The Open Championship Blog offers a look behind the scenes of one of the world’s most recognisable sporting events. Written by R&A staff members and people behind golf’s oldest Major, it documents, first-hand, the year-round work that goes into the successful staging of a Major Championship.
Ian Pattinson, Rules of Golf advisor for the BBC this year, talks about his first few days on the job.
Every Referee on the course (there are 72 from 18 countries) keeps a record of the time taken by his or her group for each hole, the cumulative time for the round (against a ‘time par’) and any rulings given. Some referees also keep a score, although there is no requirement to do this. At the end of each round the Referees return their rules decisions record to David Rickman (Director of Rules and Equipment Standards for The R&A) and there is a short de-briefing so that any issues or trends that might be relevant to the day – or might be helpful in the planning for the next day — can be discussed.
Each evening after play ends, Shona McRae of The R&A’s Rules team analyses the rules decisions and prepares a summary to help the referees know what to look out for the next day. First thing each day, I collect a copy of this from the Rules office to give me a heads up.
In the first round, about a quarter of the 56 walking referees gave no rulings. The analysis shows that the rest gave a wide selection of other rulings. Free drops away from Temporary Immovable Obstructions (e.g. TV towers, grandstands etc) were taken by less than ten golfers. The summary for round two tells a different story, with nearly 40 rulings given for casual water – many in bunkers.
There has been a lot of interest in the water in the bunkers. We take the view that the Championship can properly be played under the Rules of Golf and that where there is casual water in bunkers there is somewhere in the sand to drop without penalty which is not nearer the hole. So far I haven’t heard of anyone having to drop outside a bunker under a one stroke penalty.
Another tell-tale sign of the benign conditions has been the fact that in two days, 156 golfers have played 5,616 holes and there have been less than twenty unplayable balls. As I am a bit of a hoarder of rules stuff, I have the records of the rulings going back to the 1995 Open and can see that unplayable balls were easily the most often “popular” rulings given in both the ’96 and ’01 Lytham Opens.
Friday was a quiet day for me in the BBC commentary position but I can always find plenty to do. There is a breakout room with newspapers (and of course a TV), fridges with cold (soft!) drinks and I really like to catch up on some of the press material I collect each day from the Media Centre. In just a few days, I have also become an avid fan of the new Decisions on the Rules of Golf App, which my colleague Donald Turner (who does the same job as me for the ESPN network) told me was brilliant – he’s right!
As play during round two progressed we also had visits from Louis Oosthuizen, Championship leader Brandt Snedeker as well as world number one Luke Donald — Luke and I actually attended the same school (30 years apart!)
So the story so far on the golf course is lots of birdies and no wind. An Open with no wind? Saturday promises to be another calm day, but wait for Sunday. That will sort them out and keep the Referees on their toes.
The Open from the Air — Kristina Shalhoup talks about her experience accompanying a photographer on a flight over Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Looking down on The Open Championship from the air is a surreal experience. Such a massive event with so many thousands of spectators, huge white marquees in the tented village and swathes of green fairways all suddenly look very small indeed.
I jumped at the opportunity to make my first flight in a helicopter with a photographer who was taking aerial shots of Royal Lytham and St Annes in the midst of staging golf’s oldest major championship.
I have flown in a small plane before but taking off in a helicopter is completely different. Instead of the gradual increase of speed before ascending from the runway there was a sharp vertical rise which felt almost as if a giant hand had suddenly lifted me from the ground.
Once we were in the air above Blackpool Airport everything seemed to move very quickly at first and then very slowly.
Within a few minutes the large green rectangle of the famous old links surrounded by red brick housing and the railway line homed in to view. The photographer was harnessed in to enable him to shoot out of the open door of the helicopter and I sat next to him. He switched between the three cameras he had with him to take shots using different lenses. The helicopter slowed right down as we hovered in various positions to capture the course from the best angles.
It was amazing to see how many people there were on the ground below us, many with golf umbrellas, but they looked more like a sea of ants carrying small coloured circles. There were more than 40,000 people at the Championship and yet it looked like a board game with lots of different pieces that could be moved around. It all seemed so compact compared to the big expanse of land that it actually is.
I was enjoying the amazing views but with the open door and the hovering I was also feeling a little uncomfortable. After we took off the photographer told me that he had deliberately not eaten lunch beforehand in case it was a rocky flight. I wish he had told me that! I had enjoyed a nice lunch about one hour earlier and my stomach was starting to show signs of wishing it was back on terra firma.
There were still shots to be done though so the helicopter circled the course once, then twice and then a final time. The photographer was determined to take a shot down the length of the course and finally he got it from the right angle to produce a wonderful shot which brought the whole course into the frame.
Then all of a sudden the helicopter banked and turned and we were speeding back to the airport. The whole flight lasted only around 25 minutes but it felt as if we had been in the air for much longer. We came back in with a smooth landing and in no time at all I was on the ground again.
I could definitely get used to travelling like that but not straight after lunch the next time!
Ian Pattinson looks back on his first day as Rules of Golf Advisor to the BBC
Well so far so good – the first day of The Open here at Royal Lytham has been really successful for the staging of the Championship. After the shocking summer we have had so far, Peter Dawson will have been really pleased that the rain did not make an appearance until nearly 6 p.m. A day that could have produced difficult playing conditions in fact resulted in a lot of sub-par golf, particularly in the first half of the day with hardly even a one club wind as the day progressed. We even had the tantalising prospect, however fleeting, that we might see the first 62 in a Major when Adam Scott needed a birdie at the last hole to achieve that milestone. He bogeyed the hole, but -6 is still a heck of a score on a course that Graeme McDowell would later describe as a “sleeping giant.”
When there are lots of birdies the rules officials are usually quiet. We all expected to be busy considering what might and might not amount to “abnormal ground conditions” (Rule 25-1) and where in wet bunkers the players might be able to drop the ball without penalty. I don’t think the busy day really materialised.
The BBC commentary position this year is close by the practice putting green. We are in the purpose built state-of- the- art- spaceship-like vehicle which houses two or three commentators at any one time and half a dozen or so others, who make everything work. My morning was quiet but I was happy to get used to the atmosphere and, say hello to the team that were absent from the BBC Rules briefing given by David Rickman, R&A Director of Rules and Equipment Standards. At the briefing Peter Alliss and Wayne Grady took the opportunity to tell us what parts of the Rules of Golf should be changed!
I got myself settled behind my TV monitor with all my papers and books in exactly the right place. Inevitably, as there is never time to refer to them when a query arises, they are positioned for reassurance rather than anything else!
The first time I was called upon – by Wayne Grady – we could see Phil Mickelson and some others on their hands and knees scrabbling in the thick rough above a bunker on the 8th hole searching for Phil’s ball, which he had just played from the sand. “What happens if it is moved in the search?” asked Wayne. “ It’s a one stroke penalty if Phil moves it, of course, and the ball must be replaced. If someone else moves it then Phil gets to replace it without penalty (Rule 18-2.) When the ball was found, I could hear Phil asking for a free drop as he thought the ball was embedded but Paul Carrigill from the PGA European Tour, who was the referee with the group, knew that the Local Rule that Phil asked about – embedded ball through the green — is not in play this week. I explained that to the viewers, as Phil decided to take a penalty drop (Rule 28.)
The space-ship doubled as a studio and Paul Lawrie and later Graeme McDowell were interviewed by Hazel Irvine. They both seemed to know Hazel and the rapport she created with them was good. Hazel is great and knows exactly how to ask the right questions.
Tony Jacklin has been a new addition to the commentary team this year. Tony has been finding it hard to fathom the distance the ball is being hit by the top players. As a former Chairman of the R&A’s Equipment Standards Committee I know there are lots of reasons for this – it is not just about the clubs and balls – the golfers are much stronger and more athletic than they use to be — but this is not the time to point this out!
I obtained some information about the greens that I thought Wayne would find useful. I passed him a note to say the greens were cut at 3.25 and are running at 10.5 inches on the “stimpmeter” which measures green speed. Unfortunately my message was not clear enough, as Wayne announced that the greens were cut at 3.25 a.m., rather than at 3.25 millimetres!
In addition to watching the golf, I spend some time looking at the final amendments to the Additional Local Rules. I also had a couple of visits myself including one from my first Cambridge University golf Captain, Charles Harrison, who is now Chairman of the Golf Foundation, an organisation which is 60 this year. It does a great job and will provide an introduction to golf to 1 million children in 2012.
Peter Alliss had a couple of on-air queries for me – one involving handicapping, which is not exactly my specialist subject. The last questions I was asked about followed the unfortunate incident (for both concerned) when Rory McIlroy’s drive bounced out of bounds after a full pitch onto a spectator’s head. Fortunately the injury was less serious than one might have thought.
After the huge rainstorms overnight, many of the bunkers are very wet this morning, so round two could see quite a few balls semi submerged in the sand. I hope there will be room for these balls to be dropped in the bunkers without penalty rather than outside under a penalty of one stroke.
We have a cracking leader board today, so let’s look forward to another great day’s golf.
This week Ian Pattinson will be working as Rules of Golf Advisor to the BBC and discussed his role in with TheOpen.com
Hello everyone, I am Ian Pattinson and my role during Open Championship week is to act as Rules of Golf Advisor to the BBC. I sit in the BBC commentary box on behalf of The R&A and give information to the TV commentators and any Rules of Golf (RoG) analysis that might be useful to you the viewer.
This will be my ninth straight Open in this role. Prior to that, I was a Rules official on the course for nine years. This is my 18th consecutive Open “inside the ropes” and, in different ways, I have really enjoyed every one.
The members of the commentary team are all experts but it was decided to include someone with specialist rules knowledge for the first time in 2004 to give viewers a more accurate commentary from a RoG perspective.
The commentators usually work in pairs and one of them changes every 45 minutes or so, but I work on my own with them and whenever play is being broadcast I am usually there to answer their queries off air or sometimes to give a short commentary on what is happening when a rules incident is being shown on screen.
Each group of two or three players will be accompanied by a walking rules official, whose job it is to give any of the players in the group a ruling — or perhaps advise them that they are playing too slowly and are in danger of being put “on the clock!” If the referee on the spot is unsure of a ruling, one of the “rules rovers,” who are more senior referees will arrive by buggy to assist.
In the days before The Open begins, the referees, like the players, arrive early to familiarise themselves with the golf course. In the Masters Tournament and the PGA Championship, the rules officials have “static” positions and cover one hole (or part of a hole) every day. Open Championship referees have to know the whole course as they accompany the players on their round and make any rulings as they arise. There is a referees’ meeting on Wednesday followed by an organised course walk when the course will be reviewed purely from a RoG perspective and we will all try to anticipate what might happen in potential rules “hot spots” on various holes.
I have already walked the course twice this week and it is in magnificent condition. Obviously, with all the rain that is washing through our British summer, it is greener than any Open course of recent years. Unless we get really warm sun quite soon, it seems unlikely that we will have the fast running links to which Peter Dawson (R&A Chief Executive) always aspires. If the magnificent greens’ staff manage to keep the bunkers from being submerged by the rain, that will be a triumph!
I was at both the last two Lytham Opens as a referee and it is one of my favourite Open venues. It has an intimate feel to it and the site is very compact. This sometimes mean more rulings as the grandstands and TV towers can come into play more, especially when the wind blows. That will make the referees very busy!
I am technically designated as a rules official this week and although I won’t give any rulings on the course, I also act as an extra pair of eyes as I try to follow what you the viewers are watching. If I see anything untoward (which has rarely happened) I will call David Rickman, the R&A’s Director of Rules and Equipment Standards. If necessary I ask the BBC to re-run the tapes so David and I can review them together before a decision is made as to whether something needs further investigation.
As with the commentators I wear headphones all the time, this enables me not only to listen to the programme sound but also producer Paul Davies, who as well as telling us all what we are going to see next, feeds lots of useful information and instructions to the commentary team — he is definitely the boss! In addition, Mat and Jo who make everything work in the “comm box” ensure that I also get access to the rules radio channel so I can hear the referees talking to each other, the rules rovers, David Rickman and occasionally Jim McArthur, who is Chairman of the Championship Committee. It sounds complicated but it is really just like being in a room and listening to four or five conversations all at once.
Apart from my Rule book and all the other reference material that I rarely have a chance to consult properly, my only other piece of kit is a lip “mike” which only works in a vertical position so most of the time it is face down on the desk.
Contrary to what some of my refereeing colleagues on the course think, I am not sitting in front of a bank of screens, watching their every move. The producer chooses from his selection what to use and the commentary team just see the one picture, which is the same as the one appearing on your screen at home. Once in a while I will get a few seconds warning that we are going to cut to a televised rules incident and all of a sudden, in a kind of out of body experience, I am picking up the “mike” hoping to add something useful to what the viewers can see. Obviously it can be a bit nerve racking as I may have been sitting there for a long time wondering if anything is going to happen. I try not to think how many people may be listening!
Some golfers find aspects of the Rules complicated and of course in The Open we have a lot of additional Local Rules which are specific to the Championship. For example the Temporary Immovable Instruction (TIO) Rule we use for grandstands, leader boards and TV towers and the special rule we have for giving free drops away from the metal fencing which is used for safety purposes. My job is to try to explain these accurately but in a way that my mother-in-law (who doesn’t play golf) will understand!
Over the years I have been really fortunate to referee in all four Majors, but for me, The Open Championship represents the purest form of this great game and it remains my favourite, without doubt. It’s not long now before Ivor Robson calls everyone to order and Barry Lane hits the first tee shot. I for one can’t wait. Let’s hope we all enjoy a great Open.
Michael Hoey blogs about his first Open Championship experience as an amateur back in 2001 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. He also looks ahead to this year’s Championship, his first Major as a professional.
It has been a long 11 years since my first and only Open experience. I had just won The Amateur Championship at Prestwick a few months before and so was given an invite to The Open and to The Masters. I was so excited to get to play in these huge events; it was such a treat and something I’d been dreaming of since I was a young boy. To get to warm up and play alongside boyhood heroes was a fantastic feeling. When they addressed you by name it was just surreal!
I was also invited to compete in Scottish Open, the week before The Open, following my win at The Amateur Championship. I finished 11th at Loch Lomond, shooting a 64 in the final round. I was really confident about my game and was determined to make it as a pro. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to keep the prize money on that occasion!
On the Sunday night, I drove straight down from Glasgow to Lytham together with my brother, who caddied for me at The Open, and my friend Johnny. I was so excited to get to play the course, and to be walking inside the ropes, and with a few people watching, the practice rounds on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were a great introduction.
I had played the Lytham Trophy as an amateur and knew the course pretty well. There is a premium on hitting fairways, avoiding the deep greenside bunkers and controlling the ball in the wind. It’s not the longest of Open venues but is probably one of the tightest. It’s a really tough test especially when your first hole can be a 2-iron par-3 into the wind.
I remember watching Tiger play a few practice holes in 2001, when he held three Majors out of the four and I even practiced on the same bit of range as he did, comparing my divot marks to his. Obviously, he was dominating at the time but I think world golf is more interesting now, both because the overall standard has improved and the World Number 1 position continues to change on an almost weekly basis; Tiger making a comeback just adds to the excitement.
The Open Championship has always been my favourite Major. I grew up watching it on TV with my parents and to trying to reenact it on the links courses I played as a child – Portrush, Castlerock and all the other famous Irish Links courses. I was delighted to see Darren Clarke fulfill his potential and win last year’s event at Royal St George’s. I was sitting in a hotel room cheering him on, I’m sure the folks in the room beside wondered what was going on! Controlling your ball in tough conditions, like on the Sunday last year, is what makes The Open such a great event and Darren did it brilliantly.
I have had to improve my swing, strategy and short game to become more consistent for the weekly tournaments on the European Tour. It’s been a tough road and has taken me a lot longer to establish myself as a Tour professional than it did for some of my Walker Cup Teammates like Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell. However, because it took a while, I think it’s given me a greater sense of appreciation in some ways. It has been a tough journey, and I’ve struggled financially at times, but it’s made me the professional I am today.
I’m hoping I play well on the links again, like I did at the Dunhill Links Championship in October last year around three of my favourite courses – St Andrews, Kingsbarnes and Carnoustie.
In preparing for The Open this year, I’ve decided to skip the Scottish Open in Inverness the week before, and to come home to rest and practice instead. I’m going to play three big events in a row just before and I didn’t want to have played too much golf before The Open.
In 2001 the conditions at Lytham were tough for the first two days. I was two over par for the first round and hovering around the cut. Unfortunately, in the second round, I got stuck in a bunker on the 6th, a par 5, and was perhaps a little too aggressive with my strategy. The resulting double bogey cost me the chance to make the weekend.
To get to play alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez and Justin Leonard (a past champion) was a great draw for me. I remember Justin holed a 60 yard bunker shot for eagle on the 6th hole and the crowd went wild. Miguel ended up finishing in a tie for third behind David Duval. The crowds are huge at The Open, but also really knowledgeable so it’s such a pleasure to play in front of such people. I am really looking forward to the experience again this year.
Only a few days remain before the 2012 Open Championship and I am excited already as it will be my first Major as a professional. Maybe it’s fitting that I get to play my first Major as a professional on the course where my dreams came true as an amateur. I’m looking forward to it anyway, and hoping to do well.
With just 3 weeks to go until the 2012 Open Championship gets under way, Grant Smith — R&A Construction Officer, gives a behind the scenes take on the monumental work that goes into staging Golf’s oldest Major, and how preparations are going at Lytham.
Well, here we are back at Royal Lytham and St. Annes for the first time since 2001 and, since the last Open here, there have been many changes made to the way golf’s oldest Major is presented.
My team and I have been on site since November preparing the infrastructure that is necessary to stage The Open. To help the various contractors with the build we have created a new compound which now houses all the temporary accommodation cabins and equipment containers.
This provides an operational base for everybody involved in the staging of the Championship (and a home for me). Some of the work involved this year included the installation of a new fibre network that saw 16 km of cable being installed round the course. This carries all the data and communication signals vital to the operation of an event of this size, as well as helping to beam the TV pictures to the millions of viewers worldwide.
To help movement around the course, a new internal tarmac road was laid which is proving invaluable when it comes to accessing the tented villages and also keeps traffic off the surrounding streets. One of the largest changes this year is the use of an off-site facility to accept the constant supply of vehicle deliveries to Royal Lytham and St. Annes. This is a massive logistical operation and has been implemented by The R&A championship department to handle the hundreds of truckloads of, well everything from temporary offices and toilets to the food and drink enjoyed by the many spectators. It also acts as a base for the new logistics team which work closely with us to keep everything moving as it should be.
This year we have some 20,000 grandstand seats being erected which will help spectators enjoy a fantastic view of each day’s play. This work began in late April and will be complete by early July, which allows the screening of structures to be completed and our yellow leader boards to be built, giving the 18th arena that iconic Open look.
As I write this blog, the first of over 20,000 square metres of tentage is being erected to accommodate spectators and guests alike at Royal Lytham. The first of these structures is the Media Centre which is used by the world’s press to report on all the action at The Open and it alone takes some weeks to be built by various contractors.
At this time of year everyone comes together to help deliver golf’s most prestigious event and this is only achieved by hard work and a great team spirit which makes The Open build feel like a family affair. As the weeks pass, the buzz around here will only increase with the arrival of equipment and people. This culminates with the appearance of the TV crews from around the world all looking to find that perfect location for their cameras just in time for play to begin.
As the Championship draws nearer, we will see the days being taken up by a variety of tasks, from roping spectator routes to ensuring the tented village is in pristine condition. This year, within the tented village, we will be working with the head Greenkeeper to re-create the famous Road Hole bunker from the 17th at St. Andrews, and during the Championship visitors will be able to test their skills to see if they can get out of it.
That’s just one of the tasks ahead of us so, with the weather set fair, for the time being at least, I had better to get back to work.
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With less than 150 days to go until the start of this year’s Open Championship, Rhodri Price, The R&A’s Director – Championship Operations, looks at the work that has already gone into making sure players, spectators and viewers enjoy a world class sporting event this July…
We are now well into February and plans across all aspects of this year’s Open Championship are already at an advanced stage. Prior to Christmas, the Championship Department were on the ground as a group to ensure that all operational and staging aspects of the Championship were progressing and any problem areas identified. The whole spectator and competitor experience was covered by looking at the annual requirements for car parking, rail travel, access onto the golf course, facilities within the tented village and movement on and around the golf course. Having the whole team together gave us the opportunity to sign off on infrastructure locations, not just for the tented village but also for television camera positions, grandstand locations and scoreboards – each trying not to get in the others way! Our trip before Christmas also provided us with the opportunity to start firming up on various public catering areas and facilities for spectators who will, on any one day, reach 40,000.
There are a number of aspects of The Open Championship which are consistent each year. However, planning an event which changes venue annually does raise unique obstacles and challenges. Lytham itself is a great viewing course with holes which run together, providing spectators with plenty of golf to watch from any one area at any particular time. The greatest challenge this year is that, in the last 11 years, The Open Championship has grown in almost all aspects, while the site at Lytham has remained the same in size! The challenges faced by the Championship team last year at Royal St George’s, a site covering an enormous area of ground with plenty of space to fit our infrastructure, are very different to Royal Lytham & St Annes, a course whose perimeter is restricted by housing and a railway line.
2011 saw us raise our game with regard to spectator experience by introducing an interactive Golf Zone within the Tented Village. A tented area, which several months before had been a field full of sheep, became an alternative facility for all ages to learn more about the course, equipment and the history of the game. For those of you who attended, you will also have noticed the big hole in the ground that was dug in an attempt to replicate the Road bunker at St Andrews –a hazard which most, if not all, who visited the HSBC Golf Zone attempted to extracate themselves from.
The last few years have seen The Open remain at the forefront of technology, not only through television and media but also for spectators. This year will see 20km of fibre optic cable dug in under the golf course in a spider’s web layout to provide instant plug-in technology at the various locations around the Tented Village and golf course that require it.
With January now behind us, the qualifying structure of this year’s Open Championship is also already underway. The first qualifying event took place in Melbourne, Australia, with Australasia’s finest taking on36 holes amid 90 mph winds and rain showers producing three qualifiers who will surely face similar conditions at Lytham in July! The qualifier took place around the famous Kingston Heath Golf Club on one of the wonderful sand belt courses of Melbourne. Kingston Heath has played host to the Australasian qualifier for seven of the last nine years and is a very popular venue for the competitors who the previous week were competing a short distance down the road at the Victoria Open, one of the main events on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s schedule.
From Australia, The Open Championship made its way to Royal Johannesburg & Kensington, the site of the Africa qualifier over a course of 7,600 yards, albeit at altitude. Again a fine test of golf, the weather was kind and three more players were plugged into the field of 156 who will start the Championship in July. It is always a fascinating experience for competitors and officials alike to stage these qualifying competitions in far flung parts of the world with the Claret Jug in tow for all to see and touch. Next up on the qualifying circuit will be the Asia leg in Thailand on 1 and 2 March, where four more places will be up for grabs.
Maybe I will have refereed the future winner…
By Naoya Orime, Rules Official
The 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s was my debut as a rules official in this event. On Monday evening I met many of my fellow referees from all around the world, all of them expressing huge sympathy for the earthquake and tsunami that hit the north east of Japan in March. I appreciated their kind thoughts very much – it’s good to have many friends in different parts of the world and it made me realise how the game of golf brings people together.
Back to the Championship and the Rules meeting of all the officials on the Wednesday, the day before the 1st round. Coming from Japan, I was very impressed with the thoroughness of preparation for the event, particularly making sure that all the rules officials understood the many Local Rules that applied for things like taking relief from grandstands, TV towers, scoreboards, etc. – all the structures out on the golf course that are essential for events like the Open.
Following the comprehensive Rules briefing by David Rickman (R&A – Director of Rules and Equipment Standards), we had a really useful course walk. All of the officials were divided into groups and we were lead around the golf course by one of the experienced R&A referees — checking things on-site was a great boost to my confidence.
My assignments: walking rules official on the first two days and an observer for rounds three and four. With some of the “bigger” games, observers are appointed. The observer’s role is to walk ahead of the referee, to give him advance warning of any rulings, e.g. a ball in a grandstand, out of bounds, on a spectator’s bag, it could be anything. That extra minute or two of warning is invaluable for a referee to gather his thoughts and to check the Rules and the Local Rules.
During the first three days, I had players from different continents including the two players from Japan. Obviously, they are all excellent ball strikers (at least from my perspective), so luckily I did not have difficult rulings. But, I noticed that the level of the knowledge on the Local Rules varies from player to player. Robert Karlsson, for example, knew exactly what to be done on TIOs (Temporary Immovable Obstructions, e.g. scoreboards), so no arguments there. On the other hand, a Japanese player was not aware of the Local Rule for immovable obstructions, such as sprinkler heads, close to the putting green, a Local Rule that is often used at links courses where the best shot is frequently to putt. Needless to say, knowing the Rules and the Local Rules gives more options (and could be an advantage) to the players.
Royal St George’s is a tough golf course — while it may look flat from a distance or on TV, it has much undulation. The wind changes constantly and we had all sorts of weather, from warm and calm to cold, wet and windy. The conditions were a big challenge to the players.
I was fortunate enough to referee Lucas Glover, the former US Open champion, on the first day when he shot 66, very impressive. As I write this Glover stands tied for 5th place, only four strokes off the lead. Maybe I will have refereed the future winner…
Apart from my refereeing duties, the atmosphere on the ground has been excellent, with big crowds supporting the players with passion. Now, I understand why The Open Championship has been so successful.
Good golf course, thorough preparation, excellent players from across the globe, and good merchandise items…I bought quite a few things (my contribution to the UK economy)!
Lots of lessons learned to improve the quality of the Japan Open Golf Championship in the future.
An avalanche of people…
By Dave Cannon, R&A Chief Photographer
No player more than seven shots off the lead for the final two days! It’s a ‘Lionel’ (Messi) for the photographers! Every player that has made the cut has a chance. I suspect a few sneaky bets are going down on the players lurking at 4 over!
What a two days I have had. It seems a lifetime since arriving at a rainy Royal St Georges at 4 am on Thursday. It has become a tradition for me to follow the green keepers as they do their final preparations for the start of play at 6.30am. It was so dark and gloomy a very tricky task for the cameras and the man behind them! The modern digital cameras never cease to amaze as I managed to get some really interesting and ‘moody images of the work on the 18th and first holes. Once the hidden sun had managed to raise the light level, I went to the back of the 10th green – a great hunting ground for us – showing the cooling towers of the derelict power station that is so much a feature of the images of The Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
My task on Thursday morning was to work around the McIlroy and Donald groups where the biggest crowds would be. It was one of those frustrating rounds with lots of climbing hills and walking all 18 for honestly hardly a memorable picture. It is just the way things go in my business – a lot of patience required! The weather did not help – a grey and uninspiring sky – but still I loved the golf and the atmosphere of The Open Championship. The nicest picture I got was from the special tower The R&A built for the photographers at the 6th hole it is situated beside the scoreboard where we are above the crowd looking down on the green towards ‘Maidens’; the iconic hill beside the green which is crammed with spectators. Ryo Ishikawa the young Japanese superstar gave me a good picture there as he played his second shot from under the lip of the bunker beneath our tower. The most frustrating thing following groups though is walking through the aromas of bacon and sausage sandwiches that tease me on almost every hole. Lunch was waiting!
The afternoon groups were already on the course as I finished a quick lunch and headed out again on the ‘longest day’! What an afternoon of golf we had. Thomas Bjorn’s morning 65 was looking as if it was going to lead for sure. The young English amateur Tom Lewis had different ideas! He was drawn with Tom Watson who I just love watching — the swing that has not changed in 40 years! I was looking for a picture of the two Tom’s together as Tom Lewis was named after the legendary golfer. Golf is such an intriguing sport, with its’ ability to throw up unexpected and wonderful stories. An amateur leading a Major Championship, as Tom Lewis played quite beautifully to equal Bjorn’s 65! This year with our new responsibilities for The R&A, I have access to the fairways for certain pictures so I was lucky enough to be able to shoot behind Tom as he played his second shot at the final hole. What an end to the marathon first day!
Friday dawned with clear blue skies and the forecast was good for the whole day. It is amazing how much difference the sun makes. I had lots of fun and again The Open Championship ‘fairy tale’ stories flowed! No moment more fun than witnessing Tom Watson holing in one at the 6th hole. What a start to the day! The 6th hole is for sure the main hunting ground for me. I had been taking pictures from the summit of ‘Maidens’ for Westwood’s group; a very precarious position sat right at the top. I was really concerned that I was going to cause an avalanche of people. It is so steep and the drier the grass gets, the more slippery it is! I could just see me sliding into the person below me, and the next thing we would have would be a pile of people at the bottom, with a very large photographer on top!! The pictures were lovely though. I had just slipped my way down the back of the hill and arrived at ground level safely at the back of the green as Watson was on the tee. To see the ball bounce once and slam dunk into the hole was fantastic! Luckily I had the camera with the 500mm lens at the ready and caught his celebration on the tee from the back of the green – looking closely at the picture the reactions of the crowd is awesome!
Then I spotted the ‘Seve Boys’ green trousers and Navy tops – my favourite picture of Seve in action was at The Open in 1988 at Royal Lytham – great fun to see!
I had to be back in the media centre for 12.30 so I could take to the air to do the aerial pictures of the whole site. It is a truly staggering spectacle to see The Open Championship from the air. The thousands of cars parked in symmetry in fields surrounding the course, the tented village and catering areas, the television compound, the Media Centre and the amphitheatre of the 18th hole look incredible.
Once back on the ground the skies were beginning to cloud over but this gave me brilliant skies to play with. The light in Great Britain when we get the sun is the best in the world for photography, and this evening was really spectacular, from Aaron Baddeley silhouetted against the skies to Peter Uiehlein teeing-off against the blue skies with the gigantic television hoists peeking down on the 18th hole. Just my sort of evening! Let’s hope the Saturday weather forecast is wrong but whatever the first two days, as always The Open Championship has given me much to follow and record.
Day 1 at The Open – Royal St George`s – July 2011 By John Byers, Brazilian Golf Federation
My preparation for this event started the weekend before in a pub on the Thames at Hammersmith with two great friends from Youghal Golf Club (near Cork, Ireland for the unenlightened). Exchanges of golfing situations mixed with Chardonnay and Guinness served to settle the nerves.
Upon arrival in Canterbury we were taken to The Lodge, a hostelry in the shadows of the Cathedral and where the ghost of Thomas Becket, with severed head held in his hands, is rumoured to roam on dark nights later on in the year – July is considered safe.
On Wednesday, all Rules Officials were summoned to the assembly hall of a local school for a roll call (only one pupil absent) and the serious stuff began. Prior to our trip to the school the fire alarms at The Lodge went off at 0630 – a subtle way to ensure nobody missed the bus! Like at school, a new language has to be learned, understood and memorised – most golfers will be familiar with GUR and OB but HCLR (hard card local rule) and ALR (additional local rule), quite apart from the acronym, need all to be read, understood and preferably memorised. Then there are “deemed grandstands” – areas painted with blue lines on the grass that, whilst bearing zero resemblance to grandstands as a layman might understand, are considered via an ALR as being grandstands and basically result in a penalty-free drop from the nearest drop zone.
Following a brief photo session of all involved, no doubt to hang in the British Golf Museum in the next century, there was the infamous course walk. This is a walk or a gallop depending on your Group leader and the weather, where the mysteries of flattened molehills, rabbit scrapes, deemed grandstands and double metal fencing are explained “in situ” to us international rules officials who may be unfamiliar with these animals and structures. Assignments are distributed with great excitement (who is officiating for whom and when) for the first few days. I was assigned a late tee time on Thursday no doubt to compensate for my interrupted sleep the previous evening due to the fire alarm.
Then Day 1 dawns, blowing a stiff breeze and coverage on TV shows stars struggling to cope with the wind and the challenging flag positions. Not to worry since my tee time is late afternoon when we have been assured that the winds will die down, possibly giving way to sunshine! But do we really believe everything we hear from the Met Office? Spots of rain appear on the lens of the TV camera – better get an umbrella.
Lunch in the Championship Tent is always excellent, but while officials who have completed their days work tuck into the delicacies, those who have yet to go to work are slightly frowned upon, certainly feel segregated, imbibe soft drinks and basically paw at the ground like 3-year-old thoroughbreds itching to get to the starting gate.
The starting time of Group 49 (15.38) draws near and I meet with Louise the scorer, Hugh the leader board carrier and Bob the bunker-raker before our players approach – Tom Lehman, Ryan Palmer and Adam Wootton. Ivor Robson, the starter, is full of chat, and suddenly the Rolex clock points to the appointed hour and we are off.
I shall not recount stroke by stroke, nor hole by hole, the performance of my charges. Suffice it to say that they performed admirably under the circumstances. Since this is a golf rules blog, I intended to discuss the intricacies of the decisions meted out to these players, but sadly the wind dropped, they played well, and my presence as a purveyor of Rulings, Decisions, penalties and the like was superfluous.
However, I avoided a potential incident on the green of hole four, when a vixen appeared close to the green, eyeing Lehman`s ball greedily. Wishing to avoid the complexities of Rule 18-1 (ball at rest moved by outside agency), your intrepid blogger brandished his umbrella in the face of said animal, who responded with a snarl and eventually sulked off into the brambles behind the green. I could not report that as a Ruling, so my report card at the end of the day was a blank, but it was a bold gesture nonetheless.
But despair not, I shall officiate again shortly and possibly can report on Rules activity.
What time are you up in the morning?
By David Cannon, R&A Chief Photographer
The days of quiet lead ups to The Open Championship are now such a distant memory, as I arrived at the course at 6.15am on this grey chilly morning the eve of the greatest championship in golf.
Last night I attended the Golf Writers Association dinner, where Graeme McDowell received their most prestigious award as their player of the year. As I was leaving the dinner I bumped into Chubby Chandler, Rory McIlroy’s manager, who quipped “what time are you up in the morning?” I replied, “at the course about 7.30” – “ah DC that may not be quite early enough”, was the reply. I knew what was coming – “I think you may find somebody interesting on the tee by 6.30”.
An earlier start than planned, but, in a way, that is what is so special for us photographers; the chance to take pictures in the early morning light. This Wednesday morning was grey though, with a chilly east wind buffeting in off the North Sea. In a preview day, I am looking for a variety of images; individual normal golf pictures, as well as the ‘artistic’ ones to give the news media options as they produce their preview pages.
I managed to get a couple of bunker shots and two really nice moody images against the grey skies as Rory played the first 10 holes in an hour and a half. I love the images of playing off into the grey skies – I am just hoping that the weather is not grey tomorrow, because this golf course gives us a lot of chances to make really stunning images if the sun is out.
At 9.30am I attended the Championship Rules Officials’ briefing. A side of the Championship that people probably do not understand is that a team of 80 assemble from all over the world to officiate at The Open Championship. The links courses and the setup of The Open Championship venues offers a unique set of challenges for The R&A Rules team. Rugged terrain, enormous areas of grandstands and temporary obstructions are all challenges that have to be faced. Each year The R&A organise a photograph of the group so they all have a picture to take away from this week as a memory.
Tomorrow is the hardest day! I always photograph the green staff as they prepare the links for the first day’s play. So it will be a 4am start! Then the whole day on the course – Thursday is a monster marathon! But hopefully by 9.30pm tomorrow night, after a day of sunshine and blue skies, we will have photographed every player in the field, as well as capturing a set of images of the day to illustrate this great championship for the world.
Boys will be Boys
By David Cannon, R&A Chief Photographer
This year starts a new assignment for me at The Open Championship. I’m leading a team of Getty Images photographers working exclusively providing wholly owned content for The R&A. Hopefully we can show you parts of The Open Championship where we have not been before – watch this space!
This morning I had a little fun! Over the past two years I have followed the career of Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler — team mates in the 2009 Walker Cup Match at Merion Golf Club. I have known Peter’s father Wally for over 20 years and can only imagine the thrill to have a son who holds the US Amateur Championship. I talked to Peter on the 3rd tee and ‘teased’ him into playing a shot for me from the huge fairway bunker on the 4th hole aptly named ‘Sahara’.
Boys will be boys, of course, and Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler soon joined the party – an Oklahoma State threesome! That was one good one!
Peter hit a shot and nearly fell over on the follow through! Rickie then hit a 7-iron from the base of the huge bunker that fizzed clear of the sleepers! The joy of Monday – no pressure! Just wait for a 30mph wind in their faces on Thursday those bunkers will get their attention in a very serious way!
Bumped into Tom Watson as well. He loves cameras and is really interested in what we do, so he is checking out what lens I am using lying down behind the 5th tee as he tees-off. I’m using a silent shutter so I am able to ‘pip’ him off at the top of the backswing!
Then this afternoon I was there as Louis Oosthuizen, the defending Champion, sailed up to the entrance to the clubhouse in a black Mercedes Official Car and grudgingly handed over the Claret Jug to Peter Dawson, the Chief Executive of The R&A. I can only imagine the fun and pleasure Louis has had looking after the Claret Jug over the past twelve months and, as Peter Dawson said, if you play well again it’s only till Sunday night!
Just a taste of things to come this week!
In quieter times, I daydream
By Jonathan Tippetts-Aylmer, Entries Manager
If you had the view from your office that I do, you would too. I work in Beach House, St Andrews, and the scene from my second-storey room changes on a daily basis. Looking out to my left I can see 18th hole of the Old Course, then the first fairway, the North Sea facing the junction of Grannie Clark’s Wynd, onto the West Sands. The panorama of the River Tay and beyond tops off what many golf fans would rate as one of their more sought after sights.
My job at The R&A is Entries Manager, under the umbrella of the Championship Department. There are many facets to the job, but as my title suggests, I deal a lot with the entry of golfers into our championships. Since becoming Manager I am dealing more with the Amateur, the Boys Amateur and the Seniors Open Amateur. But The Open Championship takes precedence.
Change seems to be a key part to my job and the workload, like the view, changes with the seasons. There seems to be a parallel between the amount of visitors on the course and the amount of entry forms that pile in via post, email and fax. The first trickle of Open entries arrived in December, where we saw the majority of forms coming in for the first two qualifiers. The R&A introduced International Final Qualifying on the five continents in 2004. Reigning Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen also got his entry form early this year, the first of the exempt players, in fact!
The mail arrives around 10am. Attached forms are downloaded and printed off and added to any faxed entries from the night before. First job is to make sure that the entry form has a golfer on it that is eligible to play. Regional Qualifying is the first round that aspiring amateurs and professionals have to play in. I will usually accept any entry from a golfer playing off 0.4 or better, or who is a member of a Tour or PGA. Fairly straightforward. Entrants direct into any Final Qualifying, with a few exceptions, require Official World Golf Ranking points. A lot of attention is needed to make sure that the players entering meet the criteria. The only downside of my job is finding out a player is not eligible and having to let them know.
The players’ details are keyed into our Open database and the entry fee is debited from their bank account. At the end of the day, a receipt for each entrant is printed off and sent to their home address. Draws and Notice to Competitors are sent to each entrant and published on www.opengolf.com as soon as possible after each closing date.
I am lucky. My work is always interesting and this is down to change. There is a different Open venue each year, and exemptions evolve to ensure we have the best mix of golfer in the 156-man starting field. No Open is the same as the previous one. Technology in the 10 years has dramatically altered the job, in the most part improving and speeding up the system. We are now moving from hard copy to downloading entry forms. The next step will be entering a tournament online. I am constantly reminded by the more ‘experienced’ members of staff that “when we first started working here, it was all done by hand”!
For many spectators, the interest is in their favourite famous golfer; the name that they’ve always followed. The most exciting part of The Open for me starts before that in the earlier qualifiers. I receive around 2,000 entries a year and over a 1,000 of them will appear in the last two weeks before the closing date. You can’t imagine the rush. From April, things start to get a little bit more busy. This is when I keep an eye on the 1,000-plus golfers battling it out for the chance to play in Final Qualifying. This year there are 12 spots into The Open for 288 golfers. From 2,000 to 288 to 12. It might be a long shot, but can you imagine? Three rounds of golf and you have the chance to stand on the first tee at Royal St George’s, hearing your name called by Ivor Robson? “On the tee, from Scotland… Jonathan Tippetts-Aylmer!”
Must be one of my quieter times.
Providence, and a strong will…
By Ishwar Achanta, Open Championship Referee
By a quirk of fate, I almost never made it to The Open! What a disaster that would have been indeed! However, providence and a strong will prevailed, and I landed up at St Andrews, albeit 48 hours late.
Having missed the Rules Briefing on the Wednesday, I was quickly brought up to speed by the very comprehensive package put together by the Championship Committee. This binder is just about the most comprehensive manual ever written of how a major event, should be conducted. There is a miniature as well, which the Referees carry with them on course. It includes a hole-by-hole guide, which lists out every danger, lurking on each hole. So, all we needed to do was to speed-read this piece of paper at the start of each hole to refresh potential Rules situations!
I did not have too many questions of the various Local Rules and conditions expected, and those few that I had, I was able to have them clarified.
When I opened the package I was very pleasantly surprised to see the Rules arm band assigned to me: the Number One! Now before you think otherwise, this number only meant that my name, Achanta, appeared first on the alphabetical list, but nonetheless, I got a great kick out of wearing the Number One, arm band!
On day one I went out with the KJ Choi group to get a quick feel of on course conditions, which any Referee will know, is quite different from what’s in the book! It was cold and blustery, but still exhilarating to be walking on Golf’s Promised Land! KJ had a very ordinary round but it was interesting to watch him putt, side saddle, crouched low over his putter.
On day two, I had the pleasure of meeting Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. I had refereed for Adam Scott at Hoylake in 2006 and at the Australian Opens .It was great to meet the enigmatic Jimenez – minus his cigar though. He’s a larger than life person. Lee Westwood is a darling of England and was, for a while, a favourite.
As the world knows, play was stopped for an hour in the afternoon on account of the weather. Not rain, mind you, but due to strong and gusting winds! I had got back into the Championship Committee tent by then and sitting in the warmth, I certainly did not envy the Referees out on the course having to brave, not just the weather but the awkward questions from the players.
On day three, I walked with Zane Scotland of England and Stephen Gallacher of Scotland. Zane, who qualified through LFQ and I understand, is an extremely pleasant young man and engaged me in conversation several times. Apparently he had played at the Indian Open at Delhi and took away pleasant memories, if not of the golf course at DGC, which is as tight as it can get.
Day four saw me work with Ryo Ishikawa and Tom Pernice Jr. Ryo is a heartthrob in Japan and I had a number of Japanese television crew inside the ropes. I certainly must have been beamed into most homes in Japan! For a slightly built man, he does pack a wallop! I am sure that he is a Champion in the making.
I had a very enjoyable four days and have made many new friends, as well as renewing old acquaintances. I had worked closely with some of the top referees in the world in other international events and to meet and exchange notes on the same platform is indeed a morale booster.
“I feel a very unusual sensation, if it is not indigestion, it must be gratitude” said Benjamin Disraeli. Writing the blog has been a unique privilege, which I will cherish for a long, long time.
For those of you diehards, the Old Course is a must do, at least once in your lifetime. The combination of typical Scottish weather at the Home of Golf is an experience like none other!
I knew I could rely on them…
By Dave Cannon, Getty Images Senior Photographer
Ok so a lot of people will have been watching the final day and groaning! No excitement, no disasters for the leader, and, hey, even no really memorable pictures for me and the other photographers. But I reckon that was a ‘Tiger’-like performance of brilliant golf – totally under control all the way. He looked the coolest person out there!! A commanding performance!
For me though, a day of feeling under the weather – no pun intended but think the last five weeks have caught up with me – South Africa for the first 16 days of the World Cup, followed by the Scottish Open and this week, it all caught up with me. Not surprising really. Luckily, though, I have the best team of golf photographers anywhere, and I knew I could rely on them to come up with brilliant images.
I have chosen a few from the pictures by my Getty Images team, just to show that there are other great golf photographers out there – I may have been around at Opens for 28 years but these guys come up with the goods day after day as well.
My top six, one from each.
Oosthuizen and Casey, The Dance of the Putting Green, by Ross Kinnaird.
Oosthuizen on the 18th tee from behind by Stewart Franklin.
Oosthuizen on the 18th tee from the front – as a golfer I love this one — bang on impact by Andrew Redington.
Oosthuizen with the Claret Jug by Warren Little
And one by Richard Heathcote.
JB Holmes by Harry How a fantastic background of out of focus crowds — see what you think but I reckon these are top of the list!
I managed to find myself with the best view in the place from Forgan House, right beside the 18th green on the balcony – a truly sensational view of the 18th green and the amphitheatre around. The crowds in Britain are without doubt the best in the world, willing each and every player’s ball into the hole. From this position I decided to go for a wide-angle view showing the whole vista.
Sadly the weather again did not deliver. The bright but overcast afternoon didn’t quite produce the marvellous skies and shadows I wanted to make the best possible image, but I got a lovely picture all the same. Louis’s moment captured with the whole stage of the 18th green.
I was also shooting ‘tight’ at the same time as firing the wide angle camera that was clamped to the balcony railings (with a little help from my young helper Thomas!). I just wish Louis would have raised his arms in triumph at least, but whatever, I was in the best spot taking a nice picture. I still remember Seve, though, in 1984. Who could forget that moment? The circumstances were so different. His putt mattered so much, while Louis had an eight shot lead – the Championship had been won, almost for sure at the turn with that eagle-two on the ninth!
Nothing left to say now, except “See you next year!”
The biggest ‘Big Bertha’ I have…
By Dave Cannon, Getty Images Senior Photographer
I’m back on the blog, and it’s Saturday – ‘moving day’. But today is better, bright sunny spells and just a perfect links wind, as against yesterday’s blasting from the elements. This championship has been shaped by the weather, as have many before, but I struggle to remember on one that so swung so severely on the luck of the draw. But that’s links golf – no consolation for players that faced the elements yesterday afternoon.
Saturdays in Major Championships are the days that I tend to use to just wander looking for spots to find different pictures, but the wind is still very strong and making life difficult holding the lens still in the gusts. A cross wind is tough for the golfers and, actually, just as tough for photographers. Using long lenses every time, I frame the player before gust hits me and blow my framing all over the place…but I manage to get a few. We work on framing the golfers to ‘fill the frame’ as much as possible, but, today and yesterday, it has been a lottery.
It is especially tricky around here with the unique terrain – double-fairways and greens – and, understandably, no access in between. We are more often than not a considerable distance from the golfer. I have brought the biggest ‘Big Bertha’ lens I have, a Canon 800ml. This lens gives me the chance to get shots like Retief Goosen in the deep grass short of the 17th green, where I was at least 100 yards away.
Then there was Zach Johnson escaping from the ‘hay field’ left of the 17th fairway. Again, I was a long way off and managed to catch his shot with a huge clump of grass flying. It’s a hard lens to use but it is so challenging around here. A strong shoulder was required as it weighs almost 10 kilos!
I love the fact that amateurs get to play in The Open Championship. This year we have another exceptional young player, the winner of the 2010 Amateur Championship, Jin Jeong from South Korea. What a putter he is!
St Andrews, though, is the scene of Bobby Jones’ Championship victory in 1927, the greatest amateur of all time. This brings me to a book that has just been released by The R&A to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Championship.
I worked very closely with The R&A’s historian, Peter Lewis, in selecting the images for this book – a large coffee-table book which is basically a photo album. It tells the story of the Championship over the years in pictures, venue by venue, as well as showing the courses as they are now.
Many of my photographs are in the book, as well as some not-seen-before gems from the Getty Images archives. I had so much fun researching the images for the book and I think (trying not to be biased) we have got a truly wonderful publication. The book is on sale now all over the place and has a special display in the merchandise tent here at St Andrews.
Tomorrow Louis Oosthuizen may well add another page in the history of the greatest championship. I have watched Louis develop and know he has a massive game. Having won for the first time on Tour this year he knows how to win, and I know he will push Casey, Kaymer or Stenson to the limit – how amazing it is to see European Tour players dominate the leaderboard and young ones at that! Youngsters coming to the fore again…
Nothing could prepare me for this fantastic situation…
By Sue Rawles, Open Championship Referee
So here I am at my second Open Championship acting as Rules official. How on earth did I find myself in this fantastic situation?
Since childhood I have played hockey, squash and tennis and always had an interest in the rules of the games; and then along came golf with its plethora of Rules situations – I loved it from day one.
I made my debut at Turnberry last year as an official, but I have attended The Open as a spectator on a number of occasions. Nothing could prepare me for the sheer size of the event, the brilliant organisation, the crowds and the TV cameras. It was quite amazing!
I found myself in the company of very experienced referees from The R&A and the Tours – they were all very supportive and I was constantly reassured that I would be “absolutely fine”. I walked the course every day prior to the Championship familiarising myself with the layout and any potential trouble spots. On Day One, I worked as an observer referee alongside an experienced colleague – all went well and I was given my own match to officiate on Friday. My three players didn’t make the cut, but I did have the opportunity to give plenty of rulings.
So here I am again. This time it is extra-special as we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of The Open Championship. We had two days of reviewing the course in splendid sunshine and it was truly beautiful. I was relishing the start of play on Thursday.
On Wednesday morning I attended the Referees meeting. This is a very detailed event where we receive the additional Local Rules, information from the Met Office (on this occasion it was a mixed forecast!) and a lot of Rules advice. Following this, the officials managed a smile for the group photograph taken quickly in the pouring rain!
Afterwards, it’s time for the official course walk. We are divided into groups with a senior, experienced referee, and with the weather not ideal, we persevered round the course, reviewing all the relief situations for grandstands, leaderboards and TV towers (or TIO’s as they are known). We do not have this sort of course furniture at our amateur events, so it is worth taking a look at in advance.
Due to the rain and wind, the Champions’ Challenge on Wednesday was cancelled which was disappointing, but this gave me time to study my Rules assignment for Thursday and Friday. My Thursday game was with Phil Archer, Bo Van Pelt and Ewan Porter. On the first tee, I introduced myself to Ivor Robson – a celebrity himself in the world of golf – and then meet my “entourage” of scorer, board-carrier and bunker-raker.
The first hole was uneventful, but then two players hit their tee shots into trouble on the second. This is where the attention to detail on the course-walk is about to pay off. Van Pelt’s ball was on the shell path from which there is no relief, but he was within four club-lengths of the metal fencing. The Local Rules permit him to drop off the path, over the fence and onto the grass without penalty. It was a ruling the player was very pleased with! Sadly, I couldn’t do the same for Ewan Porter who lost his ball in the heavy gorse. Although we thought a spectator had found it within the five minutes, the ball was nowhere to be found on inspection.
We then moved without incident to the ninth hole when Porter’s ball finished in the heather and he declared his ball unplayable. I want all my players to do well and do not relish adding penalties to their score, but this is one there is no escape from.
The famous 17th hole provides me with another challenge. Van Pelt and Porter make it safely onto the fairway but Archer’s ball finished out of bounds in the hotel garden. He had to play another ball and incur the stroke-and-distance penalty.
I am assigned to go out with Tai Kawata, a very experienced Japanese referee on Friday, and I shall be walking ahead of the match to report any thing of interest to assist.
There are big crowds lining the fairways and the stands are full with every nationality represented. There are smiling and helpful marshals at every turn and they are intrigued to meet a lady referee. It is a wonderful experience and I relish my next challenge at the 150th Anniversary Open Championship!
Reflections on the Old Course…
By Dave Cannon, Senior Photographer, Getty Images
What a night – no not what you are thinking, but the noisiest night of torrential rain hammering on the roof of the Cannon ‘Grockelwagon’ – the South African term for a motorhome!
Over the past few years I have made the effort to take time to shoot the green keepers at work, so my Thursday mornings have always been an early start. After the night’s rain, I had I known the pressure would be on the greenstaff more than usual. Sure enough, I soon saw the lake that had appeared on the 18th and first fairway. All cutting of the fairways had been cancelled so the crew could work on the waters that faced them. It was good for me, though, as I had a chance to get some really different pictures.
I noticed in one of the larger expanses of water, a reflection of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews Clubhouse – such an iconic building. So there I was lying on the soggy ground to get the best possible reflection. I love the chance to get different images!
Then it was off to the first tee to join Paul Lawrie and Ivor Robson the starter, who has been working for 36 years as The Open Championship’s official starter. I am not sure if a Past Champion has ever hit the first ball in the modern Opens, but I know that Paul was very happy to be teeing-off in the calmest conditions one could imagine. Knowing the hazards of the changing conditions you can get in links golf today turned out to be a classic case of advantage to the early starters. It is hard to comprehend that, 10 hours from then, the last group will have only just walked from the first tee!
The morning weather was grey, grey and more grey! Hard for photographers to make different pictures and to be honest this course is the hardest course at any Major Championship to create different and exciting pictures. The odds are stacked against us this year with the grey clouds giving us no contrast to lift the undulations of the Old Course. The double greens and fairways also restrict our access to get near to any interesting pictures in and around almost all of the greens.
Well, that’s my rant for the day over – but I still love this place, and, most of all, The Open Championship.
Grey clouds and soft rain…
By Dave Cannon, Senior Photographer, Getty Images
So I have been asked back to share moments from the life of a golf photographer at the Open Championship.
St Andrews Opens are special in many ways. For me as the senior photographer at Getty Images, The Opens here give me many opportunities to record unique moments that do not happen at the other events.
The R&A now support and organise the Junior Open Championship every two years and on Sunday I attended the Opening Ceremony at Lundin Golf Club. We were blessed with a lovely summer’s evening and, considering that only a couple of hours previously the wind had been blowing at almost 50mph, typical of links golf in Scotland.
With over 100 competitors from 77 countries circling the 18th green and a pipe band playing, many of them would have been dreaming of being across Fife at the Old Course in years to come holding the Claret Jug. The guest of honour Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open Champion, posed with them all after he had presented each of them with their special Competitors Badge.
Often during the Open Championship at St Andrews, St Andrews University, the oldest university in Scotland, award Honorary Degrees to major personalities in golf. This year Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington, along with Johann Rupert the CEO of Richemont Group who have sponsored the Alfred Dunhill events at St Andrews, and Jim Farmer the Honorary Professional of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club were this year’s recipients.
After the special ceremony, they joined a procession down the street to the quadrangle. To be honest this was a photographic nightmare. The University ever so slightly under estimated the media interest. The unsightly media scrum that ensued was such a pity as it detracted from a marvellous spectacle. I made use of my height and managed to at least grab a decent picture of the group by holding my camera an arm’s length above my head, hoping I was framing the camera correctly!
Only hours later the most colourful man in golf, John Daly, the Champion in 1995 attends the Champions Dinner in the Clubhouse – I could not believe my eyes! There he was in a jacket version of his psychedelic trousers, in front of the Clubhouse for the official photograph of the Past Champions, with the current captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. A light hearted moment, but I can imagine the ghosts of Champions past sniggering!
Grey clouds and ‘soft rain’ – I have never really understood why the Irish use the term – a wetter morning I can hardly remember. The water got everywhere, a photographer’s nightmare! Luckily it’s Wednesday. But the best team in golf photography at Getty never cease to amaze me how they cope in the direst conditions. The biggest threat to equipment is water, so it’s vital to keep the cameras dry. Luckily we have specially designed covers for the camera’s and lenses.
The pity today is that a lot of players have decided to not play in the conditions. But we still have to provide pictures, so the guys have been out and about my detail for the day though has been organising the four days ahead, as well keeping a weather eye on the media conferences.
My sneaky eye though almost got me in trouble yesterday when I managed to grab a picture of Phil Mickelson during his conference. Five seconds, twenty frames later, I had a nice image of him taken from an illegal spot! No-one noticed as I slipped away. I did not even get into the room, or at least I thought nobody saw me, but another photographer saw me and moved to the same spot only to be moved on. The joy of a five second window!
Today though, the highlight was the Tom Watson interview, almost a year on from one of the saddest, but equally one of the most inspiring, moments in golf. His interview was totally packed with media and the way he spoke was so uplifting. I will look back at those four days at Turnberry as probably the most enthralling of all The Open Championships I have been to.
This afternoon the Champions’ Challenge takes place. It won’t be the same without Seve. The fact that he is not here is so sad. Seve was and is my hero in golf. From the day I first met him in May 1976 playing in a pro-am at my home club, the Leicestershire Golf Club, two months before he burst onto the scene at Royal Birkdale — remember that incredible chip-shot on the 18th hole to finish runner-up to Johnny Miller?
Throughout his career, he was one of three players who, every single day he played, I knew he would offer a special picture. The sequence of him on the 18th green at St Andrews in 1984, and the image of him in bright green trousers playing a three-iron from an uphill lie on the 15th hole into a strong westerly wind at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1988, are two of my absolute favourite pictures and moments in golf. Not a day passes when I don’t think of that amazing genius of our game.
So have just heard the news the weather has beaten the Champions Challenge – I suppose it’s almost poetic justice – without Seve, I don’t know, in a way it’s almost right.
A uniquely proud moment…
By Ishwar Achanta, Open Championship Referee
A father, who gave his eight-year-old son, in 1974, a cut down two-iron, never would have imagined that his little boy would, one day, walk on Golf’s hallowed turf as a Referee! All of 83 now, he is a happy camper. Thank you Dad, for introducing this glorious game to me!
The Old Course at St Andrews, in 2005, was the perfect place to make my Open debut. While, Troon or Muirfield or Carnoustie are great courses, they may not have been as grand a place for my debut. It was an emotional privilege, to watch from 50 yards away, Jack Nicklaus and his walk up the 18th for the last time and his moments on the Swilcan Bridge!
It was at the Rules briefing at the Physics lecture room of the St Andrews University that I realised the magnitude of my achievement, of being the very first Indian referee at The Open! When Martin Kippax asked us, eight rookies, to introduce ourselves, it was a uniquely proud moment for me to announce that I was from India.
Back home, the print and electronic media, across India, gave me huge coverage. I guess, in a Nation of 1.2 Billion people, overdosed by cricket, a small but significant event like this, made good news.
Because I was the only Indian player or official at the event and that Daniel Chopra, though a Swedish national, was of Indian origin, I was assigned to his group for Day One. Daniel is a lovely chap and carries his Indian origins very well. He was very warm and happy to see someone from India, officiate at this, the highest level of golf.
We teed off at 3.47pm, and while walking down the first hole, to my pleasant surprise, were four of my mates from Chennai, cheering me on. The presence of HR Srinivasan, Ravi Katari, Muthu and TT Jaggu filled me with confidence and I was deeply gratified for their support.
A minute later, I saw Bo Van Pelt signaling for me and I scurried over to find that his stance was on a sprinkler head. Believe me when I tell you that my sigh of relief could have been heard back home, as the very first decision to make was a simple one.
Day two saw me assigned to Scott Gutschewski’s group. Scott had a round of three under that day and just about made the cut. I’d like to think that I had a hand to play in his making the cut!
On the 16th, Scott hooked his drive left into light rough, made a hash of his second, pulling it further left and in between two scoreboards, next to a TV tower. Scott, despondently, called me over and when I told him that his options included a drop on either side of the TIO, the relief on his face was palpable, for on the left of the TIO (nearest to where the ball lay) was a gorse bush! His drop onto a nice clear patch and his brilliant up and down was a treat to watch.
That par saved him from flying home for the weekend and it was a small measure of satisfaction of being there, on hand, to help a professional golfer.
I had a total of 11 decisions on the first two days and this apparently, was 11 more than some referees have in four days!
Ever since the Indian Golf Union, of which I am a Council Member and Chairman of the Technical, Rules & Amateur Status Committee, confirmed my nomination for 2010, I have been preparing myself mentally and physically for a truly challenging and rewarding experience at this, the 150th Anniversary of The Open, at St Andrews.
This has to be the high point of all that I have done in these past eight years and I am looking forward to being a part (on the inside) of this, the golf world’s greatest spectacle!
Working at The Open is a master-class in all that you want to know about running an event but were afraid to ask!
I am truly grateful to be at this event, an experience that I could never buy.
Grandstands with a view to 2010…
By Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Assistant Director — Championships
It might only be October but Turnberry seems a distant memory, a fond memory, but a distant one nonetheless. St Andrews is now my number-one focus and I’m already starting to get excited about what will be my third Open Championship at the Home of Golf. But this one is special. It’s the 150th anniversary of the Open and, consequently, The R&A will be trying to ensure it’s one to remember.
We’re putting up more grandstand seating – about 21,000 seats in total – than ever before in 2010 to accommodate the 200,000-plus spectators that we hope will come and witness this fantastic occasion. In fact, I was out on the course recently plotting the positions of those grandstands with the company that constructs them; a time consuming job, but one that is ultimately very rewarding when you see, and hear, the galleries enjoying the golf on Championship days.
I’m basically looking for four or five things when positioning a grandstand, be it a 500-seater by the side of the green or a 2,400-seater by the first tee. Firstly, I try to imagine I’m a fan – not particularly difficult given that I’m the kind of fanatic that has attended every Open since they can remember – and think about what I want to see.
Although the focus of a seating area will usually be a green or a tee-shot, I always look for places that will have secondary views. The ‘loop’ on the Old Course is a great example. From grandstands around there you can see the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th greens. That’s where I would be!
Then we’ve got to work out whether the position of the stand will affect the players, whether it will interfere with spectator movement and, above all else, whether it’s safe.
Putting up temporary structures can be a bit of a tricky business, especially when they’re being erected on uneven linksland. So before we can definitively say that the structure is good to go ahead, the opinion of our consulting engineer is sought and, in some cases, soil will be tested to determine if it can withstand the weight of scaffolding, seats and hundreds of people.
Presuming all the determining factors are met, the consultant will sign off the structure as safe and we’ll mark the location of the proposed grandstand. Back when I started at The R&A, that meant putting pegs in the ground. Nowadays, however, we use GPS to pinpoint the location and transpose those coordinates onto an aerial plan of the Old Course. Much more high-tec, but less time-consuming and much less back-breaking!
So the locations have now been plotted. Job done. The chosen locations will be tweaked over the coming months and construction will begin around the beginning of April next year. It’s at that time when The Open Championship excitement begins once again, and I for one can’t wait!
Pictured: An emotional Open…
By David Cannon, Senior Photographer — Getty Images
What do I say – I don’t think I have ever felt such mixed emotion at the end of The Open Championship. I thought Greg Norman last year was special but nothing can ever come close to having the honour to have walked all 18 or should I say 22 holes today with Tom Watson.
The amazing thing about the whole week is that I had not pointed my camera at Stewart Cink until the play-off. One of the truly nice guys of golf! It shows how many players were in contention on this epic final day.
Now I am looking at the pictures – the saddest picture but also the nicest picture is of a solitary Tom Watson standing on the 9th tee just gazing out to the glistening sea. One can only try to imagine what he was thinking. If I was standing there on that beautiful tee I would be thinking that there really is no better place to be, and how lucky I am to be looking across that stunning piece of sea to the Isle of Arran: The most tranquil moment during this frantic crazy Sunday afternoon of championship golf.
The Championship radio commentary on the final afternoon is my most valuable ally! Every shot as it happens – it keeps me up to date, it tells me where the players’ balls are finishing (vital to help go the right side of the holes) and lots of other great moments of interest.
Walking to the 5th, the first of the four play-off holes, I heard the commentators say that Stewart Cink was the ‘biggest party pooper in the world’. Do you know, for a few seconds I had to agree my heart was broken for Tom Watson – it was really hard to switch back into photo mode! But when you look back, Cink must have played really well to score 69 – and he had made the play-off by holing a great putt at the 72nd hole.
As the radio commentators also reminded me, Westwood and Wood had also managed to bogey the final hole to miss out by one shot. Golf really is the most cruel of games, but that is its ultimate appeal to me; the mix of emotions in a matter of yards and seconds are just incredible. This Sunday had every extreme – just stunning!
So I have to choose a few pictures to try and sum up the day. Watson on the tee at the 9th hole as I have already mentioned is my favourite moment in the final round. As with most championships though, the final moments are the ones that lend me the split seconds to capture the moment.
On the final green when the play-off finished as Cink holds his head in his hands as he passes Tom Watson walking off the green. It is almost as if he cannot look at Tom. Knowing Stewart, he will be feeling so much for him at this second in time. Then as Stewart Cink walked back to stand beside Tom Watson with the jug he looks down at the most famous trophy in golf just looking at the names; it is almost as if he is looking at the five times Watson’s name has been engraved before his. And just at that second Watson looks over and smiles – what a moment!
This just sums up our wonderful game. What a week and I cannot wait for the Old Course to let me tell more stories in 2010. As the scoreboard says ‘Well done Stewart see you at St Andrews!’
Yesterday at The Open….
By David Cannon, Senior Photographer — Getty Images, 8.00am, 19 July 2009
The Saturday of a Major tends to be the ‘quietest’ day of the four – a later start means a much more relaxed morning. I want to see the Amateur Champion Matteo Manassero play – 16 years old and in the final two days of his first major, an amazing achievement. I am also lucky enough to be featuring in the official film of this years’ Open Championship. This means that the most important task of the day is for me to follow Tom Watson all the way round.
After doing an interview for the film crew I head to the 1st tee to follow Manassero for a few holes. The wind is blowing hard from the right and helping slightly. Peter Hanson, his partner, is caught out as his ball is caught by the wind as it leaves the shelter of the grandstand on the right of the tee and it finishes in the deep rough left of the fairway. But Manassero hits his iron straight down the middle. A mid-iron second shot finds the green and two putts later he is off with a par. He plays like Watson no time over the ball and a crisp swing and the ball really ‘fizzes’ off the club. It’s so nice to see a free swing with no mind numbing pre-shot routine! And he even putts quickly! I’m already a fan.
Yesterday looked promising from the outset, two balls as well. The only snag with this is that I have to move faster through the rough! Two easy pars and the Italian is well and truly on his way. I was thrilled to see how he scored, 72 in that wind was a really solid effort. Another young star on the way and it is great to see him coming from one of the so called lesser nations of international golf. We have to watch the Italians – an Amateur champion and a US Amateur champion in the past few years.
I then spent a few holes with Ernie Els and Justin Rose. Both of them had birdies in the first few holes but then struggled to hold down a decent score. I know Ernie has another Major in his blood and Justin is so close – maybe not this one but there is one just round the corner for sure.
At 3.00pm it’s 1st tee time and Watson arrives to a huge roar from the crowds. I love these moments – tingles down my spine. I can’t imagine how these golfers control their emotions when walking onto the 1st tee to noise like this. Arrow straight shots from Watson and his partner Steve Marino and I’m off through the rough – one arms length from the ropes – tough in this terrain, but I love the golden colour of the grass!!
The 4th green is the cleanest scenic green on the course no crowd, ropes or anything between the green and the beach. It is a great spot to catch a lovely scenic. Luckily enough the sun was out and the sea was glistening in the afternoon sun. Added to this view were four police horses being exercised on the beach, a really lucky bit of timing and it added a lot to the picture.
So I was off and running, the 5th hole is one of my favourites – a huge difficult gentle left right dog leg from the tee. But today the wind is strong left to right and has been taking early prisoners! But both Watson and Marino negotiate the tee shot safely. I decide to walk along the seaside in the deep grass on the top of the ridge. I want to get the view of the green with the final group. The images are similar to yesterday but this time different suspects for my lens on the holes as far as the 9th tee. Every day is different; different players and different light so, though it maybe the same places, they are different moments. I tried a different picture on the 9th tee as Watson left the tee and walked up the little slope – a view of Watson and the bay with the lighthouse. I am being filmed at this time so I have to watch what I say but this was a great view – a beauty!
As for the golf, Steve Marino was struggling but just holding his own. Tom Watson was also holding on well: I saw a great putt at the 6th hole to save par. His putter seems to performing really well. But a couple of tricky bogeys in the next few holes meant he was tied for the lead heading to the 15th. This is the glorious par-3 as you finally turn home towards the hotel, with the treacherous ‘pit’ to the right of the green and the devilish bunkers left and long. Marino was to be truly snared by the ‘pit’ almost losing his ball and eventually taking a triple bogey 6 to plummet him down the leader board. Watson also had his problems; a little long from the tee and a bogey resulted from the bunker long.
Then the moment I had been waiting for; a long snaking birdie putt at the 16th and Watson raised his arms as he regained a share of the lead. With the relatively kind par-5, 17th to come the chances were there that he would be leading again after the last few holes. Sure enough a lovely ‘rescue’ found the green at 17 and a chance from 20 feet for an eagle, but he had to settle for a birdie. Still this amazing story continues as he made a par 4 at the final hole to lead by one. I cannot imagine a more amazing story in my 30 years of golf photography if he manages to hold on. I have not seen any reason why he won’t though if he plays again like he did yesterday. His drives were almost all straight and true and he holed his fair share of crucial putts. He looks so loose – 59 years old and swinging like he did in 1977. The BBC showed a swing from that win and one from yesterday – almost no difference still that long, effortless whoosh as the ball left his club.
A great finish awaits – but a really tough one for me and the Gettty Images team of photographers. 26 players within 6 shots of the lead: That is a true recipe for a tricky final day.
I wonder what twists of Open Championship fate await us today. The final 3 holes – treachery of all kinds on 16, riches galore on offer at 17, and those bunkers to avoid on 18 all await our lens –, the marvellous thrill of photographing golf, and The Open Championship.
The Open in pictures…
By David Cannon
9.00am: The rain is rattling on the roof of our caravan…but it’s ok, my team are at the course. Delegation the first art of management! Total trust in the guys at Getty Images. We have the best team of golf and sports photographers in the world. By the time I reached Turnberry at 9.45 almost 70 pictures were winging around the world, and probably 1500 frames were already in the hard drive. The early starters were already past the turn. We have a team of 7 photographers here – four of us have the ultimate inside the ropes access and the others work from fixed positions, or from outside the ropes. Today I am planning to work from outside looking for different angles and scenes of Turnberry.
The whole delivery system for the images is really critical; 7 ‘snappers’ and no film costs. When I think back to 1994 – what a difference 15 years makes. At Allsport, as we were in those days, we would shoot maybe 100 rolls of slide film and 50 rolls of negative film in the whole week. Sure we have more photographers, but the digital age is so different as it does not cost a bean to shoot a frame nowadays! Today as a group we shot 9892 frames and we have uploaded in the region of 650 images (we are still sending at 9.00pm). Imagine the cost of that in 1994; the equivalent of 275 rolls of film which, including processing, would work out at £8 per roll – almost £2200.00 worth of film. When, as Getty Images, we switched from film to digital in 2000 the film was almost $7 million a year – some saving that! It meant we all got great new camera kits and there was some nice change!
Also this year The R&A have provided a ‘half way house’ photographer working cabin beside the 9th and 14th holes where our runners are able to spool our digital cards of images direct tour office at the media centre. What a time saver this is – at least 25 minutes saved each time. For those who know Turnberry it is a pretty decent walk from the clubhouse to the turn and then onto the 10th 11th and 12th holes! My daughter Milly is one of our ‘slaves’ this week, so Anna, Boo and Milly are really happy about this. Their little legs are too! Being young computer ‘whizzes’, they took to the technical side in a flash and our pictures are being seen much faster this year.
Anyway enough of my ‘blurbing’ lots of different pictures today and lots of different weather too! Rain, wind, sunshine, and basically everything you could imagine temperature wise! An extraordinary day on the course – who could possibly have imagined Tom Watson leading and Tiger Woods missing the cut?! The Ailsa Course at Turnberry definitely showed the players its teeth today! And Tiger was clawed as badly as anyone!
Because of the team working together and my late arrival I just ‘floated’ around looking for scenic pictures. The shot of the 5th green with the huge crowds on the banks of the natural amphitheatre and the gleaming hotel on the horizon.
The view of the 9th tee with Westwood, Ishikawa, and Woods on the tee as yacht keels right over close by. And the crowd searching for Tiger’s ball at the 10th hole. It’s almost a ‘Where’s Wally’ moment as I tried to find him amongst the spectators frantically searching. I don’t think I can ever remember a worse stretch of golf from Tiger. Then there’s the shot of the final group leaving the 8th tee with the stormy clouds and Ailsa Craig behind.
Sadly I missed Tom Watson today but I’ll be there tomorrow for sure. What a story! I remember my mum and dad coming to Turnberry in 1977 and being so thrilled, especially as my mother was a WAAF officer stationed here at Turnberry in World War II – the memories she had were amazing. Stories for another day – but what a thrill she had watching Watson and Nicklaus. I was still trying to play golf then so was at home playing for Leicestershire. I know where I would have rather been!
But I was here four years ago though when Watson won the Senior Open. He and Nicklaus unveiled the stone on the 18th tee to commemorate their ‘Duel in the Sun’.
I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds tomorrow and Sunday!
9.09: 1st tee – the biggest media crush I have seen at The Open – Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Ryo Ishikawa. I’m excited for many reasons, the lure of the Tiger, the brightest star of the East, and Lee Westwood one of the golf’s best strikers and nicest guys! The whole Japanese photographers group are there, all 19 of them. Then another 20 or so of the world’s photo media, and a whole gaggle of writers; I would love to guess the frame and word count. Work it out from my take on the 1st tee. 50 frames, multiply by 40 – and that I reckon is on the conservative side – 2000 plus frames on that group on the 1st tee! Wow! And then the words, numbers I can’t even imagine. Then within 5 minutes my pictures were hitting the picture desks of over 3000 Getty Images Editorial clients around the world. The power of the digital world is scintillating!
Onwards to battle – the assembled ‘gaggle’ leave the tee area and we proceed to their second shots – I don’t take every shot they play. I’m always looking to make sure what I take is worth it as much as I can. Clean images of players ideally pictures not cut in half by yellow ropes or untidy backgrounds.
I am going all 18 with this group. It’s going to wear me out but as I said I’m excited. In all my 30 years of golf photography, three players stand out to shoot: Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. I can honestly say that every time I go to work with one of these guys I get a really good picture. I could go for weeks with some of the world’s leading players and not really get a memorable image. I know with Tiger that he is going to give me a chance every round; the 3rd tee – a big hook under a TV tower and off we go! He’s stuck and takes a free drop but deeper into the rough, the rough flies the first nice one of the day – my first birdie!
At Getty Images we have many Japanese clients so I am trying to get pictures of Tiger and Ryo in the same frame. This is a challenge as it’s really only on the tees that they get close to each other, and our access is fairly limited to the tees, so I have to work hard at this.
Nothing much to report as the round progresses. We lose a few of the media so the walk is easier but I am still waiting to pounce! All the way to the 9th. Tiger on the tee – one of the most dramatic tees in golf – but damn and damn and damn there is a marshal with his ice lolly stick in his lovely red jacket waving it behind Tiger as he watches his ball. But Tiger looks anxious. It could be in trouble on the right! I walk ahead heading right I could tell by the way he was leaning.
His ball is OK, just in the fringe but clean as a whistle, short though. He is being very defensive, not like Ryo who is pounding the driver every hole. And Westwood? Well he’s just hitting it straight! Tiger’s second shot – this is the wonder of my job when you least expect it. The lie is good he is the right side to approach the green, a 6 iron I reckon at the most. He hits it. Immediately it’s all wrong and he is cross, short sided and ‘boing’ his club goes flying. The cameras rattle. Mine is on 10 frames a second and I need them all! Take a look at his club mid air it could almost be a boomerang.
It’s pictures like this that make it so much fun, not for Tiger of course, but every round I follow him wherever, whenever, there is a picture there.
The rest of the round pales in a way; lots of nice pictures, but no more ‘belters!’
Anyway a long and hard walk but lots of fun and that’s why I love it – I love watching Tiger! Not a good day but I know he will be there on Sunday. Let’s hope Lee is there as well, and as for Ryo, 17 years old wow! What a talent. I am going to have get used to the scrum!! Off to find Ernie and Rory – more fun but it’s beginning to feel a long, long day!
The Open in pictures…
By David Cannon, Senior Photographer — Getty Images, 12.00pm, 16 July
3.05am – So here we go. The morning of the first day of my 30th Open Championship, 29 as a photographer and one where I tried and failed to qualify at Carnoustie in 1975. Golf is my passion, and how lucky I have been to have followed golf all over the world for the last 30 years. I started my career in golf photography with a company called Allsport. In 1997 we were taken over by Getty Images for whom I now work covering golf globally all year. Getty Images work with The R&A on all their championships, the most important of which is The Open, which to me is the pinnacle of golf’s Major Championships.
My alarm ringing in my ear, I surface and head from our digs near Ayr in a caravan! Not just any caravan; 6 beds, running water and a view over the water to the Isle of Arran – what more could I ask?
On the first morning of each Open Championship since Hoylake in 2006, I have made an effort to get up and join the greenkeeping team as they prepare the course for play. The effort put in to preparing a course for the Championship is staggering.
3.45am: I arrive outside the entrance to the greenkeeper’s compound and wait for George Brown who has to escort me in. The scene inside the sheds is a hive of activity, mowers are being prepared, bunker rakes, dew sweepers, and all sorts of tools required for the task ahead are being loaded onto carts.
3.55am: George assembles his whole team and he addresses them from the balcony above the machinery. One of those moments where you see how much respect a genius of his trade is given, as he thanks the staff for all their efforts and as if they needed reminding he says:
“Here it is the moment we have all been working for, for the past few years. Those cold winter days digging out bunkers, and laying sod in new bunker faces, and all the other tasks, this is where it all becomes worthwhile”.
I snap away and at the end take a photograph of George and his team with all their machinery.
4.00am: The exodus begins, a well oiled army disperses to all points of the Ailsa Course. I play around blurring images to show the speed of the mowers as they leave.
4.25am: I am on the out on the putting green beneath the rear of the grandstand at the 18th as a greens mower with a headlight passes the Rolex clock and the lights of the Turnberry Hotel light the twilight pre-dawn sky.
4.50am I find George on the 7th green using a stimp meter checking the speed and the roll of the greens. His eyes are lit up as 3 out of 5 balls roll exactly on the same line a true sign of the purest greens, and they are running at almost 11.5 on the stimp. Watch out for lots of putts rattling the cups!!
5.05am: I am on the 9th tee as the sky is turning all shades of red as the sun begins to rise over the hills behind the course. The lighthouse sits against the crimson skies as its’ light twinkles across the almost calm sea. This is the quietest, stillest morning you could imagine. Pictures of grandstands, TV Towers, and scoreboards silhouetted against the sky, and policemen and security guards who have been patrolling all night are my only companions apart from the greenies!
5.30am: I am walking back towards the 18th and the mist has suddenly risen in the hollows of the 7th fairway, as a line of fairway mowers leave a clean cut on the dew ridden fairways.
5.40am — I find Michael Brown the Chairman of The R&A Championship Committee having a solitary sneaky putt on the 17th green, well not just one putt – at least 10! He is just checking the green and the pin position for the day – well that was his excuse anyway!
6.00 – I meet the Getty Images team for a quick plan of action – there are 7 of us shooting for the Championship and we need every one of them!
6.30 am — Ivor Robson the official starter clears his throat – by the way I am sure he learnt this from Seve! He announces as only he can the first tee shot – “On the tee Paul Broadhurst” — he rifles his rescue club arrow straight as the sun streaks across the tee. We are off and running – and I am off for a delicious media centre brekkie to gather strength for 9.09am and 18 holes with the world’s number one golfer – guess who – oh, and I must not forget the Ibuprofen!!
Put yourself in the pros’ shoes…(Part 3)
By Graeme Scott, Manager Sport Development — New Zealand, 5.30pm,15 July 2009
It is now Wednesday afternoon at Turnberry and we are edging ever closer to the first tee time.
When I finished my last blog I was about to head up the hill to the Hotel and grab some breakfast. Many of the players have taken the opportunity to stay at the hotel and so each time you sit down to a meal you are surrounded by a who’s who from the world of golf.
The plan for Tuesday was for me to meet up with my colleagues from Australia and undertake another sweep of the course. Unlike the initial cruise around the links, this time we would be armed with a couple of golf balls and a plan of specific Rules scenarios that we wanted to go over.
Ever since I met Andrew Langford-Jones we have enjoyed setting up little scenarios out on the course and testing each other on “what ifs”. Now that John Buckley from Golf Australia has joined us on the panel he must also undergo this ritual. This is a great way to review relief situations in particular and sharpen the old grey matter before the tournament commences.
As I mentioned before, the course is very clean in terms of situations that may arise, particularly if the wind doesn’t get up. In view of this you must choose your time wisely and try to assess which scenarios are worth spending a lot of time on and which are not. At this level you must also try to picture how the professionals will play the course. It is no good using your personal ability as a guide since the reality is that they can do things that you can’t and never will.
I think that at one time or another all of us who work on professional tours have been sternly advised by a top player that we should not put ourselves in their shoes when deciding if they can or can’t play a particular stroke. You certainly look very stupid if you tell a player that you don’t believe that they can advance a ball from the rough to hit a temporary immovable obstruction, deny them relief only to hear the ball smack straight into it.
By hole four we had caught up with a group of three Aussies and Chad Campbell, who was claiming temporary citizenship to make up the four. Walking several holes with Geoff Ogilvie, Rod Pampling, Matt Goggin and Campbell was not only good crack but also an opportunity to check out landing areas and potential issues off the tee and around the greens.
The breeze was still coming from the South West but was not really strong enough to be causing major issues with the players. Both the fourth and the sixth were proving testing in relation to club selection. At 231 yards, the club selection at the sixth is crucial with a nasty pot bunker front right and a severe slope off the front of the green that will see anything slightly short slide down the hill.
After watching the guys play through nine holes we chose to return to the Committee room as I had arranged a meeting with my counterpart from the Scottish Golf Union. What a great decision this was as we had no sooner made it back to base when the heavens opened and it absolutely poured down.
Although the Championship is the primary reason that I am in Turnberry, these meetings have been extremely valuable. It would certainly seem that New Zealand and Scotland have many common issues that we are facing but we are also tackling other projects in similar ways.
After lunch I decided that my most beneficial course of action would be to read over all my tournament documentation and make myself fully aware of the Local Rules and Conditions for the week, so it was back to the lodge for a few hours of study.
Wednesday is always a big day in preparation for the first round and so we decided to take it easy with a quiet meal in Girvan. Since my good wife is English there is absolutely no chance of getting haggis for dinner at home and so a man has to take full advantage of the offer of haggis, neeps and tatties on the local menu. Needless to say, there was no problem with my Aussie mates trying to pinch any off my plate!
Wednesday morning saw the grey pants, blue shirts and tournament ties surface from the wardrobes as the Rules Committee had to report for our preparatory meeting in the Turnberry clubhouse at 8.30am. This is a very important meeting as we are briefed on all aspects of the event and then we are divided into a series of small groups to complete the official course walk.
However, another very important aspect of the meeting is that we receive our duties for round one and two. This is always pretty exciting, since not only do you find out which players you are with but also whether or not you are in for a long lie or a late finish.
Thursday afternoon, the second to last group of the day with David Smail, Tim Wood and Oliver Fisher – perfect! Obviously I know Smaily pretty well but I also know both Tim from Australia and Ollie from his amateur days both in Japan and at the Bonallack Trophy in Auckland.
Round two and I will be heading out with Cambo, Mark Calcavecchia and Paul Broadhurst at 11.41am. This will be my fourth pairing with Cambo in 3 years having walked with him at Carnoustie in 2007 and then twice last year at Royal Birkdale.
With the meeting over at 9.45am we all split up into our groups for the course walk. As with other aspects of the week this tour can not only assist with your preparation for the week but for your overall development. The groups are set up to include R&A officials, international officials and tour officials so you always get a great mix.
There is always something for everyone during the walk since not every tour uses exactly the same local rules at events. Things like the relief from immovable obstructions within two club lengths of the green are foreign to the US PGA Tour staff and so we have to take time to cover it off with them. Amateur officials are less familiar with Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO) relief and so additional time is spent going through examples of relief scenarios.
Due to the wealth of knowledge out on the course, the groups may at times see possible problems that have been overlooked in the build up by the R&A Rules Department. By calling in each of these situations, David Rickman and his team have the opportunity to head back out for a final sweep and make appropriate changes to local rules or course markings as they see fit.
With the walk complete, our group head back for a spot of lunch and an impromptu discussion on guess what – yes it’s hard to really get away from the Rules!! This is exactly why my colleagues have various nicknames for me in the office but the truth is that I love it! How can you not enjoy good solid banter with the brains trust of world golf – awesome.
Well it is now late afternoon and I really feel that I should go for a run but the weather is still so nice and warm! I hope that today is not Scotland’s summer as it feels good having the sun on your back after waking up to frosts in Paraparaumu for the last few weeks.
Tomorrow is a big day as the Championship tees off, but also because my two brothers are coming down and I haven’t seen them for a year. Should be a great day.
“Bring it on…”(Part 2)
By Graeme Scott, Manager Sport Development — New Zealand Golf, 9.45am, 14 July 2009
Well, it is currently 5.45am on Tuesday and my body clock has told me to get out of bed even though it will be fast approaching home time for everyone in the NZ Golf office back in New Zealand. How on earth does your body work all this out without a great deal of input from us?
It did the same to me yesterday even though I had done my best to confuse it by flying through Hong Kong and over Russia to London and then up to Glasgow.
My eyes may have been weary as the courtesy car driver turned off the main road and into Turnberry, but they soon opened up in awe when the majestic Turnberry Hotel and the grandstands surrounding the 18th hole came into view.
Perched on the hill overlooking the links, the recently refurbished hotel with its kilted doorman waiting to welcome me, was indeed a glorious sight. Although close to 9.00pm, the diminishing summer sunshine bathed the course and a gentle sea breeze pushed around the multitude of flags that adorn the venue.
Although tired I was excited and just couldn’t wait to start my week at The Open.
I felt pretty good after my six hour sleep and so went for an early breakfast before heading to the course. I couldn’t help but stop and take a few photos of the mini golf course that lies below the hotel. An awesome wee pitch and putt set up with holes no more than 30-40 metres in length and proper bunkers guarding the greens. How could you not have fun playing something like that?
Further up the lawns there is the 18-hole putting green and I start to recall memories of my own youth growing up in Montrose where golf was taken on in incremental steps like this. I was eager to be a good putter and chipper since I couldn’t play on the medal course until I had reached a decent standard on the much shorter Broomfield course. Great days indeed.
Fed and watered I headed for the course. Security is a huge undertaking at an event such as The Open and officials must at all times wear photo identification. Even referees must abide by the “no mobile phone” rule and so I do feel a touch naked without my Blackberry in my pocket.
On entering the course almost the first person that I met was Michael Campbell. He looked in great shape and had enjoyed an early round at the head of the practice day field.
My first priority was to find the Rules Office and say hello to R&A staff who had spent the last week at Turnberry defining the margins and boundaries and preparing supporting documentation for the Rules Committee.
The large “blue folder” that you receive on Monday contains a wealth of information regarding everything that you may possibly encounter out on the course as an official. This really helps you to plan your course walks each day as you can identify particular trouble spots and spend time working out possible scenarios.
The staff are extremely approachable and helpful at all times and I often have to remind myself that they have a huge number of jobs to do as I could easily talk golf to them all day.
Tool kit in hand, the next stop is the Committee room where the Rules Committee hang out when not on duty. There is a large international contingent working at The Open each year with an official appointed to each group during the event. This is different to most tour events which see a team of 6-10 officials in carts covering the whole golf course.
As I mentioned in my first blog, the opportunity that the R&A provide to international officials such as myself is incredible. The wealth of knowledge around you in this environment is immense and you really can’t fail but feed off it.
I had an appointment to meet my colleague and friend from the Australian PGA, Andrew Langford-Jones to conduct our initial course walk. Langers and I have established such a routine over then last couple of Open Championships and we usually take the opportunity to say g’day to all the Aussies and Kiwis in the field.
With a bit of time up my sleeve I took the chance to go and meet some of the other R&A staff that work in different departments. The Equipment Standards team complete much of the scientific work surrounding clubs, balls and other areas such as distance measuring devices. Emails and phone calls are great but nothing beats a face to face chat with an expert like Steve Otto or Claire Bates when it comes to issues that we are facing in our little corner of the world.
My next important job was to touch base with our other three members of the Kiwi contingent who I knew were heading off for a practice around mid day.
David Smail was just leaving the range after hitting some balls and looked relaxed and ready to go. This is his second major this year and he also looks likely to play in the PGA due to his world ranking. Like Cambo he was full of praise for the course, which he had played on Sunday.
Mark Brown and Josh Geary, both first timers to The Open were just about to hit off when I caught up with them. Both looked focussed and keen to get the week started so I left them to it.
The gentle breeze from the sea was starting to lift a wee bit so it was now a good time to see the course for myself.
Wow, I love links golf and Turnberry is as linksy as it gets!! Tee blocks set in the whin bushes (gorse to the non Scots) or perched on the shoreline and shaved green surrounds just waiting to tease the approach shot that has landed too close to the edge of the green. The sea of wavy rough only three metres from the perfectly manicured fairways – awesome.
Tiger had gone out really early, as he tends to do, but the legends of the game are just around every dog-leg. Tom Watson, checking his driving distances and still as committed as ever and Nick Faldo, the consummate professional who has traded his commentator’s microphone for his tools of trade once more.
In golfing terms the course is pretty clean with few run of the mill Rules scenarios likely to pop up. Also, the grandstands and other Temporary Immovable Obstructions are well located and, unless the wind bears its teeth, should be out of play.
The rough on the other hand is thick and juicy. The showery rain and sunshine of recent weeks has nurtured the root grass and created a real threat for anyone who strays off line.
If the weather stays benign then I think we are in for some great scores but if the south westerly rises then scores could rise, particularly over the closing holes.
I just made it back to the Committee Room when a heavy rain shower started. Time to head back to the hotel and prepare for the first official dinner of the week.
Each evening The R&A host various sponsors, guests and television companies and officials are provided with the opportunity to attend. Once again this is an excellent opportunity to meet with golf enthusiasts and administrators from around the world and discuss common issues and methods of addressing them.
What a great start to the week! Everyone really makes you feel so welcome here and they have a genuine desire to find about what is happening around the traps.
Well, 5.45am has now moved on to breakfast time before round two of the course inspections start around 10am. Another day at the 138th Open Championship – bring it on!
Why I’ll travel 12,000 miles…and would travel 12,000 more
By Graeme Scott, Manager Sport Development — New Zealand Golf, 4.20pm, 13 July 2009
I have heard several seasoned New Zealand All Black players say that it doesn’t matter how many times your name has been read out for the first international squad of the season, you still sit nervously on the edge of your chair just waiting for confirmation that you will once again represent your country at the highest level.
Well I’ve never had a call up for the All Blacks but I must confess that I get a similar feeling each time March comes around and invites from the Chairman of the Championship Committee to officiate at The Open are issued.
I received my first invitation to officiate at The Open in 2004 and recall being more nervous at Royal Troon than I have been at any other event in my life.
My role with New Zealand Golf provides me with the opportunity to act as tournament director at our national championships, oversee our Rules Official pathway and regularly officiate on the Australasian PGA Tour, but being in this elite environment as a New Zealand representative on the panel felt very special indeed.
On that first occasion I arrived at the course feeling extremely confident in my knowledge of the Rules, but having walked the course several times with other first timers and gone through hundreds of “what if” scenarios, by the time I walked on to the first tee on Thursday my stomach was performing a perfect 10 gymnastics routine.
However, as soon as I saw the three players in my group hit the most beautiful tee shots down the fairway I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
As an international guest official at The Open you have a fantastic opportunity to extend your knowledge of the game by working closely with The R&A staff and the full time tour staff in attendance.
One thing for certain is that every one of the Rules Officials at The Open is extremely passionate about the game and not only enjoy a good discussion on a range of topics but also take the opportunity to find out about what systems and new initiatives are in place around the world.
People have said to me that a 35 hour trip across the globe for a golf tournament must be a gruelling journey but personally I can’t wait to get to Turnberry and soak up the atmosphere. Having never seen the venue before there will be a fair bit of leg work and preparation to be done before the first ball is struck on Thursday.
I’ve got a feeling that we’re in for a real treat…
By David Hill, R&A Director of Championships, 1.30pm, 9 July 2009
Well, we’re back at Turnberry after an absence of 15 years and, I must say, it’s great to return to one of the very best venues in the world. Since a lot has changed within the intervening years in terms of the way that we set up an Open Championship, we’ve treated the 2009 Championship venue as a bit of a blank canvas with no pre-conceived ideas about how it should be set up. The main aim, however, remains the same as it was in 1977, ’86 and ’94. To make sure that The R&A does justice to this most majestic of golf courses and offers spectators an unparalleled Major Championship experience.
On course in 2009 there are now 15,000 grandstand seats, more than ever before at Turnberry, which not only provide uninterrupted views of the golf, but are strategically placed to show off the breathtaking beauty of the Ailsa. Off the course, the tented village has been redesigned to provide a more modern facility which will comfortably house our improved public catering services. And, for the first time, the tented village will be home to a cinema showing three unique films about the rich history of golf and Turnberry.
Developing the event to this extent has necessitated a bit of a re-think as far as the event infrastructure is concerned. We’ve had to install a new telephone exchange, put in new drainage, new internal roads and upgrade the runways to improve car parking. But these sometimes challenging, and often time-consuming, tasks are made worthwhile, as they are every year, when you see an attractive venue ready to host the world’s best golfers emerge from the links. It’s that feeling which I continue to enjoy after over 30 years with The R&A.
When I celebrated three decades in the job earlier this year, someone asked me about my favourite Open memory. For me, Seve winning in 1984 springs to mind. It was an incredibly exciting final day which I think gave all of us a few butterflies in our stomachs. The moment that he holed that long putt on 18 under the St Andrews sun, punching the air like a victorious matador, is one which I will forever remember. It was such a significant event because it heralded a changing of the guard from the era of five-time Open Champion, Tom Watson, to a new great, Seve Ballesteros.
And this year has every chance of being just as good. Coming originally from Northern Ireland, it would be good to see the likes of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell challenging, but there are so many exciting young players emerging like the Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa, who I’m very much looking forward to seeing, and a few notable old hands returning such as Watson and Norman, that I’m sure we’re in for a fantastic final stretch on Sunday afternoon. Who knows, another ‘Duel in the Sun’ could be just around the corner!
In just a couple of days the players will start arriving to take up residence in the newly refurbished Turnberry Hotel, which is once again looking magnificent as it stands surveying the links.
Preparing the Ailsa…
By Grant Moir, R&A Director — Rules of Golf, 10.30am, 1 July 2009
As R&A Director – Rules of Golf, it’s fair to say that the run-up to The Open is always a pretty busy time but, as a contributor to discussions about lengths of rough, pace of greens, hole placements and local rules, it’s ultimately very enjoyable and rewarding.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been on a few course walks with R&A Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, and Turnberry’s Course Manager, George Brown, to really get to know the course and establish how it will be attacked by the best golfers in the world. As always, the first issue to review is the course condition which, in the Ailsa’s case, is of no concern at all. Having been closed since November, and with George having been at the helm for over 24 years, it is, unsurprisingly, in supreme condition. Aside from the players, I have no doubt that the most important people at any Open are the greenstaff, and we are fortunate to have fantastically committed teams at all our Open venues.
In addition to conditioning, we also review the setup. We decide the width of the fairways and the height of the first and second cuts of rough, and check on the sand depth in the bunkers. Even though the Ailsa has fewer bunkers than other Open Championship courses, they are well placed and will see a lot of action. Some are traditional links pot bunkers that will certainly cost all but the most inventive of players a shot. Others, like the one to the left of the re-shaped 16th fairway, will give a well-struck shot the chance to reach the green but carry a significant element of risk, with the green being guarded front and right by a gathering burn!
The Rules department is responsible for ensuring that the course is properly defined, which means staking and painting hazard and boundary lines. This can see us venturing into areas where few players are likely to visit, up to our necks in marram grass in the process of defining the beach that runs alongside the holes 4 through 11 as a lateral water hazard.
From a Rules of Golf perspective, the Ailsa is a pretty ‘clean’ course. Our only difficulties come in drafting local rules relating to The Open’s event infrastructure; scoreboards, TV towers, grandstands, marquees and the like. The key to addressing these issues is to try to ensure that the relief given from these “temporary immovable obstructions” is reasonable, without being overly generous. All of the Rules staff find that an ice cream from the Carte D’Or van assists in our deliberations over where a ball that comes to rest under the vehicle should be dropped!
During the Championship I’ll be in my golf buggy, ready to assist the referees walking with games should they need a second opinion, and monitoring pace of play. But perhaps the most interesting part of my day will come after the close of play, when I’ll go out with my marker pen and “spot” the following day’s hole positions. There’s a common misconception amongst golf fans that Open Championship final-day hole positions are made particularly fiendish by The R&A. The reality is, however, that we always try to maintain balance and consistency throughout all four days of play. Perhaps players just make it look harder as the nerves set in during the final round! Personally, I love to see birdies on the last day and hear the noise building in the grandstands as the leaders make their way round.
The 1994 Turnberry Open was my first as a full-time employee of The R&A, and it still feels fantastic to be involved with The Open 15 years on. To have a hand in setting up the course for the greatest players in the world to compete for the greatest prize in golf is a privilege, as is working with the team of Rules officials who join us from home and abroad. And for it all to be happening in a setting as glorious as Turnberry should make the next few weeks hard to beat.
Another day at the office…
By Michael Wells, R&A Assistant Director, 6.00pm, 24 June 2009
I’ve been on-site in Turnberry full-time since the 1st June, so about a month now. But I reckon if you combine all my trips here since the start of the year, then it’ll work out at about two months away from St Andrews. Sometimes it seems like a long time but, when you consider that some of the contractors have been on site since November, you realise that it’s not long at all!
As Assistant Director — Championships, I act as an intermediary between the contractors, the Turnberry resort and The R&A’s Championship Committee. I tell my friends that I’m responsible for placing the bins and portaloos, and that once that’s done, I get on with the less glamorous jobs! But actually I spend most of my time in the tented village, overseeing the construction and furnishing of the hospitality complexes.
Since I started the job almost 10 years ago now, straight out of school, it has been, and continues to be, a steep learning curve. It’s a constant source of amazement for me that my boss, David Hill, The R&A’s Director of Championships, can look at some links land and see a Major Championship venue. After a decade, I think I’m starting to understand the logistics of staging one of the world’s biggest sporting events, but I know I’ve still got a long way to go.
Everything is really taking shape now. Most of the marquees are up and are, I’m told, clearly visible from Ailsa Craig. But they’d be even more visible if we got a bit of rain to give them a wash; we’ve been praying for a downpour for two weeks now!
It’s great being at Turnberry at the moment, there’s a real buzz around and the anticipation is starting to build. The feeling of having 250 people from all over the country here, all pursuing the same goal, is what really keeps you going late into the evening. And of course, when the day’s work is done, there are always plenty of friends to go for a night-cap with.
Right, I’m off to play a few holes on the Kintyre course. After all, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
We’re at Sunningdale for the last IFQ of the season
By Rhodri Price, R&A Assistant Director — Championships, 6.45pm, 7 June 2009
I wrote my previous blog on Opengolf.com just before heading off to South Africa for the first of this season’s International Final Qualifying events. Now, as I write today’s, I’m at Sunningdale looking forward to the completion of the international qualifying schedule at IFQ – Europe tomorrow.
In the last four months we’ve been to Durban, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; Sentosa, Singapore; and Plano, Texas, USA and, so far, 18 players have earned their places at Turnberry.
But now it’s Europe’s turn, and some of golf’s big-name players are here. Thomas Bjorn, Nick Dougherty and Johan Edfors will all be competing, along with Irish Open champion, Shane Lowry, who popped in to the R&A Office to say hello! There is a field of 96 with the top ten qualifying for The Open. It promises to be an exciting day.
As I write, last week’s European Open champion, Christian Cevaer, has appeared. He’s still thrilled about the victory, but seems intently focused on earning his open berth tomorrow.
Anyway, IFQ – Europe has been held here at Sunningdale since its inception in 2004. It’s a perfect venue: two wonderful golf courses, a beautiful clubhouse and lots of tradition. Every year, on something called IFQ Sunday, the club Secretary buys 20 fish suppers for the 20 greenkeepers, who take a half hour’s break – their only one of the day – before the work goes on late into the night.
They’ve worked particularly hard today after last night’s storms which washed the faces of all 158 bunkers away. In three hours, they re-faced all of the bunkers, and by the time I went out to have a look at the course, the hazards looked immaculate. At Sunningdale, as with all our IFQ courses, the effort that is put in behind the scenes to present the players with a course worthy of awarding Open places cannot be overestimated.
I’ve been on site for five days now making sure that everything is in place. The media centre is up and running, the scoreboards have been erected, the draw has been made and the players are arriving. All that remains to do is organise the burger van!
Cevaer, Paul Broadhurst and Steve Webster are practicing 20 yards away from the office.
I can’t wait.
A look ahead to the first two IFQs of 2009
By Rhodri Price, R&A Assistant Director — Championships, 1.00pm, 27 January 2009
During the first week of February I’ll be at Royal Durban Golf Club in South Africa to ensure that the first International Final Qualifying event of the year runs as smoothly as possible. It’s the first year that we’ve had the opportunity to take the event to Durban as the Sunshine Tour schedule meant that players would be in the KwaZulu-Natal area.
Royal Durban is one of the few championship courses in the world that sit within a horse-racing track. I’d anticipated that this would cause a few organisational problems but the South African officials are used to staging events like the South African Amateur and qualifying for the South African Open inside the rails so it’s proved reasonably straight-forward to pull things together on the build-up to the competition. Apparently the jockeys have all been warned about wayward five irons!
Having shared the event between Atlantic Beach Golf Club in Cape Town and Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club since 2004, it’s good to take IFQ to a different part of the country and to a golf club in whose clubhouse hangs a picture of ex-R&A Secretary and my old boss, Sir Michael Bonallack! I’ve spent some time in Durban during IFQ planning visits and, on a personal note, I’m looking forward to going back to such a vibrant city.
Not that there’ll be much time to relax and take in the sights; as soon as IFQ Africa reaches a conclusion, I’ll be straight onto a flight bound for Australia to run IFQ Australasia at Kingston Heath Golf Club on Melbourne’s famous Sandbelt.
We’ve been to Kingston Heath a few times before so everything is very familiar. Again we chose to go back there as the PGA Tour of Australia schedule meant that it would be convenient for players to take part in the time between the end of the Victorian PGA Championship and the start of the Moonah Classic.
It’s always a pleasure to go back to Melbourne. Everyone’s really keen on their golf and there’s never a shortage of volunteers who are happy to come and help us out.
When the 36 holes of IFQ Australasia come to an end on Tuesday 10 February, I’m sure I’ll be ready to leave the warmth of the Southern Hemisphere and come back to St Andrews knowing that we’ve given players that choose to, or have to play more locally, the chance to earn their place in The Open Championship.
The International Final Qualifying concept emerged from our strong belief that world-ranked players who deserved a place at The Open shouldn’t miss out just because they play on a domestic tour or couldn’t travel, either for financial or scheduling reasons, to qualifying events in Europe or America. It is The Open Championship so we wanted to make sure that it was Open to everyone.
There are now qualifying events in five continents: Africa, Australasia, Asia, America and Europe. Hopefully we’ve gone some way towards making playing at The Open as affordable and accessible as possible; providing you have the ability of course.
Though we haven’t yet had any IFQ qualifiers challenging during the final round of The Open, the value of the idea was proven at the US Open’s international qualifying events which appeared a couple of years after The R&A’s. Michael Campbell had only just scraped into the qualifying field, but, after managing to do enough at Walton Heath Golf Club to earn a start at Pinehurst, he went on to win the 2005 US Open title.
Director of Championships reflects upon The Open’s return to Turnberry
By David Hill, R&A Director of Championships, 4.30pm, 23rd October 2008
Come next July it will be 15 years since we had an Open at Turnberry, and I can safely say that everybody at The R&A is genuinely excited about the event coming back to this course. It’s a fantastic venue, probably the most scenic on whole rota, and certainly one with some of the most iconic memories, thanks to that fantastic first Open Championship held there in 1977.
I wasn’t working for The R&A back then – I joined a couple of years later, in 1979 – but I did go and watch the 1977 Open as a spectator, and it was fabulous. The weather was just so good, and it turned into the famous shootout between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, the “Duel in the Sun”. They both shot in the mid-60s every day and were 10 shots or so clear of the field before Watson edged ahead on the last hole to win. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the most memorable Opens in the last 40 or 50 years.
The fact that it was Nicklaus and Watson just reflected the dominance of the Americans at the time. Eight of the top 10 that year were Americans, something which changed fairly quickly after that, and the next two Opens at Turnberry saw an Australian, Greg Norman, and a Zimbabwean, Nick Price, win the Championship.
Norman’s win in 1986 was particularly exciting. We had everything that week, with the weather changing constantly from warm sunshine to freezing cold and overcast, with squalls battering the coast on and off. And then in 1994 Nick Price was a great winner, he played the best golf and we had superb crowds, so next year’s Open will have a lot to live up to.
It’s got to be said that bringing the Championship back here has been quite a challenge, though. The main reason that it hasn’t been here in 15 years is because of the traffic difficulties which we had in the past, but the Championship Committee is determined to take The Open to all the top links courses that are capable of hosting the event. We’ve been working with South Ayrshire Council for several years to work on a new road system to help people travel there, and now that is in place with additional parking areas.
The delay in returning brought other problems with it, though, since all the infrastructure that we used in 1994 had been in place since that first Open in 1977. Unfortunately that meant most of the ground services were pretty much obsolete, so we’ve had to start again. That’s meant we’ve had to start installing everything from a new drainage system to building a 60,000-gallon water tank, which ensures we’ll be self-sufficient for water during the event.
It’s not been unlike Hoylake a couple of years ago, where we were going back for the first time in almost 40 years. Turnberry has one big advantage with the number of old RAF runways on the site: they make for superb car parks! At Hoylake we had to spend a lot of time negotiating with farmers and the council to put in park and ride facilities, whereas although Turnberry is more remote, we have everything we could possibly want right on the site.
Everything’s going well in the final stages of planning now. There are a few final changes being made to the course – they’re being overseen personally by Peter Dawson – and we’re currently working out how many grandstand seats we’ll be setting up, which will probably be in the region of 15-16,000. I personally can’t wait to see if Harrington will be able to become the first man since Peter Thomson to win three consecutive Opens, or if Tiger Woods will be raring to come back and win. Neither have played in The Open there, but Whatever happens the players are looking forward to it – some have already been in touch about booking their rooms in the Turnberry Hotel – and hopefully it will be another great Open, to rank alongside previous ones at Turnberry.
We like a breezy Open, but this one has been a bit too breezy
By Peter Dawson, R&A Chief Executive, 11.40am, 20th July 2008
We like a breezy Open but this one has been a bit too breezy for comfort, and yesterday was the most challenging day. Despite the fact that we’d done everything we could to avoid getting into problems – choosing sensible pin positions, slowing down the greens and so on – we still came very, very close to having to suspend play. If two or three more balls had moved on the greens then we’d have had to do something, but luckily we got away with it and we’re left with the prospect of an absorbing final day.
It’s wonderful to see the names at the top of the leaderboard: it’s great to see Greg Norman back in front at an Open, and to see defending champion Padraig Harrington doing so well. And it’s also very good to see Ben Curtis back there too, especially since we’ve perhaps not seen as much of him as we might have liked to since his win in 2003. We’ve had some wonderful Opens over the years, but this one looks like being right up there amongst the most exciting and unpredictable. It’s funny how we’ve heard no more about the issues that were in the spotlight at the start of the week. I’ve certainly not heard the 17th green being talked about much over the past few days…
The climax of The Open will be fantastic for spectators and viewers, but for us today is the most stressful day. We’ve got the engraver here for the Claret Jug, we’ve got planning meetings for the prize ceremony, right down to details such as making sure we have two Silver Medals, since both amateurs would receive one if they finish tied. On top of that the wind is still strong and the sun is drying out the greens, so that could cause problems today as it did yesterday. One way or another, I’ve a feeling we’ll be kept very busy right up to the very end.
It was considered unsporting for anyone to practice before a round
By Peter Thomson, five-time Open Champion, 4.55pm, 19th July 2008
It’s always a pleasure to come back to Royal Birkdale. It was where I won my first Open in 1954 and my fifth in 1965, and where I have been made an honorary member, so it would be kind of strange if I didn’t have a special feeling for the place.
Apart from some small adjustments it’s the same course as it was in 1965. What makes it so challenging is the constant change of direction and the coastal location that brings the wind into play so often.
When I see the course prepared so beautifully for the Championship I really feel I would love to play, but my own game is not up to it any more. I played three times in St Andrews last week with some visiting friends and that’s more golf in a short time than I’ve played for a couple of years. There’s not so much pleasure in playing poorly. There are no 68s these days, more like 88s. I drive shorter, miss greens by a bigger margin and three-putt more.
What I like to do here is watch the practice rounds. I don’t have any special favourites, but what does amaze me is the intense practice these players put in. I can’t help feeling that there is a certain silliness in hitting 500 balls a day. Once you attain a high degree of proficiency you should be hitting fewer violent shots and looking after your body. There seems to be a blind faith in the idea that hitting thousands of shots will lead to great improvements, but that is not necessarily the case.
I never owned more than 10 practice balls and I would use my time playing holes. That way I learned to score and learned about my limitations and how not to extend myself. In those days it was considered very unsporting for anyone to go out for a practice session before a round — almost a form of cheating.
Things have changed a great deal and he growth of the game has been quite fantastic. Over the next decade it is going to get even bigger, especially in countries like China, Vietnam and Korea, and I hope that a lot of the accumulated old knowledge in golf is listened to in the years to come. It is important to realise that 99 per cent of the game is for the general public and just one per cent is the shop window of the professional tournament scene.
I’m not just here at Birkdale for pleasure. I will also be writing a piece for the Sunday Age newspaper in Melbourne, something I’ve been doing for 55 years. I remember writing about my own victory from the press centre here with The Open trophy perched on the desk beside the typewriter. In all I played 25 Opens and lost 20. Being here at Birkdale brings all those memories vividly back to mind.
It’s been a challenge this week — and I’m not just talking about the 4am starts
By Michael Wells, R&A Assistant Director — Championships — 8.55pm, 18th July 2008
It’s been a challenge this week – and I’m not just talking about the 4am starts and 10pm finishes. With the weather, it’s tough just keeping the tented village in a condition suitable for the 50,000 people visiting The Open every day. It’s just the general mess created by all those people walking through wet, muddy ground – we’re still looking good, though, thanks to our contractors. They’ve put down sand and wood chips in the affected areas, and luckily we’ve been able to keep everything running smoothly.
Running the Open is literally my full-time job: The R&A have a team of people based in St Andrews who look after it every year, and split up the jobs between us. One of the things that I look after, for example, is the leaderboards, which were a big thing this year. To be honest, we were slightly concerned about what the reaction would be when people saw that we hadn’t replaced the old boards with something electronic – whether people might see it as The R&A dragging our heels – but we did some research beforehand and people loved the old mechanical leaderboards, particularly the anticipation of watching the names or scores change and having those few seconds of suspense before the new information comes up. We honestly think it’s a better experience for people.
Not that the new leaderboards are just the same as the old ones: they’re much better, particularly for the schoolchildren who operate them. They’re watertight for a start – which has been pretty important this week – and much smoother and more reliable in operation. The kids who operate them get really competitive between them – the leaderboard on one side of the 18th is operated by children from Cranleigh school, and the one on the other side by others from Charterhouse, so they end up having competitions about who can get the changes up quickest. It means they enjoy it more – and the spectators see the scores more quickly. Everyone wins!
There’s 200 scoreboard operators in total, working 17 scoreboards around the course, the two leaderboards on the 18th, and two hole-by-hole boards in the tented village. It’s a lot, but it’s just a tiny fraction of the whole: there’s five or six thousand people working at The Open this year (1,000 purely in catering), plus 800 marshalls from local golf clubs who happily give up their time for the kudos of the job and the chance to be part of the effort. Plus a free jacket, of course!
This week itself is just one small bit of the whole, though. I’ve been based down here since the 5th May – basically, I lose most of every summer to The Open, and have done since I started the job nine years ago. There’s plenty of company around, though, such as our main contractor Grant Smith, whose been here since then as well. The hardest bit at many of the venues is fitting the tented village into the space; some, like Royal St George’s have huge amounts of flat space, which makes it easy. Others, like Lytham, are much more compact, which makes it much more challenging. Once it’s all over, though, it’s not nice, a real anticlimax. The place turns into a ghost town, and there’s always a major job to clean up everything that’s been left behind. It keeps me back for an extra week after everybody else has left.
For all that, it’s a great job: the venues are all in nice places, and it’s obviously great just being involved with The Open. And, once in a while, we even get to play a few nice golf courses!
And that’s when it hits you: this is The Open!
By Shona McRae, R&A Rules Department — 8.10pm, 17th July 2008
What a day! The weather was absolutely terrible this morning, not what you’d wish for at all on the first day of The Open. But apart from the soaking we all got out on the course, it was a great start to the tournament.
It’s been early starts and late finishes all week, but today and Friday are probably the longest days. Today I was up at 4.30 in the morning, got to the course for 5.15 to make all the preparations before the start, and I’ll be at the course until the end of play tonight. Each morning the Rules Officials collect the necessary information, pick up their radios and check with the Rules Office which groups they’ve been assigned for the day. Most details are dealt with in a briefing the day before it all starts: the officials come from all over the world, so sometimes they might not have come across the conditions that UK links courses present, so it is useful to discuss all aspects of this prior to the event.
Once play has started and the rules officials are familiar with the procedures, we co-ordinate our work from the Rules Department office — the rest of the year, I’m a full-time member of staff in The R&A Rules Department, so there are many other aspects to this role. However, by mid-morning today I had to head off out on the course: I was the official with the 10.48 group.
And that’s when it hits you: this is THE OPEN. I was with Jamie Elson, Jon Bevan and Rohan Blizard today, and particularly with two of them being home-grown players there was just a huge amount of cheering and support on the first tee. With all the TV cameras and crowds you really get the feeling that the world is watching; it can be a bit nerve-wracking, but if the players feel nerves they certainly don’t show it. I was introduced to them on the first tee so that they know who I am if they need to ask anything about the Rules or have any problems on course.
Not once have I had a reaction from someone uncomfortable with me being female — if anything, I get the feeling that the players are usually pleasantly surprised, and perhaps they mind their Ps and Qs a bit more than usual! Some players are happy to chat during the round — for example, Jon Bevan took time to chat with the scorer, bunker raker, scoreboard carrrier and myself today — while others keep more to themselves, but that’s fair, they want to focus on their game.
As for the refereeing itself? Well, it has been described as being hours of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror, and there’s definitely an element of that. It’s a funny mixture, because in some ways it’s good to get involved a situation where you can assist the players with the Rules, but on the other hand if it all goes smoothly then it’s likely you are watching the pros playing at their best, shooting pars and birdies, which is great to witness.
When something comes up, it can really get the adrenaline going. Last year at Carnoustie on the Friday morning I was acting as an observer with Tiger’s group when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds on the first hole. Before I knew it I had to rush across the fairway to confirm it was definitely out — my heart was pumping, and it felt like the world was watching. But after that, it felt like I’d got the moment I’d been dreading out of the way and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to rub shoulders with the best golfers at the best championship in the world.
By Peter Dawson, R&A Chief Executive — 8.30am, 15th July 2008
So far, so good…
We’re less than a day away from the start of The Open — and so far, so good.
A lot of my time at The Open is usually spent trying to look after the players: have they all registered successfully, are the locker rooms okay, are they happy with the course. But I have to say that this year I’ve had so little by way of complaint from any of them that it’s been completely painless. They seem to love the course, all the logistics are running smoothly and everything’s going to plan – so far, at least.
Not that there aren’t other things to be keeping me busy. One of the main jobs over the past few days has been fixing the draw – and I use the word advisedly. We freely admit that the draw isn’t random, and it can’t be for all sorts of reasons. There’s crowd control, for example: we have to make sure that the most popular groups don’t follow on from each other or it could be mayhem on the course. Then we try to make sure that we split up the faster players and the slower players – it’s definitely a factor. And then, of course, there’s the reality that TV networks all across the world want to see their home players at times which are convenient for their viewers. There’s not much point having all the Australian and Japanese players teeing off at times that mean the fans would have to get up in the middle of the night to watch their favourite players.
Pin positions are another factor that we spend a bit of time looking at this week, and it’s something that’s been coming up a lot at my daily morning meetings with Chris Whittle, Birkdale’s Head Greenkeeper, and Richard Reed, Chairman of the Greens Committee at the club – it’s the first thing I do each day, at about 7.30am. The course is looking wonderful, even though the amount of rain we’ve had has made it perhaps greener than we’d have liked, and have kept the greens just ever so slightly on the slow side. They’re 10 on the stimpmeter at the moment compared to our target of 10.5, so we’d just like to speed them up that little bit. Anything faster than that and we could have trouble if the wind gets up.
I’ve been doing a lot of media interviews as well this week, and understandably a lot of people have been asking about Tiger not being here – though funnily enough, over the last week or so just as many people have been asking about Kenny Perry staying away. Tiger’s the big one though: I know he’s missing us just as we’re missing him, and we’re looking forward to seeing him back here next year. But he’d be the first to say that The Open is bigger than any one player, and considering that he’s won three of his 11 Opens there was a very good chance in any case that another player would have turned out the winner this week even if he had been here.
All in all, it’s been going extremely well so far. It’s funny: the last time The Open came to Birkdale was the year before I started working at The R&A, and as a member of The R&A’s Rules Committee I was here all week as a referee, yet when you’re doing that you just have no idea about all the work that goes on behind the scenes – no idea at all. And I have to add that I’d never have dreamed back then that I’d be here this week as Chief Executive.
The new Open website
By the Opengolf.com team — 4.17pm, 3rd July 2008
Welcome to the new Open website! We’ve been hard at work for months — since before the last Open, in fact — creating a brand new website for The Open to bring you the whole story from the greatest championship in golf. We’re still adding new features all the time, but hope that you agree that what’s available already is a major step up from our previous website.
There’s a whole raft of new features. This blog, for example, will be the first of many — though it’ll be the last one from the website team. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you a whole range of different guest bloggers, each of whom has some part to play in bringing golf’s oldest Major championship to life. The idea is to show you what goes on behind the scenes — the furiously-paddling legs of the swan, if you like — from the incredible amounts of pre-event preparation to the lighter moments that you never see on television or read about in the papers. Whether the blogger is a TV cameramen or someone behind the tills in the merchandise tent, a caddie for a top-10 contender or R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson, we hope that they’ll offer a unique insight into the championship.
Elsewhere on the site, there’s a new player database that lets you find biographies, statistics and pictures for all of this year’s field. There is also a wealth of historical information available, including full year-by-year results, reports, pictures and some player records.
There’s also a new video player which will bring not just interviews and highlights from the 2008 event, but also highlights from some of the incredible moments witnessed at The Open over the years. We’ve organised all our footage to make it easy for you either to find what you’re looking for, or else just find something amazing, from holes-in-one and albatrosses to official highlights films stretching back to 1923.
There’s plenty more besides: an interactive map (click the ‘World Map’ tab up on the right to open it up), an upgraded Open timeline (also accessible via the blue tab at the right of the screen), a new section about the 14 venues which have hosted the championship, a guide to the course with nuggets of wisdom from the Open Champion and the Birkdale head professional, an insider’s guide to spectating at Birkdale that’s come from a man who’s been a member for 50 years… and plenty more besides, but we’ll leave you to find the rest for yourselves.
We hope you enjoy the new website — either way, please do let us know what you think, either via the feedback links or via our new forums (another new feature!).
Many thanks for visiting — and, if you’re coming to Birkdale this year, we’ll see you there.
The Opengolf.com Team