Advertisement

Some rough-and-tumble golf is being played down the street from Royal Birkdale

Poulter versus Daly.

It was the British Open showdown this week that nobody saw.

Advertisement

To be clear, it was an eight-hole match between a couple of 13-year-old pals — Luke Poulter, son of Tour pro Ian, and John Daly Jr., one of the longest hitters golf has ever known.

They played down the road at Southport & Ainsdale, and Poulter won by one stroke.

"One was very upset when he'd come back in the house, and unfortunately that was little John," the elder Poulter said Friday. "But Luke was kind of rubbing it in, as he took a 20-pound note from him. So poor little John was not best pleased."

Ian Poulter, known for his strut when he's playing well, was asked who taught his son to swagger in that way.

"I'm not sure," he said with a smile. "Must be his mother."

Crime of opportunity

Henrik Stenson of Sweden watches his shot from the 14th tee during his second round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale golf course on July 21.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden watches his shot from the 14th tee during his second round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale golf course on July 21. (Andy Buchanan / Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson, defending British Open champion, had more than golf on his mind Friday.

Someone burglarized the house in which he was staying, near Royal Birkdale. The incident happened Thursday, but was not made public until Friday.

Thankfully for him and the tournament, the Claret Jug was returned Monday to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which allows the winner to keep the trophy during his yearlong reign.

"It's obviously very special for me to be playing here in front of the fantastic Birkdale crowds and the defending Open champion, so I am going to try not to let this spoil my week in any way," Stenson said in a written statement.

"I am extremely grateful that my family were not in the house at the time."

Stenson said the trophy had been given back, "but unfortunately, along with some valuable personal items, they have taken all of my clothing for the week."

Said an R&A spokesman: "We were very sorry to hear about the burglary and have offered any assistance we can provide to Henrik and his family."

A big problem

Advertisement

Ernie Els is a tall man, and he reasons that might make him more susceptible to the wind here, like a skyscraper swaying in a gust.

"I mean, I'm 6-feet-5, so the wind is going to get me," he said. "The wind was blowing me around."

By that thinking, smaller players must have it made. Or maybe not.

"I would say there's almost no advantage to being really small," said Austin Connelly, among the more diminutive players on the course at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds. "I got asked that question just a second ago if it helped being shorter. But I've never been taller so I can't really comment."

Zach attack

There were lots of blue numbers on the scoreboard Friday, bogeys (blue) and double bogeys (dark blue) everywhere you looked. Somehow, Zach Johnson was able to dodge that trend. The 2015 British Open champion followed a disheartening round of 75 with a scorching 66 on Friday to finish the day at plus-1 for the tournament.

Johnson had a setback on Tuesday when his driver cracked, an unwelcome development for a player who wants to be as comfortable as possible in the heat of competition.

"It isn't exactly ideal," Johnson said, adding: "I can't tell a difference in golf balls, but you give me any different iron, club, there's a difference."

Evidently, he has gotten used to the new driver.

He said part of the Thursday-to-Friday turnaround came at the range after his five-over opening round.

"After my round, I went to the range and hit a lot of drivers," said Johnson, who tied for fifth at the John Deere Classic last week. "And hit a lot of good ones too. So that was key. I got mad too, which was good. I let it out. I was upset. I wasn't furious and bouncing off the walls. I was just upset with my performance because I felt great coming into the week."

Weather or not

After a first day that but for some morning drizzle was mostly sunny, the weather turned at Birkdale on Friday, with wind gusts picking up dramatically.

The forecast for Saturday calls for sunny spells with a chance of showers, especially in the afternoon, that could be heavy at times. Same goes for the final round Sunday, with clouds increasing in the late afternoon.

Said Martin Laird, who came into Friday at two under, and left at seven over for the tournament: "With this wind, non-prevailing wind, this golf course is just a beast."

Laird was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"I wouldn't want to play this every day, let's just say that," he said. "It's fun to come back and I still love this week. I still had a great week of links golf. But I'll take playing golf in Arizona year-round over playing links year-round, I'll just say that."

Daddy time

Richie Ramsay has turned in a couple of strong rounds — 68 and 70 — and says he has more perspective, particularly since the birth of his daughter, Olivia, who is 16 months old.

"It probably calmed me down a bit," he said. "I definitely don't take things for granted as much. I'm a little bit more patient. Olivia teaches me a lot."

Ramsay said that when he was younger, he "definitely thought too much" and was "one-dimensional."

"If golf wasn't going well, things weren't going well," he said. "But now I try to set golf aside and when I come around the corner — like last week I had a bit of a bad finish, and I walked into the players lounge and Olivia caught me from about 20 yards away. Hands went up and a smile on the face. That just cheers you up. It's brilliant."

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

Advertisement
Advertisement