The Open Diary: Santa, is that Pugh?

By Sports Desk July 16, 2021

It was moving day at The Open Championship on Friday but the sunshine refused to budge.

While Louis Oosthuizen recovered the overnight lead that he had lost to Collin Morikawa earlier in the day, a few fans' favourites ensured they will be around at the weekend.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry both did enough to make the cut and world number one Dustin Johnson surged up the leaderboard.

But our man on the ground also had an eye on events on the fringes of the action...

BUTTER FINGERS!

When the players walk off the 18th green they pass under the grandstand that surrounds the putting surface.

Above them will often be a gaggle of fans trying to get their attention so they might throw a golf ball their way.

But when that chance comes you have to be ready to take it, and one young fan's hopes were dashed when Tommy Fleetwood tossed a ball within his grasp but he let it slip.

When a marshal picked it up to throw it back to the waiting fans, it was a different young hopeful who managed to seize the opportunity.

MERRY CHRISTMAS?

Lucas Herbert's caddie had fans in a festive mood, despite it being the middle of July.

Nick Pugh sports a bushy white beard and, as he made his way from the 15th green to the 16th tee, one cheeky fan asked if the jovial Scot had received his Christmas list.

Pugh saw the funny side and retorted: "Ho ho ho!"

BEERY ME...

They are not compulsory, but some spectators are choosing to wear face masks in these coronavirus times.

That is all well and good, but it's important to remove your mask before attempting to drink your beer.

One fan probably won't need to learn that lesson again after inducing much mirth following a botched attempt to take a swig from his pint with his face mouth covered.

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  • Ryder Cup: Koepka should withdraw if he doesn't want to play - Azinger Ryder Cup: Koepka should withdraw if he doesn't want to play - Azinger

    Paul Azinger says Brooks Koepka should relinquish his place on the United States Ryder Cup team if he does not want to play at Whistling Straits.

    Four-time major winner Koepka raised eyebrows when stating in an interview with Golf Digest that he finds the prestigious event "a bit odd" and "hectic".

    The former world number one revealed he finds playing in a team event difficult to adapt to, as he is unable to get into a usual routine that he would have during a major tournament.

    Azinger, who captained the USA to victory over Europe in 2008, says Koepka ought to give someone else the chance to play in Wisconsin if he is not fully committed.

    "I'm not sure he loves the Ryder Cup that much," Azinger said during a conference call for NBC Sports.

    "If he doesn't love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup."

    Azinger added of Koepka, who has been troubled by a wrist injury: "Not everybody embraces it.

    "But if you don't love and you're not sold out, then I think Brooks - especially being hurt - should consider whether or not he really wants to be there."

    Azinger continued: "Brooks is one of the most candid, most honest guys there is, and if he's blatantly honest with himself and doesn't want to be there, he should come out and say it."

    The United States start their bid to regain the Ryder Cup a week on Friday.

  • Ryder Cup: Stenson named Europe's final vice-captain Ryder Cup: Stenson named Europe's final vice-captain

    Henrik Stenson has been named as Europe's fifth and final vice-captain for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

    Padraig Harrington has turned to the vast experience of Swede Stenson to complete his backroom team for a showdown with the United States that starts in Wisconsin next Friday.

    The 2016 Open champion has played in the prestigious biennial competition five times, lifting the famous trophy on three occasions.

    Stenson, 45, has won 11 points from 19 Ryder Cup matches and came out on top in all three in the last edition at Le Golf National in 2018.

     

    "It's a great honour to get the call and to be involved with Team Europe. I've been part of five Ryder Cup teams in the past and to be given the opportunity as a vice-captain to help Europe's quest to retain the Ryder Cup is exciting," said Stenson.

    "Padraig called me on Monday morning and it was not a long conversation. I accepted straight away and I assured him that myself, along with the other vice-captains, are there to help and assist him and the team in any way we can.

    "We have a very strong team. It's a mix of huge experience along with three guys who will take on their first Ryder Cup – and that's a great combination. We have strength in depth so I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing the boys perform.

    "It's no secret that winning on away soil is always a little bit harder, but the boys are ready for that challenge. It's all going to come down to how well we play during the week, but I have every faith in our team."

    Robert Karlsson, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell are Harrington's other vice-captains.

  • Ryder Cup: Garcia eyeing another Europe triumph at Whistling Straits Ryder Cup: Garcia eyeing another Europe triumph at Whistling Straits

    Sergio Garcia enters his 10th Ryder Cup as the all-time leading scorer in the competition but he is thinking only of another team victory as he looks ahead to Whistling Straits.

    Europe have won four of the last five and nine of the last 12 showdowns with the United States but Garcia is hungry for more at the delayed 2021 edition, to be held September 24-26.

    He pointed out that the Americans still hold an overwhelming edge in the history of the biennial event, with 26 wins compared to only 14 for their opposition. 

    "We still have some catching up to do, and that's a goal to try to tilt the balance to our favour when it comes in the global score of the Ryder Cup," Garcia told reporters after being selected for this year's team by captain Padraig Harrington. 

    The USA's advantage stems mostly from the days when a player from Spain like Garcia would not have been eligible to contest the Cup. 

    From its inception in 1927 through 1971, Great Britain provided the sole opposition. The next three Ryder Cups, from 1973-77, added players from Ireland as well. 

    The Americans won 18 and lost three, with one tie, across that span before a full European team was first fielded in 1979. The USA won the first three after that format change but Europe are 11-5-1 since 1985. 

    Garcia has been a huge part of that success since making his debut in 1999 as a 19-year-old.

    At the last edition in Paris in 2018, Garcia raised his career point total to 25.5, passing Nick Faldo to become the highest-scoring player in history, but team success was – and remains – top of mind.

    "Being the highest points-scorer in Ryder Cup history, that was never my goal," Garcia said. "It's something that I never thought about because I was always focused on winning the Ryder Cup as a team.

    "So I never thought, oh, you know, even if we lose, if I win three or 3.5 points, I had a great Ryder Cup. No, that doesn't do it to me.

    "I've always said it; I could win five matches. If we don't win the Ryder Cup, it's not a good Ryder Cup for me.

    "I'm not one of those guys that would look at the individual stats over the team stats on that particular week.

    "It's not the way my brain works and probably is one of the reasons why I've been fortunate to be a part of so many teams and do so well in it."

    It also helps that Garcia cares so deeply about the competition and has always seemed to feed off the team dynamic and the unique atmosphere around any Ryder Cup gallery. 

    He knows Europe will face the full wrath of the fans in Wisconsin, particularly with COVID-19 restrictions limiting travel from Europe. 

    "Obviously when we're in the US, we are always out-numbered when it comes down to [crowds]. But this year is going to be even more," he said. "So the way you look at it, you can look at it two ways: You can feed off the energy that their crowd is going to have, and also you can feed off your good moments how they will get quiet and how you can quiet their crowds.

    "I think that's going to be important and it's going to be important for everyone to know that when the course is quiet, this is a good thing for Europe."

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