Each week, four of the NCG team get together to ask each other the pressing questions. The only rule is the question must be golf related. In this edition, Alex Perry, Dan Murphy, Steve Carroll and James Savage take to the tee to discuss The Open and, in particular, English golfers at The Open…
Alex: What is your favourite Open Championship venue?
Dan: I have got a lot of time for a Muirfield Open for various reasons. One, it’s the best course on the rota so you feel like it is going to be a classic. Two, we don’t get there very often so it’s a treat. Three, I love East Lothian and the Gullane and Musselburgh and North Berwick elements, both in terms of the golf and the apres-golf. Four, just a personal thing but my first Open as a (vaguely) working journalist was Muirfield in 2002. I went up the Saturday before – these being the days of Final Qualifying taking place on the weekend before the event at four local courses – and stayed for Ernie Els’ champion’s press conference on the Monday after. I was the first journalist to check in at the media centre and among the last to leave. I basically felt like I lived in Gullane by the end.
Steve: Mine is one that might surprise you. My favourite, and this includes St Andrews, is Hoylake. It was the first Open I went to, it was a fantastic viewing spectacle – with lots of holes within easy reach – and it was scorching hot. Tiger Woods put on a masterclass and it was perfect. I went again for Rory McIlroy’s win in 2014 and it was just as memorable.
James: I’m going to say Royal Birkdale because I’m very familiar with the surrounding area, it’s the nearest one to where I live, and it seems to have plenty of variation from a spectator’s point of view. It’s very close to Southport, there are other great courses nearby to play and I like the way the town really embraces the event.
Dan: You’ve all been to several Opens. What is your favourite ever vantage point for watching the action?
Steve: I think you already know the answer to this one Dan, as you were there. It was Royal Troon, 2016, standing by the 11th tee and watching Matt Jones produce some very industrial language as he slashed one onto the railway line. Watching the Australian cursing wasn’t what made it special. It was that we were in a position where we could hear every word and see every shot. In the tumult which is often spectating at an Open, we’d found a little oasis where the throng were absent and we got a true taste of what the tournament is all about. It turns out it isn’t standing on tip-toes straining for a view of the back of Tiger’s head.
James: I always like to find a grandstand where you can see the green from one hole and then get a good look at the following tee shot. You can wander around for hours and not feel like you’ve seen much action so plonk yourself down for a couple of hours and watch people as they come to you. By the 7th green/8th tee at Hoylake was a good one and the very back of the 16th green grandstand at Birkdale springs to mind. The side of the 1st fairway at the Old Course is good too as you can see people teeing off and finishing on the last.
Also shout outs for the Postage Stamp at Troon – I love that you can see world class players doing their thing while people walk their dogs about 15 yards away on the beach – and that wonderful horseshoe stand that surrounds the 18th at Hoylake.
So who do the Fourball team think will end England’s wait for an Open champion? The answer to this and more on the next page…