Bill Elliott: Friday at The Open
Greg Norman and Camillo Villegas leading the Open Championship... are we all dreaming? Bill reflects on a day where his old mate rolled back the years once again
Never mind if there is life on Mars, is this the retro Open Championship or what? By the middle of Day Two I expected to be doing many things but interviewing my old mate Greg Norman wasn't one of them.
While the majority of players have prepared for this Open by consulting coaches, chatting seriously to psychobabble experts, fine-tuning already over-tuned golf swings and generally tearing themselves into a frenzy of anticipation and hope, Greg sensibly concentrated on his marriage to Chris Evert.
He is only here at Birkdale so his new bride can watch him strut a stage he used to dominate and only strutting this stage because he arrived in his private jet determined to win the British Senior Open in Scotland next week. Instead, at 53 and without any serious competition for a few years The Shark leads. Talk about over-achieving.
His last major was at St Andrews three years ago and again he was only there because he was preparing for the Senior one and, to be fair, because his boyhood idol Jack Nicklaus was saying bye-bye. His performance here this week so far has been a triumph and it doesn't much matter what happens from here on in.
I am delighted for him. I've known Greg for nearly 30 years and respected him for all of them. He remains, to those of us who really know him, the same decent bloke he always was. Larger than life, sure, but a loyal and generous man. His early nickname on the European Tour was Hollywood because even when he didn't really have two quid to rub together he travelled in a borrowed black Rolls Royce and always looked a million dollars.
Nowadays, of course, he is worth many hundreds of millions with more business projects than many small countries can boast. But despite this success he has never really found anything to compare with the thrill of competing at the sharp end of one of the world's great contests. He grew visibly when he marched up the final fairway yesterday, raising his cap to acknowledge the warm applause that cascaded over him from packed stands.
The emotion was clear and soon became clearer when hew rattled his putt past the hole and off the green. Off course, being Greg, he effortlessly holed the one back to keep his place at the top of the leaderboard. Now, unless things change late on, he will tee off last tomorrow with Camilo Villegas alongside him, the old ,maestro and the young wannabe.
If Greg now looks as though he should be skippering a marlin boat somewhere off Bermuda, Villegas carries the transparent presence of lead singer in a medium successful boy band. Between them they are about to make this Open look more like an annual Father & Son comp. Good on them.
Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.
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