I was part of the team covering the 1999 Open for Scotland on Sunday - that's the tournament you all remember more for Jean van de Velde's collapse than for Paul Lawrie's victory - and what I remember most from that week was how much the pros whinged about the way Carnoustie had been set up. It affronted their sense of themselves. They had a point in as much as the fairways were narrow, the rough had been watered and a tough course had been protected against benign conditions. But they still whinged, forgetting that they were playing, as they do in every competition, the course not the other golfers. Also, of course, the links was the same for everyone. Davis Love III sneered that the championship got the winner it deserved (ie, the unheralded Lawrie) without ever realising how right he was...
And so there has been much moaning about Birkdale today. Not that the course is unfair, merely that the conditions don't allow one to play golf. For instance, here; ESPN's Gene Wojciechowsi:
"Can't wait to go home," said [American. Ed.] Pat Perez, who looked like someone had sprayed him down with a fire hose. "Be there [Friday] night. I might go out tonight." Perez, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., shot 82. It's not as if he's a stiff; he's ranked 54th in the world and already has made more than $1 million this year on the PGA Tour. But Thursday's merciless conditions (gale-force winds, highs in the 50s, rain) didn't care about rankings or reputations..."I got to the point where I didn't care," Perez, who has a history of running hot, said. "It doesn't happen often, but I got to that point where you fight, fight, fight, and you know you just don't have a chance.
"I don't think it's golf at all, to be honest with you. I don't see it as golf. It's blowing 40 [mph]. My hands are so cold and everything is soaked. You can't hold on to the club. I don't see that as golf. They do here, but I don't."
Yeah, well, "they" are right. This is golf, matey. Get used to it. And in any case, one has seen it much worse than this. And it is always excellent when it's like this. Or worse.