x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Open one minute and closed the next

One final push for the old prize on a day of gusting possibilities.

One final push for the old prize on a day of gusting possibilities. An Australian opened the fourth morning of this 138th British Open Championship, another was hanging around at the close of play last night. How their country's cricketers would have salivated over such an outcome during some gloomy turns with the bat at Lord's. The field was book-ended by Victoria's Daniel Gaunt, and Matthew Goggin of Tasmania. Gaunt's closing 82 saw him limp home at 24-over par in bottom spot. The remit of others was to prevent themselves from looking gaunt, to avoid being tossed aside in the gusts. The summer wind was yesterday very much in the Scottish willows. As they say in Aussie, it's just not cricket.

The Open has its own vision of the Ashes, spots where the last rites of a player's scorecard can be scattered and distributed at sea before the natural life span of four rounds. To the hardened pros, this must feel like playing in a twister. To Turnberry's members, it is merely a light breeze. While others were flying kites, Ross Fisher was caving in. The Englishman was a stroke ahead approaching the par-four fifth hole only for his ball to delve into rough that seems to swallow whole balls in one go.

He haemorrhaged four strokes and the lead in running up an eight. The redoubtable Seve Ballesteros hopes to return to St Andrews to play the Open next year after brain surgery. Ballesteros won his second Open at the home of golf in 1984. Before he punched the air in a Slazenger jersey, there were the travails of Japan's Tommy Nakajima. Several golfers have been left in a muddle by the road hole bunker at the 17th hole in Fife. Nakajima needed four attempts to get out of the fearsome trap. The road hole was somewhat cruelly titled "the sands of Nakajima".

Every Open venue carries its own haunting nooks and crannies. They have been like crime scenes in hosting the death of a dream. Almost like a cemetery, the public can visit these courses, and pay homage to the bunkers, burns or greens where the ashes of a player's round were administered. Walking on to the first tee on the final round did for Ian Woosnam in the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham. He incurred a two-stroke penalty after his caddie slipped 15 clubs into his bag rather than the allotted 14. The Welshman finished four behind the champion David Duval.

Jean Van de Velde blew the chance to become the first Frenchman to win the Claret Jug in almost a century at the 1999 Open. He emptied his third shot into the Barry Burn at Carnoustie. The sight of him contemplating having a chop from water in his bare feet was hardly a touch of satire. The tale of Turnberry has been carried on the breeze by Tom Watson, and his aptitude to play on a links course. Watson had won five Opens before Turnberry, but he is more than a golfer. He is representative of all that is good about this game. How a man carries himself is important.

He has spoken of a "spiritual" feeling all week, almost like this represents a greater purpose. "The game is important because it teaches you that there are rules that you have to live by." Turnberry seems to be the right place for such talk, even with its archaic byways. This can be an enchanted stretch of land. Just along the road is Alloway, the birthplace of Rabbie Burns, the Scottish poet. "Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie!," could have been The Bard's Ode to a Golf ball at this Open. Thankfully, Burns never had to play Turnberry on such a hazardous week.