Friday was her lone day at the Men’s U.S. Open. She intended to make it count and had one objective in mind.
“I have to see Adam,” she said, as if they are on a first-name basis.
The Adam my wife Wendy meant, of course, is Adam Scott. Or as she prefers to call him, Adam “Oh my gosh” Scott.
What is it about this guy that middle-aged and seemingly well-grounded women find so bloody irresistible? I mean, save for the matinee idol good looks, the easy Aussie charm and No. 1 world golf ranking, what has this guy got that turns women’s knees to jelly and makes them swoon like pre-teens at a Justin Bieber concert?
“What happened to Ian Poulter? You used to love him,” I innocently pointed out as we set off for Adam’s scheduled 1:20 p.m. tee time Thursday afternoon. Once upon a time, two Masters ago, she was mad for Ian Poulter -- or at least his magical mystery pants.
“Oh, I still love Ian. I’d kind of like to see him, too. But let’s follow Adam first.”
Poor Ian. Tossed to the back of the closet like a pair of last year’s fluorescent tangerine striped Euro-pants.
“What about Phil?” I politely injected, since we were suddenly on a first-name basis with golf stars who wouldn’t know us from Adam Scott’s house cat. “He’s shooting for a career grand slam. That’s historic.”
“Phil’s great. It would be great for him to win. If Adam doesn’t.”
As my old friend Mike Purkey, the deputy editor of Global Golf Post, likes to say, ours is the only sport where the spectators have to chase the players. With my Daily Open column for Friday safely filed -- and because I love my wife slightly more than making deadlines -- I agreed to tag along with her after Adam Scott, as I call him.
The last time I spent a full afternoon chasing a superstar golfer around a major golf tournament was, I think, Arnold Palmer’s farewell at the Masters of 2004. It was his 50th appearance. The King missed the cut but brought tears to our eyes.
Back in Arnold’s prime, long before Adam Scott was even a glimmer in his pretty mama’s eye, golf writers who hung around the press tent – as they quaintly called it in those days – missed the top story and rarely got the day’s best quote.
They were a mobile breed because tournaments, even major championships like the National Open, were relatively intimate affairs where both player and spectator could move about relatively freely, occasionally without the hindrance of ropes. Ben Hogan, for one, often refused to reply to questions from any reporter who hadn’t bothered to follow him on the golf course. Reporters and writers tended to know their subjects well enough to easily collar them before or after a round for a print-worthy comment.
But time, TV and Tiger Woods changed all of that forever. Today’s press tent is a state-of-the-art Media Center the size of a football pitch, housing 2,000 reporters, broadcasters, web gurus and even old-fashioned writers from 30 different countries. These days quotes come almost exclusively from the crowded interview room after a player’s round. The days when you could sit and chat with a contender in the locker room or even make dinner plans for a more in-depth interview more or less vanished with Sans-a-Belt pants. The leading Tour players travel with “teams” that resemble Hollywood entourages and everything they do or say must generally be approved and arranged days if not weeks in advance through their agents.
Though the intimacy of tournament golf has largely been lost, the extraordinary orchestration of modern major events like this edition of the National Open are wondrous to behold in their own right. Here at Pinehurst, which really has become the template for future Open Championships, despite the Brobdingnagian scale, everything seems to be running with Swiss-watch efficiency and no detail has been left unattended, allowing the focus to remain where it should be: on the world’s best players chasing the toughest championship trophy on earth.
Meanwhile, the fans are chasing them, which truthfully ain’t all that much fun or easy to do for an aging golf writer with a gimpy left knee and wife in love with the No. 1 player in the world.
Thursday’s paying crowd was reportedly north of 40,000, a Biblical horde on the move, kicking up dust storms and making the narrow transit lanes between holes a bit like an outtake from Grapes of Wrath. Every grandstand was jammed, almost every fairway stacked five or six-deep with fans. On the plus side, they seemed to be having the time of their lives.
As we waited in the heat and dust for spots to open up in the grandstands, or jockeyed to catch a fleeting glimpse of you-know-who passing our spots at the ropes, I’ll admit I wished I were back in the air-conditioned Media Center or my own living room scarcely a mile away from the site, watching the championship unfold with a cold one in hand.
At the end of the day, though we gave a decent chase, we really only managed two good looks at Adam Scott – both times missing putts that would have made his adoring fans even happier.
Still, my bride was wearing the glow of a Scott-ish school girl as we left the grounds late Thursday afternoon. She was convinced Adam had actually looked at her and smiled as we stood in the dusty multitudes behind the 8th green. Then again, so did nine thousand other middle-aged women around us.
“Look,” I pointed out as we headed home to catch his finish on TV, “there’s Ian Poulter. He’s at even par and wearing pants you could use to position a communication satellite.”
“Really?” she replied vaguely. “I guess I hadn’t noticed.”
New York Times bestselling author Jim Dodson is the Sunday essayist for the Pilot and editor of the monthly PineStraw, O.Henry and Salt magazines. His latest book on golf is due in stores next summer.