With Ian Woosnam, starts are everything. The wee Welshman began his Sunday round at Royal Lytham by stiffing a six-iron to within a pint glass of the hole. Take that, you damn par-3 1st. He kicked in his birdie putt and stood at seven under par. No score was lower. David Duval was standing on Royal Lytham's secluded 1st tee, cooling his heels, fixing his shades, trailing by one.
Woosie, 43, had won a major, the Masters, a decade ago. He had made his millions. The only really important thing left for him to do in golf was win his national championship. That, and play one more Ryder Cup at home. Then he could just about retire.
The hour before his tee time was frenzied. On the practice tee he was still experimenting with drivers, undecided about which one to use. The reps were fussing over him. Finally, he settled on a club, went to the practice green, removed the headcover from his 42-inch putter and stroked putts. Peter Coleman, Bernhard Langer's caddie, was standing beside him.
"What time are you?" Coleman asked Woosnam.
"Two twenty-five," Woosnam replied.
"No you're not," Coleman said. "We're off at 2:25." Langer and Duval were the last twosome. Woosnam was playing with Germany's Alex Cejka in the penultimate pairing.
Woosnam looked at his caddie of the last 10 weeks, Myles Byrne, and asked, "What time are we?"
There are certain caddie essentials. Knowing a player's tee time is an essential. So is counting your player's clubs on the 1st tee. A caddie must be able to count to 14. It's a job requirement.
Woosnam made it to the 1st tee with three minutes to spare. Byrne, 25, got around to counting the clubs on the 2nd. "You're going to go ballistic," Byrne said to Woosnam as he prepared to tee off on number 2. "We have two drivers in the bag." Fifteen clubs, one over the limit.
That birdie on the 1st? It was now a bogey, with the automatic two-shot penalty. Niclas Fasth had birdied the 7th, so Woosnam now trailed by two. In Oswestry, Wales, Harold Woosnam, Ian's father, watching on television, suddenly felt ill. At the Woodbrook Golf Club, on the south side of Dublin, where Byrne and his two older brothers, both European tour caddies, got their training, the head pro, Billy Kinsella, felt ill. All over the world, people felt ill. "I felt like I had been kicked in the teeth," Woosnam said. "I felt like picking it up and walking in."