A View from the Dunhill Fairways: Phelps and Pistorius Back in Town


Saturday of the Dunhill is when things start to get a little bit more serious. There are still plenty of laughs, and Darren Clarke still wears a ridiculous outfit, but like all golf tournaments, Saturday is moving day. Anyone wishing to take a shot at what is still a very prestigious and well-funded competition needs to shoot low on Saturday to give themselves the best possible chance of lifting the trophy on Sunday afternoon.

The biggest mover was Scot Stephen Gallacher, who scored 65 up at Kingsbarns to move up 18 places into a share of fifth at -14. For the overnight leader Brandon Grace, Carnoustie provided a stern challenge, although the relatively calm conditions allowed him to keep his lead. An excellent round of 69 pushed him up to -20, giving him a four-shot lead going back to the Old Course tomorrow, where he shot 67 on Friday.

As usual I spent the day trailing after the celebrities, the main bulk of whom played the Old Course today. Bill Murray led the best-known names out, resplendent in orange, waving and winking at the crowd, perhaps in an effort to make up for his well-publicised outburst at the press earlier in the week. The Saint did manage to get an interview with him before he flipped, when he was happy to have a chat with Frazer Hadfield.

On a personal level, I was delighted to meet one of my childhood heroes. I was relaxing next to the 16th fairway in a lull between big names, when an unmistakable figure smashed his drive over the fence (it bounced back in bounds, incredibly) and strode down the fairway. Brian Charles Lara has lost none of his magic since retiring, and it was an honour to see him in the flesh. To talk to him on the steps in front of the Royal and Ancient was a dream come true. A relaxed man, he never seemed to get out of second gear when he spoke, but when naturally the conversation turned to cricket, his eyes lit up. Now that he is a man of leisure, he spends more timing watching than playing the game. “I’ve played a few matches, but it’s great to see the West Indies team going in the right direction. I think that tomorrow [in the final of the T20 World Cup against Sri Lanka] it’s going to be tough, as both teams have match-winners, but maybe you can count more match-winners on the West Indies team.”

If that excited me, what was to come was mind-blowing. As crowds gathered to attempt to catch a glimpse of first Michael Phelps and then Oscar Pistorius, I casually wandered over to the 18th green and caught up with two of the greatest Olympians of all time first-hand. Phelps, tall, relaxed, and unshaven, was surrounded by reporters, autograph hunters, and officials, but did take the time to answer a few questions. “I wanted to make the cut to play again tomorrow, but even though we didn’t, my trip was so memorable. Being able to play here with all the history, all the players who have walked this course, it’s just incredible. You can’t ask for anything more than this.” Safe to say, Michael will be back next year.

Pistorius followed him. In all the excitement, I almost missed him, but Pistorius, the consummate gentleman, spent as much time as he could posing for photos and talking to journalists, even throwing his hat into the throng – embarrassingly, one of The Other Guys dropped it like a schoolboy cricketer. Aside from the crowds, Pistorius was thankful for the opportunity to play the Old Course again. “I’ve had a phenomenal time. My driving was so much better today than it has been all week.” Pistorius has run in front of the biggest crowds in the world, but even so, “walking up the eighteenth was pretty intimidating”. When asked about the atmosphere out in St Andrews, Pistorius said, “I haven’t been out really yet, but I’m going to hit the town tonight for sure.” We’ll see you there Oscar. Mine’s a double.


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