Open Diary: McDowell serving up a pint

7:00am Saturday 20th July 2013

By Paul Fraser

A TICKET for the Open Championship? £75. Fish and chips while you're there? Approaching a tenner. A round of golf at Muirfield on a normal day? More than £200.

Having a pint pulled for you by former US Open champion Graeme McDowell while you are in East Lothian? Priceless.

After McDowell had emerged from the 18 holes with Tiger Woods yesterday, the Northern Irishman headed over to the MasterCard club tent marquee to serve behind the bar.

His solid 71, level par, left him on four over for the tournament after a frustrating first round on Thursday which probably left him needing a drink rather than handing one out.

AS McDowell and Woods walked the Muirfield links yesterday, with them every step of the way was their other halves.

Despite the thousands following the two-ball round – because of Louis Oosthuizen's withdrawal through injury – it was as easy to spot the women in the two golfers' lives, with their designer handbags and sunglasses.

McDowell's fiancee is long brown-haired Kristin Stape, having got engaged to the interior designer after the breakdown in his relationship with former Miss Wales, while the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn was enjoying the Scottish sunshine while were watching her fella, Woods.

THE Muirfield track continued to cause problems for the best golfers in the world yesterday – living up to its billing as the hardest of all the Open venues.

More and more golfers struggled to make par, making for a leaderboard largely full of blue rather than much sought after red – supporting Ian Poulter's claims on Thursday that parts of the golf course were too difficult.

Poulter's cheeky Tweet – saying all the 18th required was a clown's face and a windmill – suggested it was more like a crazy golf hole and caused a chuckle among fans and championship organisers the Royal & Ancient.

And one quick-thinking fan must have worked all night on creating a windmill hat for the final hole. As the Ryder Cup golfer walked along the 18th yesterday, he did see a giant windmill sitting on top of one fan's head stating 'Poulter's hole'.

MANY of the problems the course encountered on Thursday was due to the heat in the hot sunshine not normally associated with this part of the world.

In a bid to try to prevent the course from going too firm yesterday, the greenkeepers hand watered the greens on the eve of the second day and double cut to 4mm.

And when the second round started the checks found the move had worked, so the earlier tee times – like Lee Westwood - felt the benefit. More lovely weather, however, meant faster greens as the day went on. Or that will be the excuse for some of the poor performers – again.

THE first figures are out for the attendances at Muirfield compared to the last time the East Lothian course hosted the only British major on the calendar.

The practice days were very similar. In 2002 there was a combined total of 30,862 who visited, while this time around there were 31,320 up to Wednesday night.

But where there were 30,620 who attended the first round 11 years ago, only 23,393 visited two days ago. A significant leap from £50 to £75 on the gate fee is sure to be one of the reasons for the decline.

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