SOUTHPORT, England — Wimbledon has Henman Hill, the slope outside Centre Court where English fans rooted for Tim Henman to become the first Brit since 1936 to win the title at the All England Club. Churchill Downs has the famous infield, where drunken college kids from Louisville and Lexington pound mint juleps before "the most exciting two minutes in sports."
The area just to the right of the first tee at Royal Birkdale doesn’t have a name, but it should. With a massive television, a row of concession stands and a sea of picnic tables, it’s the perfect place to soak up the Open atmosphere.
For £6.75 (about $13.50) you can get a monstrous portion of fish and chips, which you should douse liberally with malt vinegar, as tradition dictates. Another £3.50 will get you a pint of John Smith’s Extra Smooth beer and £4.20 a mini bottle of Hardy’s Stamp Shiraz. If you really need to warm up, £2.90 will get you a shot of Famous Grouse whiskey.
But what makes the area so interesting are the conversations you’ll hear, because here, even the 20-somethings who look like soccer hooligans — complete with shaved heads, bad teeth and brogues thicker than stew — know about golf.
To my left, one such lad named Stevie was having a lively conversation with two of his mates. "If Furyk moves up two spots, I’m good for 200 quid," he said, holding a Ladbrokes ticket in his hand.
A few minutes later, when K.J. Choi was playing the fourth hole on the jumbotron, he said, "I thought that his surname was Choiforbirdie. Because every time they flash to him on the TV they say, ‘Here is K.J. Choiforbirdie.’"
One of his friends, Michael, who also had a freshly-shaved head, nearly genuflected when Greg Norman’s image flashed on the screen. "That’s a legend right there lads, that’s a legend."