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  Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Up early at the first tee
Peter Baker hits the first drive of the 131st Open Championship at Muirfield
Peter Baker hit the first shot of the tournament

Ivor the legend

There is something vaguely masochistic about watching the first group - or game, as they are called here - tee off at the Open.

Those 0700 starts really do sort out the fanatics from the fans.

But, as those masochists will assure you, there is something very satisfying about saying you were there when it happened.

"It?" You enquire. The first drive of the day? First birdie?

No. I don't know why the other 300 or so were there, but for me the main attraction was Ivor Robson.

"Who?" You cry. Well, Robson has been the official starter at every Open since 1975, and his "On the tee..." catchphrase is golf's equivalent of "Let's get ready to rumble".

Tom Watson
Watson shared a joke with Ivor Robson

With his shock of white hair, jolly green blazer and sensible slacks, Robson looks a bit like a bus driver with a cargo of tourists - "on the left, the Houses of Parliament".

Either that or an Irish folk singer. I'm not sure what Brendan Shine looks like these days, but my guess is that it's a bit like Robson.

What is certain is the respect that the players have for Robson - his marathon stints on the first tee are legendary.

He announces every game with the same gusto, never sits down and eats and drinks nothing whilst on duty. And what a shift it is.

As Tom Watson, who started at 0722, quipped, "Good morning Ivor, so when's your break?"

"Oh, in about nine and a half hours," replied Robson cheerily.

I'll be back be with Ivor later on - finishing what we started - and I'm already looking forward to his introduction of Magnus Persson Atlevi.


The first is worst

The man with the second-hardest job on Thursday after Robson was England's Peter Baker, the poor soul with the "honour" of taking the championship's first shot.

As any golfer will tell you, the hardest shot of the day is the one you take in front of the starter's hut - the only option for most of us is a silent prayer and a seven iron.

Tiger Woods
Woods hit his first drive into the rough

But at the Open you haven't really got that choice - it is, after all, a Major, and everybody is expecting you to spank a wood or low iron straight down the fairway.

But that doesn't mean the pros are any less edgy than you or I.

As Australian veteran Ian Stanley joked after hooking his drive into the deep rough only 100 yards from the first tee, "I'm not nervous!"

But his nerves would have been far less severe than Baker's 30 minutes before.

And it was hardly surprising when he pushed his two iron into the rough down the right - a spot Tiger Woods would visit two hours later, prompting the first airing of "Tiger in the long grass" as a possible headline.

Anyway, Baker did find his ball and managed to "save" his bogey, which meant we had to forget using "Baker's breakfast dozen" as a headline this time.


Over-clubbed

One of the biggest stories at last year's Open was Ian Woosnam's extra-club clanger.

The big-hitting Welshman went into the final round at Royal Lytham with a real chance of winning his second Major title.

Unfortunately, he also went into that round with two drivers in the bag, making a total of 15 clubs, or one more than you're allowed.

The resulting two-shot penalty took the wind out of Woosie's sails and he finished in a tie for third.

Ian Woosnam
Woosnam will make sure he only has 14 clubs

So this year there was bound to be a certain amount of interest in the contents of Woosnam's bag, as well as the identity of its bearer.

The villain of last year's piece, Miles Byrne, is back in Ireland working on building sites, and Woosnam now entrusts Lee Adelly with task of counting to 14.

As player and caddie took to the first tee it was clear that everybody was waiting for somebody else to make the obvious gag about last year.

But it never came, and it was left to rules official Richard Muckart to tactfully whisper to Adelly, "Are you sure?"

Cue nodding and embarrassed smiles from all and sundry.

I wonder if Byrne is having similar problems with bricks on hods.

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 ON THIS STORY
England's Peter Baker
"I can do better than I did"
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