They were sunbathing over there, he said, motioning off into the distance with his club.
Sunbathing? At the British Open?
During Tuesdays practice round at this historic course along the Irish Sea, the temperature was climbing into the 80s beneath a brilliant blue sky, with nary a cloud to be had.
If conditions stay anything close to this through the weekend, Tiger Woods record 19-under score while winning at St. Andrews six years ago could be in jeopardy.
Obviously, it can be done, said Woods, who won again at St. Andrews last year while using five more strokes. As we all know, it all depends on the weather. We played St. Andrews in 2000 with no wind. It can spring up at any time, you just never know. But if not, the guys are going to be making plenty of birdies.
The mound behind the 13th green was an especially popular spot for soaking up some rays. One young fan removed his shirt, used it to cover his face, sprawled out on the trampled-down grass and actually dozed off while getting a tan. He wasnt bothered in the least by Rich Beem and Peter Lonard, yukking it up below as they came through the par-3 hole.
With the carnage at Winged Foot still fresh on their minds, the guys taking part in the years third major wouldnt mind a catching a break from the notoriously fickle English weather.
I dont care whether it blows or not, Jim Furyk said. As long as its in the 70s, there wont be any complaining from me. I just hate it when its 59 degrees and raining.
For the practice rounds, at least, he didnt have any worries.
The country was in the grips of a heat wave that was expected to push the temperature at Royal Liverpool into the mid-80s, though it was expected to cool off a bit by the time the first real shot was struck on Thursday.
This being Britain, theres always the threat of showers rearing up at any time, though meteorologists said it didnt seem that likely before the weekend. But rest assured, everyone will be keeping an eye on the forecast.
More than any other major, this event is defined by its weather.
The ancient courses that make up the British Open rotation'and Royal Liverpool, back in the mix after a 39-year absence, is certainly no exception'rely on cold rain and blustery winds to ward off todays big hitters. When conditions are benign, the shorter, wider layouts are there for the taking.
After the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, this is a pleasant sight, said Mark Calcavecchia, who won the British in 1989. I think its going to be a nice week of weather and unless it gets really windy, youre going to see some really good scores out there.
That certainly wasnt the case at the last major, when Geoff Ogilvys 5-over-par score was good enough to give the Aussie his first major title.
While Winged Foot was defined by failure'Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie both making double bogeys on the 72nd hole, Furyk missing a short putt that could have forced a playoff, Tiger Woods missing the cut'this tournament could produce the sort of gaudy scores normally associated with less-glamorous events named after banks, phone companies and farming equipment.
If conditions stay anything close to what they were on Monday, its going to take an awfully good number to claim the claret jug. Maybe not as low as Tiger Woods winning score at St. Andrews in 2000 (a 19-under 269), but certainly along the lines of his 14-under victory at the birthplace of golf a year ago.
Its playing short and playing fast, Calcavecchia said after his practice round. On a day like today, you would have seen a lot of low scores.
In a tournament that already has produced such unlikely major champions as Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie and Todd Hamilton, the un-British-like weather could expand the field of contenders and possibly pave the way for another surprise winner.
Everybody is saying how nice the weather is, but we play in nice weather most weeks in the USA, Calcavecchia said. I would almost like to see it 20 degrees colder and really windy. I really would.
Then again, Royal Liverpool presents a different sort of challenge for todays golfers, many of whom werent even born (Woods and Phil Mickelson among them) when this course last hosted the British Open.
Several golfers simply walked the course on Monday, getting an idea of all the nooks and crannies before they attempt to hit a shot. For some of those who did swing away, the steep learning curve was apparent.
Japanese golfer Yasuharu Imano, whos paired with Mickelson and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke for the first two rounds, stepped gingerly down the steep incline beside the 14th green to get an idea of what he might face after an errant shot.
Imano took a mighty whack with his putter but didnt come close to clearing the ridge, the ball settling back at his feet while the smattering of fans groaned. Another swing. Same result. More moans.
Finally, on his third attempt, Imano got the ball to stay on the green. Then he turned the wrong way to head to the next hole, finally locating the proper path with the help of a marshal.
Curtis, just a month removed from his first victory since that improbable British Open triumph at Royal St. Georges in 2003, isnt so sure that scores will dip all that low, even if the sunny weather holds out.
Everybody talks about how St. Georges was nice (weather) and should have been ideal scoring, said Curtis, who captured the claret jug with a 1-under score. But the course played really tough. This is fairly similar and I think by Thursday, itll get tougher.