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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Postcard from St. Andrews: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 5:27 PM

The foggy mist smothers St. Andrews and its famous finishing hole.
  • Bob Condron
  • The foggy mist smothers St. Andrews and its famous finishing hole.

By Bob Condron

St. Andrews, Scotland — OK. Here’s an idea for a government.

Put professional golfers in all the cabinet positions. Open them up for any and all interviews. Put them out front. Let ‘em mingle. Kiss babies, give speeches, talk to the Kiwanis Clubs.

There’s nobody better. There’s a gene that the good ones have. They seem to say the right thing…with meaning and with heart. Most of them can laugh. At themselves, at each other, at us.

Only at The Open ... taking a picture of a dog beside No. 18.
  • Bob Condron
  • Only at The Open ... taking a picture of a dog beside No. 18.

This morning Tom Watson and Stewart Cink set down before the assembled world press and talked about their lives and the Open. And golf. And beer.

It was informal, a give and take between the sensationalists from Fleet Street (Fergy Has the Pictures! Charles Wants Them Back!). The golden voiced radio and TV people (and noooowwww from the mist- covered links in Storied St Andrews……). The journalists who’ve covered a dozen of these. An international group.

This was a conversation. It could have taken place at a bar, or barbeque, or waiting in line at a driver’s license bureau in a shopping mall. There were no speeches, no half-dozen sound bites thrown out there for the 18-34 market. This was enjoyable, spontaneous and funny.

Cink, the defending champion of this event, talked about getting to keep the claret Jug that the winners get for a year. A reporter asked him what had gone into that famous container for a year. Cink thought… ”Let’s see. Guinness is my favorite beer. A lot of that went in there…” Then he broke into a strange Euro-type accent and mimicked the Dos Equis TV ad about the most interesting man in the world….”I usually don’t drrrrriiiinnnnink beer but WHEN I do, I drrrriiiiinnnnink…”

It just trailed off from there and then he continued in a straight face to the audience in which one person knew what he was talking about and broke into hysterical laughter (that was me as the assembled journalists looked in my direction as I pretended it was a cough gone whacko.) He continued, “The kids have had cokes. And we mixed some great barbeque sauce in it.”

Watson talked about Severiano Ballesteros, the fiery Spaniard who’s at home battling brain cancer and unable to come to this tournament he won two decades ago. Watson talked about how he had to learn to win. That after every misery, there was a silver lining … a win, an Open win. He talked about who helped him on the way up.

He laughed, he gestured, he was a redheaded guy from Kansas City who was talking to 200 of his buddies.

It was Watson, at 59 years old last year at Turnberry who bogeyed that final hole that allowed Cink to drain a 15-foot putt to win his first major and do it in The Open. Yesterday they played a practice round together … two buddies in Scotland.

Time almost stood still as the two class warriors talked and talked, reminisced and rambled, felt emotions and enjoyed the moment. You could have put a sound track to it. Something light, but with rhythm and bounce. Jimmy Buffett. Emmy Lou Harris. Creedence, maybe.

Today, Tom Watson and Stewart Cink made friends for America. Just like they do at every turn. One person at a time … for a lifetime. Multiply that by the PGA Tour, by the young and talented juniors out there who will take their places.

You can see that Cabinet meeting. Just before it gets going there’s a good degree of milling around. Groups talking, gesturing. There’s talk about how not to shank on the driving range. First tee screwups. About who has missed the shortest putt. About beer cart drivers they’ve witnessed.

Arnold Palmer is Secretary of State. The most popular athlete in history. Nicklaus, Secretary of Interior (he plans to make the United States a 3,000-mile par 2,200 with a fade drive on every hole), Lee Trevino Secretary of Treasury (because he’s taken money from everyone out there and knows how to do it.) Gary Player, Secretary of Health and Human Services. Dr. Gil Morgan, Surgeon General. On and on.

Why not? Life could be a series of birdie putts.

* * * * * * * *

Almost like a ghost, Sir Nick Faldo tees off at No. 17.
  • Bob Condron
  • Almost like a ghost, Sir Nick Faldo tees off at No. 17.

Today the elements opened up at St. Andrews. The morning began with winds that blew down fences, rain that went sideways and hurt you. Cold that made the joints hurt. Then it settled down and the fog came in. You could barely see the stands across the fairway. Somewhere you heard bagpipes…maybe. The sound didn’t travel too well.

From all of that mist around 5 o’clock came a guy playing by himself, coming down the 16th fairway with a caddy and someone else carrying an umbrella and pointing. The guy looked familiar. Big guy, big head, big nose, all dressed in black. No, it wasn’t Johnny Cash. It was Sir Nick Faldo. Home country hero batting it around before he did it for real tomorrow.

Watched him play 17, the famous crazy hole with the hotel to the right of the fairway, a 4,000-year-old brick wall to the right of the green. He stood on the tee box surrounded by people in wet windbreakers. “They said hit it at the steeple,” he said as he pointed to a steeple-less old hotel. “Somebody took the steeple,” he said as he teed it up. Hit two shots, good fades in the mist and had a short wedges to the green. Security guards directed he crowd not to follow him but go around the hotel and meet him at the green. It was AN OPEN MOMENT.

* * * * * * *

I continued down the course, towards the bay and more mist.

I found a great spot. There was not one person in the faraway stands. I could see the bay … the churning sea. I got to the top, corner where I could see three holes, a short par three, two tee boxes and several fairways. I’m going to watch this awhile, as a threesome headed to the par four nearest the bay.

I’m standing in the top corner of the stands … by myself, watching the group. I wasn’t sure where the fairway went. Couldn’t see the green for the mist. I heard them talking. One of them said, “hit it toward the guy and fade it.” Interesting.

Wait a minute. I looked all around and there was no guy … EXCEPT ME. I was the target. Damn. And for a fade. The guy lined up and … as they teach … his stance formed a parallel line to his target. That line basically formed a laser beam at my head. Whack … heard something swish a ways over my head, the sound of a bullet. Of a cracking granite wall far into a deep canyon. It was a perfect shot. Right at THE GUY, a little fade and a short iron to the green. A heck of a plan.

Good thing he didn’t hit it thin.

Bob Condron, Director of Media Services for the U.S. Olympic Committee is at The Open at St. Andrews and will continue to send his thoughts of the tournament through Sunday.

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