Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

King James reigns in Scotland again

It's been a strange old summer of sport across the globe with none of the hugely-hyped events really living up to their billing.

The Champions' League Final was a bore, Wimbledon was a procession, the World Cup was a chore, the British Grand Prix was won by an Aussie and after eight weeks of heavy petting and much moaning Tyrone lit up a cigarette and finally confirmed what everyone knew anyway.

And sadly we have to add The Open to that list as from a sporting perspective it was the equivalent of spending an evening listening to Paul Clark's banter on UTV but with one crucial difference — Mark James.

The Open is really the jewel in the BBC commentary crown, the biggest diamond remains Peter Alliss — the odd dodgy comment of a near-octogenarian aside — while Hazel Irvine continues to sparkle and thankfully consign the memories of Gary Lineker to the bunker of history.

But James (below) really came into his own this year when the event threatened to peter out and when Alliss does eventually peter out the billiard ball on legs is the man to fill the cranky curmudgeon role in the Beeb’s greenhouse.

He first appeared on BBC Breakfast on Thursday morning, informing us about Tiger Woods that ‘he doesn’t like the way he is swinging,’ but I don’t think this was the time or place to moralise.

Of course Day One belonged to Rory McIlroy, as did Day Two but for very different reasons, and it all looked like a procession, apart from some South African bloke with a funny name nobody had ever heard of putting up a good show.

But while there is good, there is also the baffling among the vast BBC team that converged upon the home of golf, and none more so than Russell Fuller, the man tasked with interviewing the players after their round.

He set the tone for the week when asking Oosthuizen (oh aye, yer man) if he had heard any (and forgive me for mentioning the blasted things) vuvezelas.

“I didn’t hear any vuvezelas out there and I don’t think you would with the wind like this,” Louis told us, but there was much worse to come, both in the gales and the hot wind from Fuller.

But he wasn’t alone. The Beeb’s new favourite son, Dan Walker, has made it back in his bus all the way from Pretoria to Perth, and disembarked on Day Two to join the wonderful Ken Brown at one of St Andrews’ most iconic spots — the Road Hole.

“It’s called the Road Hole because we’re standing on a road,” Walker enlightened us as Brown’s eyes rolled over the back of his head and dropped onto the green, while no doubt hoping that a bus would come with ‘Johannesburg’ written on the front. At least the funny wee man with the teeth could get a lift home.

And while the wheels were coming off for Rory there was at least one Northern Ireland person keeping their cool on the course in Maureen Madill, who described the weather as ‘frisky’ and pointed out that ‘even the seagulls are beginning to walk out there.’ Should have hopped on a bus.

Back to Rory and Sam Torrance, not to be outdone, was sharing his anguish as meltdown approached.

“Steady. It’s a bit fast. Oh Rory, Rory, Rory. Now that was a poor one,” he said, as background bagpipes replaced vuvezelas as like Alliss, the hairy Holywood one approached 80 at an alarming rate.

“I think the young lad is getting a little disjointed and disinterested and discouraged,” Alliss told us, while James was making the most of the golf being off to inform us that ‘there’s a bagpiper who sometimes breaks out in Ilkley. I love the bagpipes, love ‘em, there’s nothing better.’ Methinks he protests too much.

There were horns too, play called to a halt due to the wind but still not loud enough to drown out John Daly’s trouser collection and the matching skirts of his new lady friend, who, it transpires, is the public relations manager of Hooters. But there was only one making boobs — Fuller.

His Phil Mickelson interview was painful. “So, what are you going to now, watch some golf?, he asked. A bemused Phil replied: “They’re not playing.” Foot in mouth, move on, but no he persisted. “Imagine play resumes shortly.” Phil humoured him but you knew the word Titleist wasn’t far from his lips.

There was more to come, Louis’ countryman Thomas Aiken informing us ‘his nickname is Shrek because he looks like him.’ And there’s me thinking that he hung about with a donkey and chased princesses.

Finally the misery ended for Rory, trooping off the 18th with cap in hand, prompting James to comment ‘even his hair looks tired and strained.’

There were more hair-raising antics on Day Three as Alliss mused on the designer stubble prevalent in the game and laid the blame at the feet, or chin, of Graham Gooch. Clint Eastwood was put forward as an alternative trend-setter but Alliss was feeling lucky. “His was a bit more wispy. I still blame Gooch for this one.”

The first time ‘wispy’ and Clint Eastwood have ever been used in the same sentence.

James then turned his attention to Daly (below), saying he’d ‘hit more lips that Mohammad Ali all week,’ but apart from the Wild Thing’s pants there was little else to get excited about on Saturday, but at least Paul Casey and Lee Westwood were ready to reel in the Boer on the final day.

Or rather they didn’t, with James reduced to watching five brave/stupid (delete as applicable) souls playing volleyball on the nearby beach.

“I prefer the women’s, Andrew, I don’t know about yourself.” Silence from Cotter. “I’ll take that as a yes,” as Daly’s friend got her contact book out to make the appropriate arrangements.

And so it ended, disappointingly, even the wind had been taken out of Alliss’ sails. “A surprise winner, but a champion indeed.”

Take a bow Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen, just make sure you put the vuvezelas and bagpipes on the bus.

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