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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Open Diary
By Matt Slater and Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Carnoustie

MACCA'S A CROWD PLEASER

Phoney wars are all very good but they are a bit, well, unreal. And in the case of the Open, the warm-up days are just the pleasant calm before Thursday's - at Carnoustie anyway - drizzle.

But if the action is all set jaws and clenched teeth from now on, the practice rounds do at least give fans the chance to get a bit closer to their knitwear-clad heroes.

Graeme McDowell
McDowell - man of the people

Autographs, photos and the odd snippet of small talk are very much de rigueur.

And Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell was one player who embraced the more relaxed atmosphere.

Strolling onto the 11th tee on Wednesday afternoon, paper cup of tea in hand from the halfway house, caddie Ken Comboy munching a giant sandwich, he set about his next shot.

"Can I borrow your programme a second please," he said, turning towards the gallery of about a dozen people. "Tells me how to play the hole. Yep, driver. Thought so."

His stout forearms gripped the club and he unleashed a monster.

"Wow, he melted that," whispered someone.

"Why do you tee the ball so low?" piped up an American voice, not entirely in keeping with the British sense of decorum.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

"Oh, er, well," said McDowell, just for a second floored by the direct approach.

"This driver (made by a famous company beginning with C and ending in allaway) doesn't put much backspin on it [which reduces distance] so I can tee it low. Other guys might have to tee it up a bit to keep the backspin off."

"What loft is it?" persisted our new American friend.

"Hhhmm, this one's 9.5 degrees. Let's have another go, see if I can hit it a bit more right."

"Wow, he melted that."

"OK guys, have a good one. See you," said McDowell, his work there done.

"What a lovely bloke." "He's a great guy." "He's definitely getting a page on Bebo."

IT MIGHT BE SMART BUT IT'S NOT CLEVER

Previous incarnations of this diary have tended to lapse into set patterns by this stage, usually with the same cast of characters. This year's version is going to be no different.

So it was an enormous relief to us on Wednesday evening when we finally ran into our old favourite Mark Calcavecchia.

Mark Calcavecchia
Calcavecchia is a larger-than-life character

The 1989 Open champion is a great big bear of a man and has provided us with a healthy slice of diary material over the years. For that we are eternally grateful and would happily buy "Calcs" his choice of hops-based isotonic whenever and wherever he wants.

Our most recent meeting took place on Links Avenue, outside Carnoustie's fire station. We were heading north looking for hot food and warm action, he was heading south having already ticked those boxes.

We passed each other just as one of Calcs' companions - very possibly his beer caddie - was pointing out the Carnoustie Fire Brigade's pride and joy, a red Smart car in full Angus Council regalia.

"Ha!" said the 47-year-old American. "What good is that? I've seen bigger golf carts."

And he is right. He would not actually fit into any golf cart smaller than Carnoustie's fire engine.

GENERAL FRANCO IS WHERE IT AIN'T

In Wednesday's diary we discussed our search for Carnoustie's beating heart. At the time we were wondering if it was the gaggle of youths sat on the benches in front of the war memorial on the High Street.

And then we stumbled into "The 19th Hole". We were attracted like magpies to shiny things by the banner outside the pub that said "General Franco - Scotland's most rockin' cover band" was in the house.

The place was, by Carnoustie standards, rammed. This is it, we thought, our eureka moment. But as we fought our way to the bar it some became apparent that this was fool's gold.

What had sounded like (and is promised by the band's myspace page) reasonably competent pub rock for the first 10 seconds we were in the room soon revealed its true nature.

"I won't let you murder it," howled General Franco's frontman as he wrestled with the lyrics of Muse's "Time Is Running Out".

"Too late," thought your diarists as we turned towards the door and escaped up the road to The Stags Head.

FIVE LIVE'S PUB DUATHLON

The aforementioned Stags Head was not just our oasis of calm on Wednesday evening. It was also home to most of Five Live's on-course 'talent'.

As we supped our London Prides and pondered the fact that General Franco were booked to play this pub on Saturday night and could therefore lay claim to providing the soundtrack to this year's Open, Roger Chapman, Andrew Coltart, Mark Roe and Jay Townsend played darts and pool.

Coltart seemed to be the group's boss of the baize, while Roe was their pre-eminent dartist. Townsend was an enthusiastic participant at both.

NICE GUY VIJAY

The BBC aren't allowed to do competitions any more, but as this one is for the pro golfers at Carnoustie, not the public, we're going to do it anyway.

Welcome fellas - and we know you're all reading - to Open Diary's "Most Generous Pro of the Week" award.

Vijay Singh
Singh has been splashing the cash

Leading so far, until you tell us any different, is Fiji's Vijay Singh, who has set the heart's all a-flutter in the Links Coffee Shop - Carnoustie's halfway hut hidden behind the 10th green.

Singh, Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle are just the headliners to have appeared in the hut this week, though the likes of Hugh Grant, Justin Timberlake and Samuel L Jackson are confirmed regulars during the Dunhill Links Championship.

But back to Singh. The languid one has popped in a couple of times during the practice days, purchasing hotdogs and Powerade drinks, and has tipped generously both times.

"All the players have been really nice," said Carnoustie lass Lauren Mills, who works in the hut. "I think it's because I don't have a clue who anyone is. I only knew it was Vijay Singh because his friend said, 'What do you want, Vijay?' He gave me 6 the first time and 4 the second time."

Lauren's colleague Angela Branney is more of a Nick Faldo fan, despite a slightly smaller, ahem, tip. "He was very smiley," said Angela.

The hut's wooden walls are decorated with more than a thousand bag tags from golf clubs around the world, with the oldest, on latest inspection, from Birstall Golf Club, near Leicester, dated 1979.

Expect to see one from Royal Fiji (probably better make that Royal Florida) by the end of play on Sunday.



SEE ALSO
Open Diary
18 Jul 07 |  Golf
Open Diary
17 Jul 07 |  Golf


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