Turnberry Tales

By Rex HoggardJuly 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
Jay Williamson rocked back in his chair. Spent by nearly two weeks of activity, he was unwilling to call it a day and head for his room in the Prince of Wales Hotel, just down Lords Street from Royal Birkdale, site of last years British Open ' and Williamsons first taste of the games oldest championship.
Unbelievable, was the only word Williamson could manage as he nursed a pint in the hotels historic pub.
Its a familiar feeling for those getting their first exposure to the Open Championship, particularly for the likes of Williamson, who qualified for the 08 event at the last minute. Paul Goydos, at 44 years old an Open rookie last year at Birkdale, was equally taken by the entire affair.
I would look forward to eating lunch with the spectators, Goydos told the Associated Press last week. Remember that big concession they had by the practice green at Birkdale? Ate fish and chips there probably four times that week. Loved it.
The John Deere Classic will produce another Cinderella story, always does. Somebody will have a big week at TPC Deere Run, scramble for a passport and rain gear and wake up next Monday on hallowed ground for golfers everywhere.
If not, weve always got Bryce Molder, who did what Open party crashers do and took advantage of a last-minute loophole last week the AT&T National.
Late Sunday afternoon at Congressional the reality of his first Open Championship was just beginning to close in around the former Georgia Tech standout.
Molder, you see, is not your cookie cutter Tour pro when it comes to links golf. He craves the stuff. Maybe its his analytical mind, he graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in management, or maybe its his Arkansas roots, he was born and raised in Harrison, Ark., not far from where quintessential Open long-shot John Daly grew up. Whatever the reason, hes drawn to links golf like a Scotsmen to sunscreen.
I love it, Molder said of links golf. Its just so different. I dont know if Id love it if I played it every day, but it creates certain challenges that you dont have (in the United States).
Although Molder will be saddled with the title of rookie at this years championship ' and his major record, three U.S. Open starts, one made cut, is something less than eye catching ' he is one of the few young American players to have any knowledge at all about Turnberry, which last hosted an Open in 1994.
Its great because numbers dont mean as much over there, Molder said. Carrying the ball a certain distance doesnt mean as much as shaping your shot and hitting it on the right side of the fairway.
In 1999, on his way to the Walker Cup at Nairn Golf Club, Molder stopped over for some field work at Royal Troon, Turnberry and Royal Dornoch ' as good a Scottish trifecta as one can get.
The day I played Turnberry we had perfect conditions and I was a couple under (par), recalled Molder, who played his practice round with Walker Cup captain Danny Yates. Danny told me, Be ready to go all four matches (at the Walker Cup).
Although he caught Turnberry on a good weather day, as rare as ice in sodas and rental cars with trunk space in Scotland, hes also been initiated in that distinctly Scottish rite ' golf in a hoolie, Scottish slang for a particularly harsh storm.
In 1998 Molder made his first trip to the home of golf as a member of the U.S Palmer Cup team, which was played on the Old and New courses at St. Andrews.
Matt Kuchar and I played the Old Course and we couldnt get our stand-bags to stand up because the wind was coming from so many different directions, Molder said. It was brutal.
That Molder made his British breakthrough this year seems about right. This was the first year the journeyman tried to punch his Open ticket via one of the international final qualifiers. Molder said he played well, missed qualifying by two strokes and made his plans to play the opposite-field event in Milwaukee.
But then his plans changed. He opened with 64 last week at Tiger Woods AT&T National and closed with 68 to finish fourth, his second top-5 finish in his last three events.
Molder and Goydos qualified for Turnberry via a special, six-event money list starting at The Players, a reality that was still sinking in late Sunday as he headed out of town for this weeks John Deere Classic.
This really means a lot, said Molder, who will catch a ride to Turnberry next Sunday on Air Deere, the same chartered flight that ferried Williamson to his fairytale last year at Royal Birkdale.
Molder will be just as wide-eyed as Williamson next week with one exception. Hes been preparing for this fable for over a decade.
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