Out of the friend zone: Newlywed golfers put love to the test at British Open

Alex Wrigley and his wife, Johanna Gustavsson, stand on the Old Course at St. Andrews during a British Open practice round.
Alex Wrigley and his wife, Johanna Gustavsson, stand on the Old Course at St. Andrews during a British Open practice round Tuesday. Gustavsson, who competes on the Ladies European Tour, is caddying for Wrigley at the British Open this year.
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Alex Wrigley and Johanna Gustavsson are putting their new marriage to the test.

Oh, the newlyweds are in love, that’s obvious.

It’s just that British Open qualifier Wrigley had his bride caddying for him Thursday, and that combination doesn’t always work.

For instance, when it was Wrigley caddying for his bride-to-be on the Ladies European Tour, well, that didn’t go quite as smoothly.


“For me it’s been hard to have Alex on the bag,” said Sweden’s Gustavsson, 29, who has had three runner-up finishes this year and four more in the top 10. “It gets a bit too close for me. And being my coach as well, it gets hard on the decision making and all that. But I’m obviously not Alex’s coach, so I think it works a bit better.”

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It was a challenging opening round for the couple. England’s Wrigley, having qualified for the Open for the first time, had two double bogeys on each side and finished with a 10-over-par 82.

Asked what memories about his debut will stick with him, he said with a laugh: “The first tee shot, of course, and walking off the 18th quickly.”

In truth, he’ll savor more than that.

“Walking up the 18th fairway is really cool, really special,” said Wrigley, 32, who had tried to qualify for this championship nearly every year since he was 18. “It’s special to see Tiger [Woods] there when we’re walking up 15 and Tiger’s on the fifth green. Just looking across there was really cool.”

Added Gustavsson: “Considering the score, it wasn’t great. But there’s nowhere else in the world we’d want to be right now.”

Alex Wrigley and Johanna Gustavsson walk the Old Course at St. Andrews during a practice round at the British Open.
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Wrigley was reminded Thursday that in a major championship — his first — there are no breathers or easy holes. There’s very little chance to pause and regain your equilibrium if you need to collect yourself.

“Links golf is very penal,” he said. “You’ve got to be precise, but you’ve also got to get the rub of the green as well. Today I had neither. I wasn’t precise and didn’t get much luck. This being my first major, when you see it on TV you just can’t appreciate that they’re brutal and you have to hit quality shots all the time. Quality drives, and you need a little bit of luck to keep you in the fairway around here because it’s a bit drier than the other majors.

“It’s hole after hole after hole where it’s par’s good, par’s good, par’s great. You’ve got to hit four quality shots to make pars. That’s what the leaders are doing.”

At times, they sounded like a couple in a car with one of them holding the map.

“She gave me some good information, told me where to go,” Wrigley said. “And I didn’t.”

Johanna Gustavsson carries her husband Alex Wrigley's clubs at the British Open.
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

The couple isn’t just making memories, but possibly history. They are believed to be the first husband and wife to play in their respective Opens — Gustavsson will play in the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield in August.

“We’ve been asked a lot about that, and we don’t know for sure [if another couple has achieved that],” Wrigley said. “Nobody’s found it, I think, so far.”

He said there’s “no chance” he’ll be making a cameo as his wife’s caddie.

The two met in 2015 when they were paired in the same group at a PGA event in Spain.

Two-time British Open champion Greg Norman is not allowed to participate at St. Andrews because he is chief executive of the LIV Golf International series.

“It was just a coincidence that we met and we got talking and I would say we became friends first,” Gustavsson said. “We didn’t meet up again until six months later.”

So Wrigley immediately wound up in the friend zone?

“Oh, big time,” he said.

Maybe that gives him a flicker of hope for the Open.

How things start isn’t always how they finish.