x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Of long drives and early birdies

Watson, a five-time Open champion, likes to refer to Turnberry as an old lady. Yesterday, he wooed her.

Rounds of four hours, and round trips of the same time. The British Open golf championship is dominated by lengthy drives of all varieties. The long and winding road to Turnberry seems to provide as many obstacles as its course. A sludge of cars creep through single-lane roads, reaching a bottleneck through the diminutive town of Maybole before continuing to weave onwards, across the seemingly endless highways and byways of South Ayrshire, thoroughfares that feel more suited to horse and cart than an endless convoy of gas guzzlers.

It all resembles the opening rounds here. The day begins at 6.30am until the last group tees off at 4.21pm. Nine hours and 51 minutes. Three men, some caught in garish garb, especially Ian Poulter yesterday in his wretched Union Jack leisurewear, in 52 groups, making up a field of 156. This seems to appeal to the public, even at £55 (Dh331) for the day. Human behaviour is a curious thing. All these folk holed up in traffic jams yesterday morning were frantically dashing to what feels like the land that time forgot, all jostling for position to watch some pampered individuals thump a little white ball around a plot of coastal land.

When it is all said and done, they steam into more traffic jams, on their journey home, all appearing to be in a rush to get nowhere. Thousands will come back to do it all again today. As they say in these parts, there's nowt as queer as folk. Staying near this course can be a taxing business. There are stories of locals renting out their houses for the week at a whopping £10,000, before making themselves scarce by escaping to warmer climes.

Nice work if you can get it. Justin Rose, the English player, is apparently basing himself in Fife, on the east coast of the country. Whatever comes his way this week, he will cover a lot of ground to get there. The Open continues to give men such as Rose the chance to catch up with old acquaintances, but it is equally refreshing to acknowledge Mr or Mrs J Worth on one's way in. There is usually more than one jobsworth circulating these events. Give someone a steward's armband, a security uniform or a "silence please" placard and many become mentally unhinged. Golf tournaments are wonderful in their ability to provide refuge for such glorious caricatures.

Amid all the traffic wheeling around the course, Tom Watson was on a road to enlightenment. He continued to be in splendid form after his five-under 65, which saw him head the field. Watson, a five-time Open champion, likes to refer to Turnberry as an old lady. Yesterday, he wooed her. At 59, his golfing powers may no longer be so virile, but he can talk a good game. On days like yesterday, he can play one. His press conference lasted longer than many an address by President Barack Obama.

There is something refreshing to know that large swathes of the punters come here to marvel at Tiger Woods, a figure of African American descent who is pursuing a 15th major title and his first after knee surgery. He hit only two fairways on the back nine in a one-over 71. He will be back for more today. Golf remains the domain of a white middle class, particularly in Scotland, but it deserves to be carried to the man in the street.

Woods has revolutionised this game but in analysing the wealth that the Open is reeking of, much has to be done if is to reach such a state of utopia. Watson and Woods go at it again this afternoon. Before they can confront more bunkers, the public must continue its joust with the speed cameras. dkane@thenational.ae