Chilling with Woods and Rose
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.