They're golf fans – but not as we know them
Louis Oosthuizen’s tee shot lands 15 feet past the flag. But long on the Redan hole today is dead.
Sympathy is in short supply. As the ball starts to trickle down the sloping green, and inexorably picks up pace as gravity takes hold, it brings with it a crescendo of mirth in the bleachers.
New Yorkers are a tough crowd to please and the South African, who’s already 3-over at this point, is finding that out the hard way.
I genuinely fear for Tyrrell Hatton’s sanity as he aims a low body shot at the air after leaving a putt horrendously short.
But even the Americans are wary of the Englishman’s fiery temper. They leave well alone.
And when Ian Poulter rolls in the only birdie some of the spectators have seen in several hours of being rooted above that green, they cheer him like he’s their favourite son.
Any two is worth celebrating on a first day of golfing terror at Shinnecock Hills, even if it’s from a man the Americans love to hate.
If, like me, you’re used to losing circulation in the single space monstrosities that we call grandstands then adorning the bleachers is quite a liberating experience.
With increased legroom, though, comes great responsibility. And that is a commandment to mock with increasing ferocity as the afternoon wears on and the alcohol flows.
As the temperature rose, so did the barbs.
“Spieth’s just missed a birdie putt on the 3rd.” “Tell me something new.”
“Does anybody know who Axley is?”
“He’s missed again. Are you kidding me?”
“Is this guy going to take any more putts?”
“You’re three putting from there.”
These are more playful jabs than malevolent upper cuts and there are still exceptions to the rule.
When Bubba Watson’s group rolls in – followed by lots of people bearing arms – everyone is oddly silent.
I’m not really sure who this small armoury wielded by a protection ring of law enforcement officers is really protecting. Bubba from the fans or us from him. It’s effective nonetheless.
As the morning’s marquee group of Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth file by at a combined 20 over, there is pity in the air.
This sudden feeling of sorrow only rises when Jordan drops another shot. No one can face kicking this injured trio when they are down.
But this is largely a joyous and mischievous gathering – a relaxing way of watching the world’s best basically toil without feeling claustrophobic. I’m all for it.
I’m going to lead a campaign at Carnoustie. Let’s ditch the seats, install the benches and let the merriment begin.