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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Open diary
By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Hoylake


Hoylake is welcoming Open crowds for the first time since 1967

Scorching heat, sun-baked grass, polite applause and the gentle thwack of urethane elastomer (balls to you and me) on titanium. Welcome to Open week at Hoylake.

To kick off this year's diary, we bring you an appeal from the natives.

Apparently, local rag the Wirral Globe has been bad-mouthing Hoylake's ability to cope with the influx of visitors to the town, warning locals to stay away.

Sure, the town's bars and cafes are filling up with golf fans, but pet shop owner Jan Foster insisted there was every reason for residents to go about their daily lives.

"Hoylake is open, the roads are open and we're ready for business," said Mrs Foster, 52, while fitting a trendy new collar to a dog destined to meet Prince Andrew this week.

"It's fabulous, a wonderful atmosphere and should be a great boost for the town."


George Clooney
Clooney has been getting acquainted with local customs

Golf's galaxy of mega-rich superstars competing at Hoylake this week is not enough for some people.

The hot topic on the lips of the Wirral's female population seems to be the presence in their midst of Hollywood A-listers George Clooney, Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis.

Bezzies (best friends in the regional dialect) Clooney and Jackson have been seen in The Ship pub sampling local brews such as Old Bishop's Hairy Eyeball, or something like that.

But nothing, it would seem, changes. Back in 1967 when the Open was last staged at Hoylake, Mrs Foster (see above) was a Saturday girl in the same pet shop. Instead of marvelling at Robert de Vicenzo's glorious triumph over Jack Nicklaus, her overriding memory of the week was spending her lunch hour craning at the gates of the old Stanley Hotel to catch a glimpse of screen legends Roger Moore (the Saint at the time) and Sean Connery.

Sadly, it wasn't for her eyes only, as she had to leave before they emerged to go back to work. Possibly to sell accessories for an Octopussy.


Davis Love III
Love senior tees off on a practice round at Hoylake

Practice days are a great time to watch your favourite stars without the hassle of a 10-deep gallery getting in your way.

You'll have to be up pretty early to catch sight of a Tiger, but otherwise all the other big names will amble up at some point.

On Tuesday, for instance, you could watch the trio of Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Michael Campbell from behind an empty rope, or feast on the quartet of Ernie Els, Thomas Bjorn, David Howell and Nick Dougherty. Sure to be some banter in that one.

But one line-up on Monday gave slight cause for indignation.

Nothing wrong with Davis Love III and David Duval. And of the 10 or so chino-clad hangers on, one appeared to be Love's 13-year-old son Davis IV (no, really), which is a nice touch.

But when young IV picked up one of the old man's wedges and started chipping on the third green, the bumptious, grumpy golf club secretary lurking in all of us couldn't help but burst out.


People watching is a great sport at major events but people listening can be just as rewarding.

Like birdwatching, you won't have to go far to hear some old favourites such as "he's much taller than he looks on the telly".

But occasionally a gem comes along.

An early contender for Overheard Quote of the Week goes like this:

Two American hacks are walking into the press tent and one says to the other: "Can we smoke in the media centre? We are in Europe after all."


Nick Faldo
Faldo pleases most of his fan club at Hoylake

Autograph hunters are thick on the ground in the days leading up to the start of the Open.

The galleries aren't too thick and the pros are in a relaxed mood and generally happy to press the flesh for a while.

But some players endear themselves more to the fans than others.

One punter was apparently overlooked at a Nick Faldo signing session and seems set to take his grudge to the grave.

"That Faldo, he's so miserable," said Mr Angry to his mate. "I don't want his autograph now. If he comes past again I'll tell him his name's not worth much on eBay anyway."


Ben Curtis with the Claret Jug
Will Curtis be kissing the Claret Jug again on Sunday night?

Given Hoylake's absence from the Open rotation for 39 years, every player coming off the 18th is being mugged for his thoughts on the course.

Ominously, there's a spring in the step of a certain Ben Curtis esq, Open champion in 2003.

The Ohio, er, star shocked the world at Sandwich before predictably disappearing from the radar. But the 29-year-old emerged victorious again as the winner of PGA Tour's Booz Allen Classic in June and was full of confidence after his first round at Hoylake.

"I'm playing well and I like the course," drawled the American. "It reminds me of Royal St George's. It has the same feel with the bunkers and everything. It's very dry and dusty and should be a good test.

"I'd like a bit more wind but hopefully the weather will stay like this all week. If it does it will play about as tough as it gets."

Most people who can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But Curtis has faced the full force of the furnace before and come out on top. Be warned.


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