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Can't see the Woods for the lenses

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Rob Hodgetts | 12:39 UK time, Thursday, 16 July 2009

"Today, we're really going to earn our money," whispers one of the special security guards as he watches his man warm up on the range.

Tiger Woods is back at the Open after a year out through injury and the crowd is expectant.

The grandstand and surrounds of the first tee are packed well ahead of time. Battalions of photographers line both sides of the fairway near the tee, huge cameras primed for action.

Some lurk in the rough, inquisitive lenses barely poking above the tall grass, like a posse of wildlife photographers who have discovered a new species. Pressmen fill in the gaps, crouching and clutching notebooks.

There is a hum and officials on the tee busy themselves. Everyone knows what's coming, and it isn't Robert Allenby's opening drive.

Tiger Woods plays out of the rough at Turnberry

But it isn't just Woods they're here for. One of his playing partners, the 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, is a huge star in Japan and well over half of the snappers are here for him.

Once the warm-up act of Allenby, Justin Leonard and Anders Hansen tee off the hubbub steps up a notch.

The first we hear is a cry of "Come on Tiger" behind us. It's on, and the security men walk onto the tee with Woods's caddie Steve Williams, Lee Westwood's bagman Billy Foster, Woods then Ishikawa. Westwood makes them wait and then emerges to a roar bigger than the sizeable cheers accompanying Woods.

There's little interaction between the players as they ready themselves but Woods and Williams are locked in debate.

"On the tee from USA, Tiger Woods," sings starter Ivor Robson.

Woods, in smart navy blue, offers a quick, "Play well guys" and cracks out his opening shot. Westwood next, then Ishikawa, resplendent in blue and white check strides.

I know its coming from Opens past, and it starts as soon as we move off down the fairway.

"There's more of them inside the ropes than out," mutters every other person the length of the hole. They're right of course.

There are photographers, their runners, pressmen, radio commentators and their summarisers, media liason guys, marshals, policemen, rules officials, scorers, all scurrying along in front of the crowd. It's a privileged position and one which irks the paying public no end.

Counting the number in the cavalcade is impossible but it doesn't stop virtually every member of the crowd trying.

The tuts, the head shakes, the disapproving looks. I'm ashamed to make eye contact. To be fair, the gallery this early on is not thick and you can understand their incredulation, but when the crowd swells it's the only way for the working media to see what's going on. And on the whole, we're well behaved and crouch at every opportunity. No-one is allowed inside the ropes at Augusta, mind you.

Away from the circus, which is a story in itself, Westwood makes an assured birdie, Woods and Ishikawa card pars and the hordes scuttle onto the 2nd.

There's not a breath of wind and it's a serene scene. As long as you don't look behind you and have your reverie broken by the hordes of hankering pressmen.

On the green, Westwood stands impassively, with one leg crossed behind the other one, hand on hip, leaning on his putter. Ishikawa and Woods slot in birdies before Westwood, his tucked-in aqua blue shirt showing through his white trousers, calmly makes his to begin birdie, birdie.

Ryo Ishikawa

On the 3rd, we're ushered way down the left side of the fairway. Ishikawa and Westwood find the short grass but Woods is off target. "Fore left" someone cries. Everyone ducks and covers their heads.

"It's coming right here," a guy near me shouts and I cower even more.

I'm not kidding, it lands right between my feet and settles in some long grass under the green scaffolding of a temporary TV tower.

Marshals fuss over where we should stand and move the ropes back. The photographers swoop in like a pack of hyenas to snap the ball in situ. Woods reaches us and asks, "Where is it?" Totally unflustered, he whacks in a tee and tosses the ball to Williams.

Then a bit more crowd removal as Woods measures two clubs' lengths and takes a drop.

It nestles in some wispy rough, some way below his feet. He addresses the ball before backing off. "Come on," he mouths to himself and takes some deep breaths. He goes again and squirts a good one greenwards, but it scuttles through the back.

Down at the green, Woods's chip runs 20 feet past. The impassive Westwood, barely 10 feet away, assumes the one-handed tea pot stance. Woods misses the one back.

Westwood drains his for another birdie as his partners drop a shot.

On the short 4th down by the beach, the entire bank to the right of the green is taken up by a phalanx of lensmen. All three find the green.

Westwood, once again, crosses one leg behind the other, places his hand on his hip, and stares out to sea as the other two putt.

Woods makes his par, Ishikawa rolls his bang in the middle for a birdie. Westwood stalks his but misses right.

"Come on Lee," roar a group of men from the stands.

Halfway down the 5th fairway Williams scurries into the temporary toilet. Woods waits outside and then takes his turn. A gallery gathers outside and giggles. Half expect a polite round of applause when he emerges.

They all make par and Westwood remains first up on the 6th tee as the sun bursts forth. He settles over his ball but a photographer accidentally clicks his shutter. "Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to," he mutters desperately behind me. Westwood gives him a hard Paddington stare.

"Come on guys, you should know better than that," chips in Foster.

The naughty snapper gets a telling off from officialdom after the players leave the tee. "Do that again and you're out."

That's my cue and I extricate myself. I've experienced more intense scrums following Woods before, though maybe not the numbers of snappers, but it's still early days in the tournament.

The marshals will earn their money before the week is out.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Nice blog, Rob, catching the atmosphere well - look forward to more.

    (PS - just to help you, it's 'incredulity'. Shakespeare invented a few words, so it's OK for him, but I think you should pen a few more plays, first!! ;-))

  • Comment number 2.

    RuariJM - Always like to push the boundaries of the English language, it's always developing, you know...ahem!

  • Comment number 3.

    Has anyone noticed that Tiger Woods hardly spoke to his caddie during his round at the Open this morning. Both of them walked separately tee to green and di not consult on any green.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Robin,

    Updates are fantastic, whilst I am doing my jobsearch and sending off Job applications. I was going to visit the course one day this week but have found out that the admission costs do not include any discount for people on benefits. I managed to visit the Scottish Open last saturday , using up my weekly spend allowance with admission and travel. So given the high costs for Turnberry total including travel £80, this is not possible, so your updates are invaluable .

  • Comment number 5.

    Egads, I could have had Watson each way at 1500-1 last night, but I persuaded myself it was a fools bet. Why would I ever doubt Tom Watson of all people!

    In future I shall remember that this is how golf works, crazy stories occur week in week out, Amateurs winning here, guys who were almost paralysed coming back to get another green jacket there, why if a 53 year old can finish third last year can't a 59 year old get in the top even this! And who did i put the silly bet on instead, Michael bleeding Campbell...

  • Comment number 6.

    Rob -

    That makes me feel totally discombobulated.

    (Looking forward to seeing your first play wot you wrote)

    How does the media scrum develop once Tiger is out of the way? Do they zip straight over to another group or do they spread out across the field?

    And were you close enough to the McIlroy/Kim?Goosen group to gather whether Rory's game became unsteady through annoyance with Kim or was it just one of those things?

  • Comment number 7.

    I was impressed with Ishikawa what a young talent!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Nice blog Rob, concise and insightful. Looking forward to more, keep it up.


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