalscorers at a Newcastle-Liverpool match. Mr Pyrah claimed his company have now renamed the 11th `The Railway to Hell'.

R&A ko USGA OK

Does the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrew's bear a grudge? Do they seek revenge for impertinence which challenges their omniscient authority? This week was their chance to show if they did. During this year's US Open, American television carried a promotional advertisement for the United States Golf Association, the R&A's opposite number across the Atlantic. The USGA ad proudly proclaimed: "We are not the home of golf, but we've been the game's legal guardian for over 100 years."

Ex-pat Scots golfers watching their screens inundated the network TV company with complaints: have the Yanks gone completely mad? Surely the R&A and the old town of St Andrew's were the historical guardians... Shouts of heresy were surely heard.

So was revenge being planned this week at Troon? The calm and cool Mr Secretary of the R&A, Michael Bonallack, would merely say: "Well, they are the legal guardians... for America". But he would have no talk of placing usurpers in their place. He told the diary: "We saw that advert, it didn't bother us. Quite simply we make decisions independently of each other and we also work closely together." So will there be a British advert to plug the R&A? One Troon insider commented: "Does God take TV ads to plug the Ten Commandments?"

Your round, No 1 in the bar

Who will be the world No 1 after this week? Here are the official permutations: if Colin Montgomerie wins and Tiger Woods is not in the top five, Monty goes top, providing Greg Norman stays out of the top two. Norman goes top if he wins and Woods stays out of the top four.

However, over strong malts in the clubhouse smoke-room, a few members calculated their own rankings. Here are their permutations, unofficially of course. "Malcolm here becomes world No 1 if all professionals retire after Troon and he mysteriously breaks 100 and turns pro." Howls of laughter and a further round of drinks ordered.

QUOTES OF THE DAY

n My caddie Billy Foster has joined me after a stupid row last year and we're getting on very well. Darren Clarke reveals the secret of his nine-under-par 133.

n I was sent out to get the fish and chips last night, and he had one beer. Andrew Chandler, Clarke's manager.

n I'm mad at myself and my caddie. Tom Lehman, the defending champion, on the ball-marker blunder that cost him a two-shot penalty.

n It doesn't matter now if I finish last - just being out there for the experience is enough. The crowds are fantastic. Even if you tapped in a 12-inch putt they applauded. Barclay Howard, the Scottish amateur, enjoys his Open debut at the age of 44.

n I had two bad holes at the wrong times. I still love the course, though. I love being able to play creatively. Tiger Woods, the world's No 1 and 13 shots off the lead.

n It's a very maddening game. It drives me mad all the time. It is definitely a tough game to do for a living. Jesper Parnevik.

n You're here to take pictures of golf and nothing else. I'll get you thrown out. Nick Faldo, unhappy with a photograher's interest in his girlfriend.

THE NUMBERS GAME

8 The shots it took Tiger Woods to master the par-four 10th hole.

35 The feet covered by Scottish amateur Barclay Howard's putt before it sank home on the fifth.

3 The Swedes who have holed in one so far -Dennis Edlund, Daniel Olsson and Pierre Fulke.

15 The improvement in Keith Eriksson's score over his first-round 85.

4 The players who did not start the second round - Ian Baker-Finch, Chris Perry, Yosh-inori Kaneko and Joe Ozaki.

TV TIMES

TODAY: Live coverage: BBC1: 1.05pm-5.10pm in Grandstand (except for coverage of 1.30, 2.0 and 2.30 races from Newbury). BBC2: 5-7pm. Highlights: BBC2: 9pm-9.40.

TOMORROW: Live Coverage: BBC2: 1pm-6.45pm.

Highlights: BBC2: 8.50-9.30pm.

WEATHER FORECAST

Morning calm but in afternoon north-west sea breeze will reach 15mph. Sunny periods, temperatures up to 20C.

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