ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Andrew Coltart is no stranger to the media center at the British Open. The difference Thursday was what he did on the course, not what he said.
Coltart, who spent the last two years working as a radio analyst for BBC Radio 5 Live, qualified for his first major in eight years and looked as though he had never been gone. The 40-year-old Scot, largely ignored played alongside John Daly, wound up matching his 6-under 66 for a dream start at St. Andrews.
“It’s great to be inside the ropes, playing well, holing some putts and really feeling the crowd,” Coltart said. “Being back here at St. Andrews means a hell of a lot to me and most of these guys that play this game.”
Coltart has two European Tour victories and is best known for playing Tiger Woods in singles at the 1999 Ryder Cup. But he had not played an Open since Muirfield in 2002, and his success on tour went into such a tailspin that he lost his card in 2007.
That’s when he began carrying a microphone instead of golf clubs at the Open, all the while trying to get back to his regular job.
“There was a spell there, about 16 missed cuts in a row, and you start to wonder whether you’re going to make it through the weekend again,” Coltart said. “I know I can still compete.”
The radio stint might have helped. He would have preferred playing instead of commentating, but Coltart suspects he learned as much watching the best in the world than beating balls on the driving range.
“It’s inspirational stuff being here watching these guys play in these majors, and it helped to get me up to get back out here,” he said.
Coltart earned his card back through qualifying school – even carrying his own bag during the tournament – and he reached St. Andrews through the European qualifier.
His round featured a 50-foot birdie putt from across the sixth green, which was quite a surprise. So was the rest of the round. And while he wound up three shots behind Rory McIlroy’s record-tying 63, Coltart has been around long enough not to get his hopes too high.
“It’s a long, long way away,” he said. “The world’s best players are here. I’ve shown very little form – if any – going into this. It would be highly unrealistic to look at it in that perspective. If I can go on being comfortable with the way I’m hitting the ball, we’ll look at things in another couple of days.”