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Last Updated: Friday, 21 July 2006, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Open diary
By Matt Slater and Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Hoylake


View across Liverpool
Liverpool: Europe's Capital of Culture 2008
I suppose we had it coming after a month of taking the mick out of Americans during the World Cup, but a gentleman from the Washington Times has been making quite a name for himself this week by taking a seven-iron to Liverpool's fragile reputation as a city reborn.

The newspaper's Rover correspondent has been filing "Postcards from Liverpool" this week that have so far trashed the name of the city's oldest hotel, British television and the state of "Cesspool's" streets.

Doesn't he know that the Merseyside metropolis is Europe's Capital of Culture in just two years' time? So what if we like Big Brother, let's not get started on bad television.

At least they have moved on from making gags about our teeth, although there are still two more postcards to come.

To be fair, the "Cesspool" comment appears to have been removed from the Washington Times' website. Perhaps that was the trade-off Wirral Council demanded for finding "Rover" nicer lodgings.

There are many on the British side of the press tent that would have left the foolhardy scribe where he was, particularly as he had given easily-offended Scousers plenty of clues as to his whereabouts.

But to be fair to him his complaints sound remarkably similar to the kind of stuff the British golfing press have churned out in the past about American cities like Detroit (the 2004 Ryder Cup) and the rest of Augusta outside the Masters venue's Disney-like kingdom.

Not everywhere can be as nice as Washington, which was, the last time I visited, the murder capital of America.


Crowds flock to see Tiger Woods in action
Hoylake is heading for a new record for Open crowds
Hoylake's members have been telling the Royal and Ancient the same thing for years, "If you build the hospitality tents and media compound, they will come."

Well, so far this week, they have been hugely vindicated.

A lack of space for Open-related shopping opportunities, glad-handing and general hullabaloo was one of the main reasons Royal Liverpool went 39 years without an Open.

The canny addition of a few acres here and a new road there got the course back on the rotation.

One thing that was never in doubt, however, was the enthusiasm for golf (and outdoor drinking) in this part of the world.

Large crowds at Hoylake this week were a given, excellent weather was not. By laying on the latter as well, Royal Liverpool should earn itself a record attendance for an Open Championship.

The current best of 230,000 spectators for the entire week was set at St Andrews in 2000. Last year's Open at the same venue saw 223,000 fans stream through the gates.

Hoylake is already 10,500 paying customers up on last year at the same stage of the tournament - 51,000 attended the practice days and 38,500 came for Thursday's first round to make a total of 89,500.

The daily figure will have to rise to almost 50,000 a day if the Wirral course is to beat the home of golf's millennium best but some are suggesting as many as 250,000 will have seen the golf by Sunday evening.

But how many of those will actually watch the action on the big screen outside the Open Arms is anybody's guess. Nearby Tranmere Rovers would love crowds as big as those for their matches.


Miguel Angel Jimenez negotiates a bunker at Hoylake's sixth
The top row of the stand on the sixth will give you the best view
With such big numbers on site, finding a good vantage point at Hoylake - apart from the Open Arms - can be tricky.

This is not a problem unique to Royal Liverpool. No links course in the country was designed with the viewing pleasure of thousands of golf fans in mind.

There is, however, room enough for everybody here but you have to be willing to find it. The tendency at most Opens is for many spectators to not get much further than the 1st and the 18th and whichever holes flank the tented village.

This is fine if you want to queue for grandstand seats around the 18th, book your next golfing holiday or buy a print of the clubhouse. Far better advice is to head off into the country. Or in Hoylake's case, aim for the beach.

Every Open course has its hot spot - a place from where a number of tees and greens can be quickly reached, or sometimes even viewed from the same vantage point.

The heart of Hoylake is the bow-tie shape that is made by two triangles of greens - the 5th, 6th and 13th, and the 6th, 8th and 12th - that meet at the 6th. From here the tee boxes of the 6th, 7th, 9th, 13th and 14th are also reachable.

The 12th and 14th are Hoylake's toughest holes and how the players negotiate those two will go a long way to deciding the outcome this week. This is also the most scenic part of the course, with views of the Dee Estuary, Hilbre Island and North Wales all on offer.

Of the 22,000 seats the R&A have provided this week there is no absolute best. But my shout would be for any along the top row of the stand by the 6th green.

From here you can see almost every club in the bag being used inside 15 minutes, which, come to think of it, sounds like one of my rounds.


Keira Knightley
Keira - her views on golf remain a secret
There appears to be some misunderstanding about the real identity of one of our Hoylake course guide panel.

Helena Wade, the hard-hitting five-handicapper who previewed holes 16, 17 and 18 for us, is not actually Pirates of the Caribbean starlet Keira Knightley.

As far as we know, the English actress doesn't play golf. And she certainly doesn't answer our phone calls asking for her views on golf.

We have used her picture simply because Helena was too shy (she says busy) to provide us with one of her own. We are assured by all who know her, however, that the resemblance is uncanny.

So if the offers of a guided tour of California's best courses (Ian, you're too kind), free lessons (too many to thank) and a drink in Hoylake at some stage this week (Christian, such a gent!) still stand, we'll pass them on to Helena.


Tiger Woods lines up a putt during his second round
Tiger - he really is the man, but don't say it too loud
As interesting little vignettes go, the crowd's reaction to the three-ball of Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Shingo Katayama on the 9th tee is worthy of note.

Sensing that Woods was building up a head of steam, the great one's tee-shot on the 198-yard par three was greeted with a bellowing "Get in the hole!" from some clown in the gallery.

This was met with groans and general British disapproval, with mutterings of "There's always one".

Not sure what to make of the cowboy-hatted Katayama up next, the Japanese's shot was treated to a high-pitched "yee-ha".

And sensing that poor old Faldo was wilting in Woods' afterburners, the kind-hearted crowd offered a genteel round of applause and an isolated "Keep it up Nick".

With Woods in such scorching form, there are two dangers. One is a fire risk, and the other is a weekend of yells of "You're the man!".

This week's sizzling temperatures mean the R&A already have the fire engines in place, but they may have to ask the less-mindless elements of the crowd to instigate a bit of self-policing...


But sometimes these Wirral wags can just get it so right.

Here's an example of a superb Hoylake heckle, or Hoyckle as we are going to start calling them.

Kenneth Ferrie, struggling all week, hoicks his drive at the 8th into the greenkeepers' sheds behind the orchard. He then slumps to the ground in a heap complaining of a bad back.

Having sat at the tee for over 10 minutes waiting for a physio to come out, the Englishman then gives up, gets up and heads back to the clubhouse.

At which point a spectator, pint pot in hand, shouts, "Hey Kenneth, the beer tent is this way, la!"


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