ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Zach Johnson and another two dozen golfers were among the jetlagged players trudging around St. Andrews on Monday thinking as much about sleep patterns as British Open preparations.
The group had taken charter flights following the John Deere Classic in the U.S.. After an eight-hour flight across the Atlantic, plus a 100 kilometer drive from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, Johnson dropped off his bags at a rented house and headed straight to the world’s most historic course.
He officially registered for the tournament and got in a little putting, even strolling out to the green of the famous 17th – the “Road Hole.” But, with the first hints of a beard emerging on his normally clean-shaven face, this wasn’t a day to worry about his stroke.
“I’m just trying to stay up as long as I can,” Johnson said Monday. “I’m going to go eat a good meal – and then I’m going to bed.”
Paul Goydos, coming off a record-tying 59 at the John Deere and thrilled about getting into the Open as the final qualifier in the 156-player field, was too excited to sleep on the flight and was even more weary.
This has become a familiar ritual, made considerably more tolerable three years ago when officials at the John Deere tournament began arranging chartered flights to the British Open for anyone who agreed to play in their tournament.
For a fee of $1,250 per seat – which goes to the John Deere’s charity fund – golfers and their caddies can hop aboard a jet offering business-class amenities and cut hours off the time that would be required to fly commercial, which often entailed stops in Chicago and London.
“That was horrible,” Johnson recalled. “That’s not pleasant at all, especially when you’ve got to make connections at quite honestly two of the most trafficked and worst airports there are.”
The charter eliminates much of the hassle and one of the primary worries – whether a player’s clubs would actually show up in Britain at the same time as the player.
It’s one thing to be missing a shirt, quite another to be without that favorite putter, so John Deere officials make sure the players can see their clubs getting loaded aboard the compartment underneath before they climb aboard for the cross-Atlantic flight.
“They really accommodate the players there,” Goydos said. “It’s almost to the point of being embarrassing.”
Despite the greater convenience, its still less than ideal to be preparing for the British Open by touching down after a long flight just 72 hours before the first round.
“Does it put me at a disadvantage? I don’t know. It’s all I know,” Johnson said. “This is my seventh Open, and I’ve done it every year.”
This is Goydos’ first trip to St. Andrews – something he put on his list of goals at the beginning of the year. He’s 46 and this might be his only realistic chance to play an Open at the birthplace of golf, considering it only comes here every five years.
“There’s so much history here. This is basically where the game started,” Goydos said. “And then you look at all the top players who’ve won at St. Andrews. That’s one of the things you had to do to make your career.”
Goydos was runner-up at the John Deere to Steve Stricker, who was also on the charter. He wasn’t put out by the flight but the bus ride to St. Andrews which stretched from a scheduled one hour to more than double that due to traffic.
Even so, Stricker decided to come to the course and play all 18 holes – mainly to stay awake and expedite the adjustment to the six-hour time difference. The change of continents didn’t seem to affect his game – at the final hole, he knocked a wedge to 8 feet and rolled in the birdie putt.