The British Open has a new star. It’s Paul Larsen. You certainly don’t get too close to the Englishman if you claim that few people knew him until Wednesday. Then the Head Greenkeeper of the Royal St. George’s Golf Club gave the Golf Channel an interview – within hours he was recognized like a hero. Head greenkeeper is an honorable job, this species is finicky responsible for the condition of golf courses. At the British Open, as evidenced by a photo, they trimmed the last millimeters of a blade of grass at the edge of a hole with scissors the morning before the first tee. Larsen himself, however, has apparently not seen a cut in a long time, because as he showed on his TV appearance, he wears his hair beautifully in a special way. His hairstyle, sprouting in all directions like a bird’s nest, was given even more charisma by mirrored glasses. And this combination was celebrated. Alice Cooper, a passionate golfer, should feel like a well-combed schoolboy in Eton at this sight.
All of the most prestigious golf reporters, and there are a lot of them in Great Britain and the United States, pounced on Larsen’s appearance. Of course you could smile at them, but on the one hand it has to be emphasized that he actually does his job well. On the other hand, his short-term rise to popular figure shows how relevant everything is at a British Open. Even the top players’ journeys are shown on television. You then see people getting out of a car and then disappearing again. The fans, on the other hand, have a magnificent goose step ready, which radiates a similar urgency as the celebrated walk of people who want to grab a seat in the Augustiner tent at the Munich Oktoberfest, if it is not a pandemic. Every second counts. Don’t miss a thing.
Lee Westwood is the Oktoberfest tent made human, especially in England so many want to see it, of course it was no different this Thursday. It should also be emphasized that the knowledgeable golf audience on the island appreciates every good performance – but the applause from their own compatriots and especially at Westwood is even more hearty. Westwood, 48, from Worsop east of Sheffield, has Thomas Müller status, so is a cult figure. Despite a minor flaw. The down-to-earth buddy has never won a major tournament, but over the past 20 years he has been the outstanding European golfer. He achieved 44 victories worldwide, 25 on the European Tour, he celebrated umpteen times in the Ryder Cup. But in the majors, the four most important events, he could set a record this week that he did not deserve: He is still tied with the American Jay Haas – both have contested 87 majors without a title win. With the 88th he would be at the top. “Another award, yeah. I love it,” he said self-deprecatingly when a reporter asked him about it.
He and Helen Storey recently got married in Las Vegas – she is also his caddy
What too often became the undoing of Westwood on the way to the final, ultimate triumph, is at the same time part of the fascination that defines golf at this level. Guided tours, even high ones, mean nothing if you get the trembling hand in the end. Or just play others cooler. Westwood has been in the majors top ten 19 times. In 2008 at the US Open and 2009 at the British Open, he missed the playoff for victory by one stroke each, in 2010 he was runner-up at the Masters in Augusta, and in 2013 he led after round three at the British Open. Despite everything, his attitude to this day is to try again and again. “You can’t do more than that,” he said at St. George’s GC, “what happens happens.” Nobody has to worry about him. For 27 years he has earned an average of almost $ 900,000 in prize money – per season.
On Thursday, Westwood started the tournament with a round of 71 strokes (+1), Martin Kaymer, who was still playing in his group of three with Stewart Cink (USA, -4), needed 74 strokes (+4). With this result it will be difficult to keep up with the leaders on Friday. Compared to before, Westwood finds his shorter game, the strokes around the green, better. But from the tee he slacked off, he too felt the age with the long strokes. As he sees it himself, his shape fluctuations have increased, and in the long run it is not always constant. He doesn’t have the same intensity in the game in every tournament. He sees himself wonderfully relaxed.
Westwood radiates in general, that is a success in a completely different way, a real joy that still gives him his job. He has long since come to terms with the fact that he could end up like the once so capable Scot Colin Montgomerie without a major title. There are stories like that in golf. But the fact that he generally has this series of majors without a win also shows him how well he has played at the front for almost three decades. That is also a “record” for him.
Westwood may even be the one among the big names in his sport who rides off into the sunset of his career with the most laid-back attitude. He recently married Helen Storey in Las Vegas, who has also been working as his caddy for a long time. They both seem like they’re having a lot of fun, even on the pitch. Westwood himself said golfing has become easier since he simply thought of what it was all about: “getting a little ball into a little hole”.