TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — The attendance for the second round of the British Open was estimated at 28,000 on Friday. Apparently, most of them got lost on their way to the grandstands lining the 18th green.
There was about an hour of rain in the middle of the afternoon, yet the wind pushed away the clouds when Tom Watson and Tiger Woods finished up their rounds about an hour apart.
Watson, 59, made history when he holed a 45-foot birdie putt to become the oldest player atop a major championship leaderboard. Woods failed to chip in for birdie and missed the cut in a major for only the second time in his career.
The most stunning scene of all was the sight of grandstands that were about half-full on both sides.
The Royal & Ancient said ticket sales were slightly up – there were 25,000 people at Turnberry in the second round in 1994 – but cautioned that this links course simply doesn’t hold as many spectators as St. Andrews or Royal Birkdale.
The economy played a role, too, not to mention that Turnberry is one of the few links where a train doesn’t run through town.
Even longtime coaches and agents have commented on thin galleries.
“The galleries were massive inside the ropes with our group,” said Lee Westwood, joking about the photographers covering the threesome of Westwood, Woods and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.
Still, the Englishman said it was worth coming to Turnberry every so often even if that meant a smaller crowd.
“I think the current economic climate does Turnberry no favors,” Westwood said. “I think it’s a fantastic links golf course, and it would be a shame if it wasn’t on the Open rota. It’s great to see it back.”
MY WIFE, MY CADDIE: Mark Calcavecchia’s wife, Brenda, is his caddie for the week. That’s nothing new. She has carried his bag occasionally since they first started dating in 2001, and she was his caddie the weekend before they got married in Italy.
Calcavecchia counts two victories with Brenda on the bag – the Maekyung Open and the Shark Shootout.
“She golfs,” he said. “She knows what she’s doing out there. When it started raining on 16, she said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I don’t care if I get soaked.’ So she knows that I don’t worry about her. She knows she’s got to keep the clubs dry. The bag weighed a ton today, and she’s got to be exhausted. But she’s doing great. She’s having fun.”
It isn’t always that way. Asked if he liked having her on the bag, Calcavecchia said, “Almost every time.”
He quickly clarified.
“It’s my fault. It has nothing to do with her,” he said. “When I get all (ticked) off, like at Hoylake, I ruin the whole week. When I went berserk on the back nine, I just ruined the whole week. I still feel bad about it. It’s always my fault when something doesn’t work out between us when she’s caddying. She’s nothing but positive for me out there.”
THE GAUNTLET: Daniel Gaunt made his British Open debut a memorable one.
The 30-year-old Australian, who has been chasing around the mini-tours in Europe, made it to Turnberry through local qualifying last week. He played a practice round with Tom Watson on Monday, then joined up with John Daly on Tuesday.
The best stuff came Friday, when Gaunt went through the toughest stretch at Turnberry in 2 under and wound up with a 67. It was the lowest score of the second round, and allowed him to make the cut at 3-over 143.
Gaunt hit 5-iron to the back of the eighth green and rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt, then chipped in for birdie from 30 yards short of the ninth green.
The highlight of the week might have been playing Turnberry with Watson, the ’77 champion.
“He gave me some great advice, told me to keep it low,” Gaunt said. “The way Tom played on Monday, I came home and said, ‘He’s definitely got a chance of winning.”‘
He just didn’t realize he’d still be in the game on the weekend, too.
FIT FOR LAUGHTER: Anthony Kim was studying his 35-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole when he had a brief exchange with caddie Eric Larson that caused him to laugh. Then, the 24-year-old American couldn’t stop laughing.
He backed off the birdie putt, bowed his head and tried to stop. Once he finally settled down, Kim ran his putt up the slope to about 4 feet and the giggles continued. Kim again had to back away from his 4-footer for par as he nearly reached hysterics.
Rory McIlroy couldn’t keep from smiling himself as he watched from the back of the green.
“That was funny,” McIlroy said. “I’m not sure what it was about. Anthony asked him what time it was. Maybe Eric was supposed to say it was birdie time. I don’t know. But it was funny.”
Kim never recovered from a quintuple-bogey 9 on his second hold. He shot 73 and missed the cut.
And then it was time to leave.
HEADED HOME: Ian Poulter brought the clothes, just not the game.
One day, the Union Jack was part of his vest and he shot 75. He went with a fuschia pants and shot 79. So it’s not the clothes. And it wasn’t the course, either. Nor was it the clubs.
“I hit my last good shot on the third (hole) – yesterday,” Poulter said Friday. “Seriously, there were no decent golf shots out there. If you’re going to play as bad as I played for two days, it doesn’t matter what golf course you’re playing. It could have been the easiest municipal down the road, and I would have missed the cut. It was horrible.”
“I could have had a set of spades in my bag this week and I still wouldn’t have found the middle of the greens,” he said.
LOCATION IS EVERYTHING: One clothing company has found a unique way to advertise at the British Open. Its logo is plastered on the sail of a large boat that has been cruising along the Firth of Clyde behind the ninth tee down to the 11th tee.
It’s hard to miss it.
That’s a problem for photographers, however, because that stretch is among the most popular for pictures. Along with the cliffside beauty, they often capture the image of players with the Ailsa Craig and Turnberry Lighthouse – sometimes both – in the background.
“Why would I want a photo of that?” one photographer said, packing up his gear and looking for a better spot.
DIVOTS: John Daly had a 72 and was at even-par 140, making the cut in a major for the first time since Southern Hills two years at the PGA Championship. … The last time Tom Watson had a share of the 36-hole lead was the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He slept on that lead for seven months, for rain forced it to be finished in August. Watson wound up in a tie for ninth.