Richard Browne stands in for James Gray – not needing much persuasion – and gets back into the Dunhill swing.
It was an odd day. The weather swayed between sun, rain and wind and much of the afternoon saw a storm brewing above St Andrews but die down. As a result, conditions for the players were pretty kind round most of the Old Course.
It was also odd because I was able to give up ‘studying’ (I use the term very loosely) for an afternoon and interview sports stars and other assorted celebrities.
Initially it was a day for the unknown players. Neither the professionals nor the amateurs who I saw on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes were particularly big names. Sure, Clark and Bird might be wealthy beyond imagination, but there was little celebrity on show.
That soon changed, as England cricket legend Sir Ian Botham came strolling to the 17th hole wearing a eye-wateringly bright green pullover, white-yellow-red-green trousers, and puffing a cigar. He chipped in from the bunker as well, much to the delight of those watching on.
After Botham and Shane Warne, more famous names came up to the end of their rounds and the anticipation crept up among the spectators and waiting media. My primary objective was to annoy fewer celebrities than I did last year.
Luckily for me, most of them had posted decent scores and so they were more than happy to stop and chat to the assembled student reporters.
Not all of them stopped. Johan Cruyff eluded me once more, ushered away by the men in blue coats (tournament staff), while Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn casually swatted our pleas aside. Fortunately, most of the amateurs we jumped onto had time to devote to our questions.
Botham took us through his outfit (a tribute to John Daly’s unique fashion sense) and assured us that he knew his chip on the 17th “was always going in”, while fellow cricketer Andrew Strauss dismissed any chances of him turning golf pro (“I’m just so bad in comparison, it’s not even funny”), despite his score of 11-under off a handicap of just four. He did compare St Andrews to Lord’s – “it’s got that history and tradition… you just feel special walking round the course here.”
Now Alan Hansen. Last year, I annoyed him with a question about Carlos Tevez and he cut short the interview. Not so this year, as Mr Hansen was clearly pleased with shooting nine-under for the day. That despite him being “really nervous” to start with and the weather being somewhat wild; he had enjoyed being in an all-Scottish group with former rugby union international Gavin Hastings.
It was a day where most of the amateurs were players of other sports. The exception to this was Tico Torres, and the man from Bon Jovi was exceptionally friendly and talkative. He told us how lucky we were to study in St Andrews; considering that he’s been coming to this tournament since 1996, I think it’s fair to say he likes the place.
A quick interview with the always friendly former footballer Jamie Redknapp, who was also very happy with his round and was hopeful of making the cut (and did not rule out his dad Harry joining him at some point – though he hopes he’ll be back in management soon, as he’s “driving mum round the bend”), and that was that for the day.
A good first day for the Dunhill; let’s hope for a conclusion as thrilling as last year’s come Sunday.