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Chilling with Woods and Rose

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Rob Hodgetts | 12:48 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

A remarkable thing happened today. And what made it so remarkable was its ordinariness. You see, three men went out to play golf.

Granted, one is arguably the biggest sporting superstar in the world. And added to that going through a very public wringer, completely of his own making.

Another one has been dubbed "current hottest player on the planet" by Sam Torrance, who captained a winning European Ryder Cup team and therefore knows a bit about golf.

But Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, playing with Camilo Villegas in the marquee group on the first morning of the Open, went about their business to the backdrop of calm. There was no frenzy, no charge, no hyped-up emotions.

They were still followed by a phalanx of snappers and an army of media men, but the angst and the hustle of previous Woods groupings at the Open were missing. Normally his opening round is a bit of a hullabaloo, a circus, a stampede .

The crowd still clapped in all the right places, but no-one went mad. It was like still water is to sparkling. The same thing, just without the fizz.

But that's in a good way, I suppose. It's by no means a criticism. Maybe we've all grown up. Maybe we're used to seeing Tiger, or bored of his saga. Maybe it's the weather. Grey drizzle doesn't spark the same emotions as hot sun. Maybe we've realised it's just men who are quite good at hitting a ball around a field.

On the putting green before they teed off, Woods looked relaxed, certainly more so than in the nervy press conference he gave on Tuesday.

williams_woods_afp595335.jpg
Steve Williams and Tiger Woods on the 10th tee during the opening round of the Open Championship

In a pink and lilac striped T-shirt over a long-sleeve white shirt he seemed happy with his new putter, holing them from all over. He laughed with fellow American Sean O'Hair, teeing off in the group ahead. And the rumoured discontent and strained relations with caddie Steve Williams were not apparent as the pair chatted and grinned at the side.

Rose, trussed up in waterproofs, also has a new short stick and wielded it to good effect, too. The Englishman has won two events and led a third in recent weeks and shoulders some of the main British hopes of a home winner.

Waiting for their start time, the pair exchange pleasantries and fist-touches with the sylph-like Villegas. There's not an ounce of spare meat on the angular Colombian, who could be in trouble if the wind gets up.

rose_woods_ap595.jpg
Tiger Woods celebrates with Justin Rose after getting a birdie on the ninth

A lull in the banter and Woods stands, arms folded, staring down the fairway. Just what is he thinking about?

At 0909 BST, Woods is introduced as "From USA, Tiger Woods" - as you would expect really - and hits an iron down the fairway. As you would expect. The crowd claps as much as a small crowd can, no more, no less.

Rose and Villegas follow suit and with that are off. A few muffled cries of "Go Tiger" from the stand but nothing much else.

The Englishman birdies the first and second, Woods starts par, birdie, Villegas with two pars. On the third tee, where you wouldn't have a clue where to hit it if you'd never played here before, Woods splits the fairway with a piercing three wood. Someone mutters, "Shot". He fires back, "thanks, man". Three heavily-made up blondes by the side of the tee take off their jackets to reveal T-shirts with pictures of tigers on them. And that's sort of it for their stunt. Woods doesn't appear to notice.

Villegas takes his turn at a birdie this time and they stroll on to the fourth. On the tee a little kid asks Williams for a ball. The normally gruff New Zealander - Woods' fairway metal has a Kiwi bird headcover - proffers the American's missile straight away. Heck, even Woods's security goons seem more like they've come from Woodstock rather than a war zone. One even smiles at me.

villegas_afp595335.jpg
Colombian golfer Camilo Villegas watches his drive from the second tee

Villegas has the honour and uncoils his lizard-like body, cracking his driver down the left, the safer side that leaves a tough angle into the green. Rose fires down the middle, Woods - just as heavy drizzle falls - unleashes his own brand of fury down the right, the Tiger line on the tough par four.

Brollies go up, jackets and hoods on. Not for Woods. Water off a duck's back to him. Three pars and they move on. There is a wait on the fifth fairway as Woods and Williams, Villegas and his caddie find something mutually amusing. The white Woods gnashers beam out across the dim links.

Playing up to the par five, Rose and Villegas are short. The Colombian chips on nicely. Rose chunks his into the bank. "Nerves," whispers one man. "I can do that," says another. Woods is through the green with his approach and chips back on and past. Rose putts up and taps in, Villegas makes his par, Woods takes his time over his four footer but safely pouches his par.

On the sixth tee, another vista of gorse and hummocks disguising the way, Rose fades one right and immediately consults his caddie's St George's Cross-emblazoned yardage book to find what might be lurking down there. Woods stings a low iron left and cries "aargh" followed by a stifled "dammit".

But it's time to turn for home. It's a long way back and they look just fine without me.

They're just playing golf.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Isn't this how it should be though? Tiger Woods has been shown to be 'human' and although he is an incredibly golf player, he's had his fair share of private issues.

    I do understand the point you're making in the article, but can't help but wonder what exactly you expected to happen?

  • Comment number 2.

    Was anyone expecting fireworks in the first place? It's the British Open, not the US Open! Our crowds are always more reserved, just the way it is...

  • Comment number 3.

    Paraphrasing Sam Torrance on commentary he stated that Graham McDowell had beaten Rory McIlroy to become the first Ulsterman to win a major. Did Sam overlook the achievment of Fred Daly who won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 1948?

  • Comment number 4.

    Golf is not the Wide World Of Wrestling thank God , where the fans are weird.
    Frankly I also could take a good bit less of the fist punching and jumping after an important putt by Tiger.

    Americans are much noisier and often at wrong times as in tennis as well.

    I think a bit calmer less hyped up conditions lets us concentrate on golf not on the other stuff.

    Theres plenty of atmosphere in this great tournament plus more than enough drama.

  • Comment number 5.

    This was of little interest.

  • Comment number 6.

    So Villegas is sylph-like, angular, with a lizard-like body who could be in trouble if the wind picks up? Didn't realise that's what you get for being one of the fittest guys on the tour!

  • Comment number 7.

    Poor article. It was 9.09 am on the Thursday of the competition; you can hardly demand "frenzy" and "hyped up emotions." This is by no means and indictment on the British golfing public. In fact I would suggest that British golf fans are as knowledgeable and appreciative of good golf anywhere. Even Rory McIlroy who shot 63 and an open championship equalling record was not caught up in "hyped up emotions". We all know it's only Thursday.
    Save the drama for the weekend. If Tiger or Rory (who is seemingly loved everywhere) are in contention, then you'll get the frenzy and passion that you want.

  • Comment number 8.

    This blog was about as calm as the blog itself. Tiger Woods' audience was calm. So what?

  • Comment number 9.

    The blog is about putting it all into perspective. Nice job Rob. A little more responsable journalism is what this world needs. I'm afraid that your more subtle approach is lost on some. I blame the world cup.

  • Comment number 10.

    #3 I believe Fred Daly won in 1947 but I could be wrong

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Completely agree with #9 post- thought great blog and captured the atmosphere perfectly. The whole point was to convey the fact that at last the hullabo around Tiger is calming down- the golf fans of the Open want to see golf and that was what the blog was portraying.

    Keep the insights coming Rob.

  • Comment number 13.

    Maybe we should give everyone surrounding the first tee at St Andrews free beer. Then we could create an atmosphere similar to the 16th hole on the stadium course at scotsdale couldnt we ?. We are British and have more knowledge, manners and enthusiasm for the game of golf than any other place on the planet. That is why all the pro's love to come here.

  • Comment number 14.

    Morning all,

    Thanks for your comments. Glad some of you liked it, sorry if some didn't. The point was to convey the fact that at past Opens Woods's opening round has always been a frenzied affair, a bit of a circus with a pumped-up media stampede following behind and huge crowds trying to get a glimpse of the man. There's often plenty of jostling and tension and a bit of an edge. Interviewing Justin Rose on Monday he agreed that there is always more of a hullabaloo with Woods, and particularly this year after what has gone on. But what actually happened was the opposite, which I found quite surprising. And not in a bad way.

    Chat later.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why do BBC comentators pronounce Camilo Villegas' name as VIDGEGAS? A double L in Spanish is pronounced Y. The correct pronunciation is VEEYAYGAS surely. Which language exactly has a double L pronounced J? Answer - none. And they all do it except Jean Van Der Velde who, having travelled outwith the UK, pronounces it correctly as Veeyaygas and yet the others never seem to notice. They've been doing it for years - most uneducated and unprofessional. What to do?

  • Comment number 16.

    I loathe golf but even I have been unable to escape the Tiger Woods hullabaloo, so this was interesting, thanks.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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