Saturday, 23 July 2011

Sit, Stand or Walk?

Having looked at the order of play we were lucky to see a clump of matches following each other which had players we wanted to see. The likes of Lee Westwood, Phil Mickleson, Tom Watson, Darren Clarke to name but a few.

We could choose to follow one match and walk the course with the growing crowds but this would restrict the players we would see. Or we could stand at some point along the course and watch them go by or we could look for a seat in a stand at one of the greens and settle in for the duration while the players played their approach shots and then putted out and moved on.

We opted for the latter and found ourselves a couple of good seats on the 2nd green and zipped open the picnic bag.

The atmosphere was quite calm early on and each set of players was greeted with polite applause as they approched the green. Lee Westwood's appearance raised the noise level a little but his dropped shot made for subdued exit applause. Especially as his dropped shot followed a brilliant birdie by Jim Furyk from exactly the same place. It gave us a bad feeling for Lee's game - he just wasn't on form.

After a couple of hours we decided we would have a wander around a few different holes, find somewhere for a coffee and decide where to settle next. The obvious then came into mind - where were the toilets? By now the crowds had grown considerably and I anticipated a long wait in the queue for the ladies. As we approached the block of toilets I could see that there were 4 ladies and 4 gents - but oddly enough no queue.

As I opened the door I was amazed to see behind it not a single toilet but a whole block of them - at least 40 cubicles stretching ahead of me. The organisers had certainly got this aspect right.

Within minutes I was back in the sunshine, coffee cup in hand. At £2.40 for a paper cup of coffee we were glad we had taken a picnic lunch and decided to find a new perch where we could watch some more golf while tucking into lunch.

We found we had walked to the 15th green and decided we would sit there for a while. Once seated we realised that in a few minutes the first set of players we had watched on the 2nd would begin to come through the 15th so we managed to catch up with the progress of them all once again.

There was a continual migration of people onto the stand and off again as those that were following one match took their seats while the players putted out and then moved on as the players left the green.

When we booked the day 12 months earlier we had chosen the Friday for one very specific reason. We would be able to see all our favourite players who were taking part before the cut which narrowed the field for the weekend play. That was the sole reason for not going down at the weekend. And it meant that out of 4 days play we were there on the one day when they had warm sunshine and not cold torrential rain.

By the end of the day my face was the colour of a lobster and I knew I needed lots of 'aftersun' to stop my skin peeling too badly. But, I'd suffer that any day rather than spending 8 hours in cold, driving rain as there is only so much rain waterproofs can keep out.

Early afternoon we walked over to the 1st tee to see Rory McIlroy tee off. By now the crowds around the tee were 20 deep and there was a huge wave of people walking along the fairway as he followed his tee shot - his was going to be a busy match and we decided we would not join in the melee.

We decided, instead, to go and browse around the 'merchandising' area. We needed some little trophy of our day out and so we 'ummed' and 'ahhed' over ball markers, bag tags, towels etc and finally settled on a bag tag and towel for Neil and a pitch repairer and golf shirt for me - all badged and logo-ed up with the 2011 British Golf Open. If nothing else, they will impress the Americans when we visit later this year.

And so, 8 hours after arriving, over another cup of coffee, we decided we had seen enough players and experienced enough atmosphere and we would make tracks back to the Park & Ride bus to start our 4 hour journey home.

Again, by leaving early we missed the crowds and within half an hour we were back in the car and on the road heading towards London. We had no choice but to do the Dartford tunnel. The traffic warnings meant any idea of going the long way round the M25 to avoid the tunnel just wasn't going to work.

This time though, traffic moved well and there were no hold ups and so we even managed to miss 5pm Friday madness on the roads around London.

By the time we got home we were both ready to collapse. It had been a long, but enjoyable day and we were both glad to kick of our shoes and relax.

We watched the final 2 days play on the TV and I lost count of the times I said how glad I was not to be there on those 2 days because of the rain. I doubt I'll go again now I've been once. I'm happy to watch it from the comfort of my settee but I'm so glad we went - just for the experience.
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