GULLANE, Scotland - In the last few days, I've done about 10 radio shows back home and the consistent questions are: 1. How will Tiger play? 2. What's up with Rory? 3. Can Phil really win this? 4. How is the course playing? And 5. How will Graham DeLaet play?
In order, my responses:
1. I think I still have a few question marks surrounding the state of his game at the moment. He says his elbow is fine and it didn't show any signs of hurting him during practice but he's been off for a month so while I think he'll play well, I'm not betting on him.
2. Who knows? I don't even think Rory knows and it appears as if it's starting to frustrate him, all these mediocre scores and all. He keeps saying he's close, and that he's had good rounds but not good consistency, but until he starts playing like he did at this time last summer, the questions about his clubs, his dedication, his girlfriend et al will continue, even if all of them are unfair and probably have no effect on his game, good or bad. Sometimes guys just don't play well.
3. Phil won on a links course, which is a good thing, an impressive thing, a surprising thing. But Phil winning at the Open to me is still a bit of a long shot. I do think he will be heard from at some point this week, but I'm not sold yet that he's figured out how to mesh his immense talent with a links course.
4. Hard and fast. Think Hoylake in 2006. This is as hard and fast as we've seen an Open Championship in some time and I think the players are excited about the prospect. The weather is unseasonably warm (I packed three turtle necks and zero shorts) and the sun is shining. The wind is blowing but not hard which all adds up to tough pin placements or low scores.
5. Graham DeLaet looks confident. He looks relaxed and he seems prepared. I watched him on the range this week stinging three irons about 280 yards without getting six feet off the ground. I saw him bounce shots in from 160 and have them stop right by the pin. I also think he understands the mental test that awaits him but this is his first major and his first British Open so let's not put too much in the way of expectations on the guy (we can save that for next week).
It was predictable, of course. Not long after Peter Dawson, head of the R&A, and his pals sat down in front of the press, the questions about gender equality came spewing forth. Why, it was asked many times in many ways, was the R&A okay with holding the grandest of its championships at a facility that doesn't allow women to be members?
Dawson bobbed and weaved, even seemed to get a little irritated, but in the end had to absorb countless body blows. There is no way for the R&A to win this one and Dawson probably knows it. After Augusta National admitted women members this past year, it left the R&A standing naked in a field.
Of course the question isn't - or shouldn't be - whether or not clubs can be male or female only. That's up to the club. It's whether or not the Open Championship should be held at such a facility. My answer is no.
It will be a long, slow change if it happens, but the questions are going to keep coming until something changes.
My top five picks in no particular order: Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker and Sergio Garcia.
My two darkhorses: Henrik Stenson and Brandon Grace.
Random thoughts: I watched David Duval hit a few shots today. He still looked pretty darn good with the club in his hands ... The golf course continues to get harder and faster with each day. One marshal told me that they watered an area where he was standing but the water they put on "wasn't enough to make a cup of tea." ... I ran into the amazing Judy Rankin on the course today. In my book, there's no one better as a walking reporter. Looking forward to working with her in Edmonton next month ... In the bet shops on Wednesday, Graham DeLaet was at 100/1. Tiger was still the favourite at 8/1.