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The Open/First Round

Going to an event on the first day always generates an exciting anticipation on me.

As I made my way on foot my mind went back to 1993 when  my father and I witnessed Greg Norman – so often the gallant loser – win the claret jug in a field where the top twelve were or became Major winners.

Then, going back in time, remembering dear old Harry Bradshaw’s ball landing in a bottle and unsure of the rules he blasted it out – bottle and all – and went on to lose the play-off with Bobby Locke.

Ben Curtis played the course for the first time and won.  He was 750-1 to win.  Pargie would have liked to be on that!

Popular 14 stone bon viveur Darren Clarke was the last British winner here.

It was a pleasant stroll through the picturesque town of Sandwich over meadows and down to the sea joined by other enthusiasts including Matt Fitzpatrick equally excited.

There was the normal paraphernalia  entering first passing the COVID checks and then finding the ticket on the app.

Once inside, the tented village had shrunk replaced by an enormous shop.

The governance of the Open is curious as the venue club itself makes little input but accepts the Open conditions imposed from on high by the R&A (Royal and Ancient).

Nor, according to mine host at the New Inn, do the good people of Sandwich who – because of the pandemic and one cancellation – are so grateful learn too much how the Open will operate.

Once inside the course I found it well organised with more marshals than early spectators.

The groups of three leave at 5 minute intervals. I took up a position in the temporary stand behind the second green which enabled me to see the players take on the dog leg of the hole to a sloping green.

You really notice the undulations of the fairway and the penal rough which makes accuracy vital even though the ball can bounce anywhere and your stance is affected by the slope.

The crowd were knowledgeable and polite. Courtesy is so enshrined in golf with expressions like “it’s your honour”.

Unlike the final of the Euros there was always decency and respect. Unlike Wimbledon there was no partiality though Rory, now 7 years without a Major win, is still the most popular.

I was also pleased that two of my picks – Louis Oosthuizen and Jordan Spieth – were respectively first and second.

Still a long way to go though.

I met up with an old friend who was a former club captain of Royal St George’s, as was his father.

He is an entertaining quaffer and I was more than happy to watch the action unfurl on the big screen as we drank champagne.

It was by far the most entertaining event I have enjoyed since restrictions were eased.

In the great Rust debate of attendance v TV I was in the former camp.

On previous Opens I took a radio to follow but leaderboards were on every green and it was easy to follow Brian Harman’s excellent round beginning with three opening birdies.

The wind got up in the afternoon and although the cameras followed Rory it was Tommy Fleetwood who mastered them best.

About John Pargiter

John Pargiter’s biggest claim to fame is his first-ever work experience job, as ‘legs’ (or runner) for Henry Longhurst. For many years he worked in insurance at Lloyds. After retiring he has returned to his favourite sport of golf and is a keen recreational sailor and grandparent. More Posts