Rory McIlroy garners some much-needed attention and Brooks Koepka blanks Tiger Woods. Alex Perry wraps up the Open tidbits in The Slam
Hello. It’s an Open edition of The Slam! All right, calm down. So who’s going? Not me. I’m stuck at home holding the baby while my team head to Portrush to soak up the atmosphere. More fool them, I’ve seen the weather forecast. I’ve sifted through the players’ press conferences to pick out the highlights, including Rory McIlroy’s jacket choice and an hilarious admission from Tiger Woods being snubbed by Brooks Koepka, but first…
The R&A’s chief executive had some lovely news to kick start the day.
“%he 148th Open,” he explained, “has not only been a sell-out, but I can confirm that this week we’ll see our biggest attendance outside of St Andrews, with 237,750 spectators, which surpasses the 235,000 we saw at Birkdale in 2017. So this becomes the second highest attended Open Championship of all time.”
All together now…
Slumbers was also asked about when the Open might go back to Turnberry.
“Turnberry is one of the 10 courses,” he said. “We’ve talked about this many times in terms of it being part of the pool of courses, nothing’s changed from the previous points and comments that I’ve made on that in respect to taking the Open there. But it’s absolutely one of the pool of 10 courses.”
A nice straight cover drive given the man at the helm at Turnberry…
Martin Slumbers dead bats question about the Open going back to Turnberry. Given the owner's utterly absurd behaviour at the 2015 RWBO seems inconceivable that they would want to make their life difficult and deal with him.
— Matt Cooper (@MattCooperGolf) July 17, 2019
As if there wasn’t enough attention on Rory McIlroy ahead of the Open in his homeland, he went and turned up at his press conference in a Stone Island jacket.
Yes, a Stone Island jacket.
While it might be a high-end Italian brand, Stone Island’s reputation down the years has been tarnished, particularly in the UK, due to its popularity among football hooligans.
Still, couldn’t resist…
Has Rory McIlroy joined Green Street Elite?
Was Danny Dyer conducting the press conference? pic.twitter.com/fZWtPN3kVW
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) July 17, 2019
Yes, I know, I’ve mixed up my football hooligan films. Still, when you’ve got a tee time at 10 and Millwall away at 3…
Anyway, if you want to know more my equipment nerd Hannah Holden has all the details if you so desperately need them.
It’s ironic that his initials are DJ, given his ability to entertain millions without really saying a lot.
This from last year’s Open cracked me up…
You and me both, DJ. pic.twitter.com/Q8RByaslIz
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) July 18, 2018
And this time he may have gone one better…
Journalist: Off the golf course, since this Open so different from the other majors, do you find yourself spending much time in town?
Johnson: I’ve not been into town yet. We’ve got a house right up on the hill here, right behind the course.
Journalist: What’s the address? I’m just kidding.
Johnson: I don’t even know it, so I couldn’t tell you.
Journalist: In previous Opens have you ever stayed close enough to town where you can get out and mingle much?
Johnson: St Andrews. I stayed in the Old Course Hotel and walked into town a few times. But that’s kind of the only one we’ve kind of been in the town. Then last year at Carnoustie I stayed at the hotel right there at the course. But, yeah, I got out and walked around a little bit.
Riveting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Hold the front page and so on.
Now, as a journalist (I am one, honest) I know sometimes it can be difficult to eke a killer line out of a golfer’s mouth. Some of them are great, they know what to say before you’ve even got to the question, but sometimes you have to work quite hard.
Justin Rose normally gives the crowd what they want, but this back-and-forth between the Englishman and, I presume, an Irish journalist amused me…
Journalist: Just a quick one, is it a myth or does the Guinness really taste different over here?
Rose: Whether it’s your first or one of a very few, it does taste different up here, yeah. I’m not experienced enough to really make that — but I think the environment helps, no doubt.
Journalist: A secret weapon this week, you think?
Rose: No, one and done. That’s why I like coming up to these places before the tournament starts. Once championship week rolls around, you’re in bed early. You’re in your disciplined approach that you are all the time. But it’s such a shame to come to these venues and not be able to enjoy them. Sometimes that is the case. When you’re a professional golfer you have to stay focused, I suppose. So when I do come up for these preparation trips, they do feel like mini boys’ trips, you can play a bit of golf. You have Portrush to yourself in Open Championship condition, and you get to go to the pub and have one or two. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Journalist: Guinness is full of iron, it could propel you on.
Rose: I like the way you’re angling for your headline here (laughter).
Fair play for persistence, but what was the journalist hoping for here – Rose to say, “Yeah, do you know what, if I win this week it’ll be because I got tanked up on stout beforehand”? The mind boggles.
Matt Kuchar may not be everyone’s cup of tea at the moment after a series of bad PR, but US Open champion Gary Woodland is still his mate.
He noted during his presser: “Kuch and I went to breakfast yesterday and I took about 20 pictures for him. Nobody knew who I was, they all knew who he was. He loved every second of that, I can tell you.”
Guys, he’s the ruddy US Open champion. It was literally four and a half weeks ago.
Also, the Open doesn’t half throw up some odd combinations. Who would have thought Woodland and Kuchar would be so close?
It reminds me of the tales of Zach Johnson staying in the so-called frat house with Rickie, JT and the boys, where all I can picture is ZJ in marigolds doing a mountain of washing up while the others play videogames.
Brooks Koepka is certainly a player who gives the journalists what they want – whether he means to or not is a different matter.
The difference in his form between majors and regular tour events has raised eyebrows for a couple of years now. Koepka, as you already know, has won four of the last nine majors he’s entered, as well as a handful of top 10s, and has just two regular PGA Tour victories on his CV.
So what is he doing differently at the majors?
“I just practise before the majors,” he admitted.
“Regular tournaments I don’t practise. If you’ve seen me on TV, that’s when I play golf,” he added to a smatter of laughter.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2019
Arrogant? Or just eyes on the prize he actually cares about? Answers on a postcard.
This is brilliant.
Woods decided to prepare for the Open by taking his mum on holiday to Thailand and then getting up at 1am every morning in Florida to get his body clock in check.
But he’s been over for a few days and has played Portrush a handful of times already. But he was after some inside knowledge.
Now, we all know there are a few guys playing this week who know the course like the back of their hand – namely Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he’d been tapped up by loads of players for a practice round.
But there’s someone else. Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, is a Portrush native and member of this stunning links.
And it was the bagman’s brains that Woods wanted to pick, only…
“Tell you a funny story,” he said in his press conference on Tuesday. “I texted Brooksie, congratulations on another great finish. What he’s done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable. To be so consistent, so solid. He’s been in contention to win each and every major championship.
“And I said, ‘Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round? I’ve heard nothing.”
That is stone cold from Koepka and I love it. Mainly because it’s exactly how Tiger would have behaved when he was in his jaw-dropping pomp.
You can watch Woods’ revelation in all its glory here…
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2019
Remember to pop back tomorrow, because I’m sure there will be more. In the meantime, why not listen to the Open edition of Not Another Golf Podcast, which I host with Sporting Life’s Ben Coley. We might be able to make you a bit of money…