By Matt Slater and Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Carnoustie
MONTY'S IN THE MOOD FOR FUN
If the Open champion was decided by gags per minute during their news conferences, Colin Montgomerie would at the very least make the play-off this week.
His Montyness was in fine form on the eve of battle, holding court and dishing out one liners with that dry wit of his.
What kind of mood will Monty be in after Thursday's first round?
"It's standing room only at the back," he quipped, revelling in the attention of a room full of hacks.
An early questioner asked: "Colin, what did that win [in the recent European Open] do for you, even though it wasn't links golf?"
"A win is a win. It doesn't matter if it's in the car park," fired Monty, eyes sparkling and mouth portraying the hint of a smile.
Someone else asked what he thought about mobile phones being banned.
"I'm fine with mobile phones going off on the course," he shot, a study in deadpan. "It's the other players that it was brought in for, the likes of Retief Goosen, who really get upset with those sort of things."
Another question: "Colin, you're 43, are you still in the prime of your career?"
"I hope so. I just won 10 days ago for Christ's sake." Monty 1-0 hack.
The Scot was also quizzed about having two coaches - he's working with long-time advisor Denis Pugh as well as new man Pete Cowen.
"I just wish I had more, to be honest. Two probably isn't enough," he said. So that's self-deprecation ticked off, too.
Anyone who shoots 70 around here, any day, any conditions, should be commended
Monty went on to explain how difficult Carnoustie is, particularly the 18th.
"It's one of the toughest finishing holes in golf. Last night I hit driver, three wood in. To 10ft, I should add. I didn't even bother with the putt." A touch of swagger and a great pay-off there.
And on the same theme, he added: "Anyone who shoots 70 around here, any day, any conditions, should be commended. Mind you, 64 is bloody good." He should know. He shares the course record of 64 with Scottish club pro Alan Tait.
On the eve of the 136th Open, it appears the Colin Montgomerie Show is very much in full swing.
ADDICTED TO LINKS
Clues are what it's all about in the days ahead of the Open. Little signs, whispers and rumours that give us the jump on our fellow golf nuts.
John Daly chips out of a bunker during Open practice at Carnoustie
Armed and potentially dangerous, we can spout forth on the likely winner, impress the less initiated and maybe submit to a small financial commitment.
So when we watched "Long" John Daly thin his drive off the first tee of Tuesday's practice round, the ball only reluctantly getting airborne after brushing an upslope, it was another name scratched off the mental list.
The "Wild Thing", with only a thin brown shirt to muzzle the beer belly, reloaded immediately, clipping a good one, but the damage had been done.
Browsing through the official programme later only confirmed what we now already knew.
"I think the links will play into the hands of someone who is very methodical, a Luke Donald or David Toms type of player," said Alan Tait, the Scottish club professional who shares the Carnoustie course record of 64 with Colin Montgomerie.
"I don't think there's a big advantage to the long hitters. You have to plot your way round here, as Paul Lawrie did the last time. Carnoustie isn't John Daly's course."
But then, turmoil and a fitful night's sleep. Bedtime reading just happened to be Daly's autobiography, a "thrillingly candid memoir of a career in the fast lane".
We can't go into it all now - it took him 303 pages - but one quote stuck out: "The happiest four days of my life in golf were the four days of the 1995 British Open."
He clearly has a deep-seated love affair with St Andrews after winning at the Old Course 12 years ago.
But one thing is clear; Daly, among his other dependencies, is a links golf addict.
Carnoustie might not favour him. But no-one thought the ninth reserve could win the 1991 USPGA either.
HOWELL SURVIVES MEDIA MAULING
Is it too early for us to declare the race for the coveted Open Diary 'Interview of the Week' award* over?
The following exchange took place behind the 18th green late on Tuesday.
Interviewer: "How's the body?"
David Howell: "Good."
Interviewer: "What's the course like?"
Interviewer: "How did you get on?"
Interviewer: "Thanks, David, and good luck."
Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys, Garth Crooks, watch out. We are gunning for you.
* The prize for the best interview is a pitch mark repairer from Monday's TaylorMade party and a copy of the official guide to Carnoustie's flora and fauna.
SEA PEA AND STOATS BUT NO TIGERS
Speaking of the flora and fauna book (official name, 'Carnoustie: A guide to the management of the links for wildlife and conservation'), the Open Diary is more than happy to give it a ringing endorsement.
Having finished all the free golf magazines distributed in the media centre, 'the guide', as we are calling it now, was welcome post-dinner reading last night.
We have learned the opening holes at Carnoustie are home to a burgeoning sea pea (lathyrus japonicus maritimus) population, which can be eaten 'in times of famine', there are bats, deer and kestrels around the turn, and the home stretch boasts foxes, meadow pipits and, our favourite, the stoat.
We urge all visitors this week to tread carefully, particularly those tempted to follow Jean van de Velde's footsteps in the Barry Burn - you may disturb the eels and sea trout.
GOLF INN, LINKS BAR OR 19TH HOLE?
One of the toughest jobs any serious Open diarist faces is finding out 'where it's at' in the host town during championship week.
Some years it is easy (Hoylake springs to mind; the answer was anywhere and everywhere), but others can involve a Katie Adie-like assignment (Troon).
Is Clooney in town? If so, where?
This year, however, it looks like being tough in the cryptic crossword sense because, as far as we can tell, Carnoustie is a famous golf course separated by a train line from lots of solidly built, grey houses. And that, unless we've missed a bit, is it.
Golf, as the 'Carnoustie - Famous Golf Town' sign on the A92 suggests, is the business of this place, and the names of the hostelries and inns, we have discovered, reflect this.
The closest we have found to a 'strip' is probably the length of road from the All Stars Sports Bar to the Stags Head Inn, via the Links Bar.
The All Stars Bar appears to be the caddies' choice, while the Links sounded like it was popular with the tone deaf last night. We thought we would save the delights of the Stags Head for tonight.
What we want to know is where are the likes of George Clooney/Kevin Costner/Justin Timberlake/insert your own celebrity golf fan going to be wetting their whistles this week?
Suggestions on a postcard to the media tent please.
SO WHO'S GOING TO WIN IT?
For those who haven't bet, postulated, eulogised or generally banged on enough about who is going to win at Carnoustie, diary recommends the ultimate Open sweepstake.
There's no prize, just the considerable honour of bettering Golfbug and his chums on the 606 messageboards.
Simply choose three players from one of Europe, America or the Rest of the World, and two from each one of the remaining two sections. So that's five in all. For example, three Europeans, an American and a Rest of the World player.
Also, select the winning four-round score, for tie-break purposes.
And then, and here's the important bit, for website users click on the 606 link to enter by 2300 BST on Wednesday:
If you are reading this on your mobile the address for entering by 2300 BST on Wednesday is:
Good luck, and we'll announce the winner on Sunday.