The train to Troon, like the Firth of Forth, is more fun to say
than to see. But that's a principal attraction of Scotland: With
its firths and Forths and heaths and Perths, it makes everyone
sound like Daffy Duck. Indeed, even before he hits the Glenlivet,
the average American golf tourist finds himself fuzzy-tongued,
boasting in some pub to Keith from Leith, "I'm thtarting to
thwing like Tham Thnead."
Thtill--still--Scotland is more than the sum of its twin
inventions: golf and Scotch. You just wouldn't know it while
spending a week at the British Open at Royal Troon, where a
couple was discovered late Friday afternoon in flagrante delicto
in the fescue. To the golf-and-Scotch-addled witness, the scene
demonstrated once again the enormous difficulty of getting
up-and-down in the rough at Troon--and, at the same time, called
to mind one of David Letterman's Top 10 Punch Lines to Scottish
Dirty Jokes ("Number 1: She's in the distillery, making Johnnie
But the rest of the week was less T&A than R&A. Which isn't to
say that everything comes back to golf and Scotch at the Open. It
is, just as often, about golf and beer. The on-course tented pub
at Troon was called, brilliantly, the Open Arms. And all week
long at the Open Arms there flowed a constant tide of lager--a
firth of froth. So, after firing a 68 on Friday, Briton Barry
Lane came off the course with a new fan club. "A couple of guys
had had a few beers and were singing 'Barry Lane' on the way
'round," recalled Lane, his ears still ringing with the refrain:
Barry Lane is in my ears and in my eyes /There, beneath the blue
Except that the skies were anything but blue that day. "It was
raining sideways," noted Phil Mickelson, and when a BBC radio
reporter boasted that his own socks were "weather-repellent," the
phrase served, when repunctuated, as an eternal forecast for the
Open: "Weather: repellent."
July 25, 2004
And it isn't just the weather that's uniquely British. Some Troon
members coughed out their dental plates at the sight of Ian
Poulter in Union Jack slacks and claimed that a man so brazenly
attired would never be admitted to the grounds on any other week
of the year. To which Poulter replied, plaintively, "How can you
fault a man for his pair of trousers?" He was pleading, in other
words, for fashion tolerance. He sounded like Mahatma de la
Then again, the Scots are not exactly in the fashion avant-garde.
Glasgow's official tourism slogan, posted on placards at Troon,
is glasgow: scotland with style, which, if you think about it,
says more about Scotland than it does about Glasgow.
And yet on Sunday, by way of penance, Poulter was fartin' through
tartan, relieved to have shot a 72 in his Scotch-plaid
plus-fours. "The last thing you wanna do," he said, "is post an
80 wearin' tartan troozahs."
Yanks and Brits are, as George Bernard Shaw observed, divided by
a common language. It's not true that all visitors to Scotland
inevitably sound like Daffy Duck. In fact, while watching Bob
Tway, near the River Tay, in the land of tweed, you sometimes
speak like Tweety Bird. This makes it a challenge to say "the
train at Troon," which famously screams past the 11th tee box,
while 747s take off from adjacent Prestwick International
Airport, while the surf from the Firth of Clyde relentlessly
pounds the beach that borders the course. In the middle of this
cacophony, a lone ranger holds a stick that futilely whispers
quiet please. Inexpressibly poignant in his optimism, the ranger
evokes that student standing before the tank at Tiananmen Square.
All of which makes the Open more fun than a barrel of Montys.
Troon member Colin Montgomerie, as gray and brooding as the
Scottish sky, was asked if playing in the British Open is as much
fun as it looks.
"No," he replied. "Not at all. And anyone who says this is fun is
joking.... This is a job. And a horrible one." As ever with
Monty, you got the impression that he was partly putting you
on--like that tent in the food court at Royal Troon that
identified its fare as the best of british food.
Certainly watching the Open is as much fun as you can have with
your troozahs on. (And even that, as one couple proved, is not
compulsory.) Children under 16 are admitted free, and many spent
the bulk of the four days bargaining with Tiger Woods's security
detail for the great man's autograph. "What if I told Tiger he
was cool?" one eight-year-old asked a bodyguard, who replied,
through wraparound shades, "I think he already knows he's cool."
But the memory that will endure longest from last week--the one
that has legs, as it were--involves Poulter's pants, and Troon's
upset members, who may want to heed the Glasgow-born comedian
"Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes," he advises.
"After that, who cares? He's a mile away. And you've got his
Not everything comes back to golf and Scotch at Royal Troon. It
is, just as often, about golf and beer.