The Open 2011 – Royal St George’s, Sandwich

• 3 August 2011 •

‘Horn in Sandwich’

Having sampled my first Open last year at St Andrews, I couldn’t wait to get down to Kent and take in the whole atmosphere all over again. The Open has a special feel, like the Masters…you just feel you are about to witness something amazing!

We decided to attend on the Tuesday and Wednesday (the business days of a tournament) , it’s always best to go early on in the week if you plan to get anything done. I began by going to meet the guys from PGA Tour Network. Matt Adams has interviewed me several times over the phone Stateside but this was a great chance to finally meet him. The interview was set up in the media tent, which was pretty handy as this ‘tent’ is fascinating; it’s like NASA at the launch of Apollo 13…a hive of activity. Hundreds of TV screens, radio stations, desks, copiers…immense! After a great interview with the lovely Matt Adams, a hello to Chubby and Jay Townsend I scooted over to the range in search of the Wilson tour bus.

The driving range as always at big events looks pretty surreal. There you are standing feet away from some of the World’s top players all lined up whacking balls. The ball striking is just unbelievable! Wilson had claimed a spot on the right hand side of the driving range, so after checking Bubba wasn’t teeing it up I made a run for it!

The new Wilson tour bus is a pretty impressive piece of kit, all the club fitting gadgets you could ask for, an espresso machine and wait for it…Sky Sports plus leather sofas…sweet! The gents from equipio met me in the tour bus to run through ‘what’s in my bag’…which you can all check out on their website.
Phil (Wilson’s golf club guru) was just putting the finish touches on Paul Lawrie’s wedges…changing a millimeter here and there. After having a nice chat about how I need to slightly alter the lie on my FG62’s, Paul came across to collect his clubs, a few tweaks and giggles about Padraig’s flat cap and he was off out into the gorgeous wind and rain.

So let’s see, what else did I do? Without boring you too much, next was to the Bollinger tent for another interview with Playboy radio, it’s only fair I tried it out so I can give you an honest opinion…the champagne I mean!

This tournament really is one of the biggest in golf and you can feel the excitement bouncing around the course even during the practice days. By 5pm, it was freezing and I made a break back to my hotel in the chic Ramsgate!

You always hear people asking ‘Who do you think is going to win?’ but you really can’t call the Open! It’s always such a tricky course and usually pretty tedious conditions with a touch of form and luck it’s anyone’s!

I had to leave on the Wednesday to attend a dinner at the Waterside (gorgeous restaurant so it was a pretty good swap). Four memorable days of golf followed, what a great week for the game! The weather wasn’t ideal for golfers or fans, but the fact play continued through the wind and rain made it all the more captivating. I just love links golf, it’s a different game to the pristine, still courses in the US, the bounces and roles, the bumps and weather make it so different and some players adapt better than others. I’m simply dying to get onto a links after watching, I’ll of course be going out with great expectations having watched all the inspiring shots on the box!

Rory McIlroy struggled around the course on the first couple of days showing glimmers of his incredible talent. The weather and expectation on his shoulders can’t have helped his bid to win two consecutive majors. Ricky Fowler put on a sterling performance which lit up this Kent sky, nearly as much as his outfits. The young American put himself right in contention. The Open surprisingly got the better of some of the World’s top players like Westwood, Donald and Poulter who all failed to make the cut. Amateur golfer Tom Lewis was the talk of the tournament as he carded a 5 under par 65 to tie for the lead on day one. He’s definitely one to watch (unfortunately he’s a little young for me ;)). Sergio also put on a great display after rediscovering his putter. The Spanish golfer’s ball striking is pretty immense at the moment! With lots of chopping and changing at the top of the leader board and a great surge from Phil Mickelson, one man finally reigned supreme after 20 attempts. Darren Clarke was crowned the Open champion 2011. It’s not too often golf brings a tear to my eye, but after seeing Darren lift the Claret Jug, listening to his speech and watching the warm ovation, the water works were well and truly switched on, I’ve only just managed to fix my panda eyes so that I can finish writing this blog.

I would love to see Clarke win more and more tournaments (I’m not sure his sponsor Dunlop would agree having contracted to pay £2m for every major title he wins!). Maybe this is his time, but there’s no doubt that young McIlroy will be hot on his tail with his first Major win safely under his Irish belt. Golf is getting better and better as the weeks go by, the sport is on a big high and it’s thanks to the characters and talent out on the tours.