The train to Troon, like the Firth of Forth, is more fun to say than to see. But that's a principal attraction of Scotland: With its firths and Forths and heaths and Perths, it makes everyone sound like Daffy Duck. Indeed, even before he hits the Glenlivet, the average American golf tourist finds himself fuzzy-tongued, boasting in some pub to Keith from Leith, "I'm thtarting to thwing like Tham Thnead."
Thtill—still—Scotland is more than the sum of its twin inventions: golf and Scotch. You just wouldn't know it while spending a week at the British Open at Royal Troon, where a couple was discovered late Friday afternoon in flagrante delicto in the fescue. To the golf-and-Scotch-addled witness, the scene demonstrated once again the enormous difficulty of getting up-and-down in the rough at Troon—and, at the same time, called to mind one of David Letterman's Top 10 Punch Lines to Scottish Dirty Jokes ("Number 1: She's in the distillery, making Johnnie Walker red").
But the rest of the week was less T&A than R&A. Which isn't to say that everything comes back to golf and Scotch at the Open. It is, just as often, about golf and beer. The on-course tented pub at Troon was called, brilliantly, the Open Arms. And all week long at the Open Arms there flowed a constant tide of lager—a firth of froth. So, after firing a 68 on Friday, Briton Barry Lane came off the course with a new fan club. "A couple of guys had had a few beers and were singing ' Barry Lane' on the way 'round," recalled Lane, his ears still ringing with the refrain: Barry Lane is in my ears and in my eyes/There, beneath the blue suburban skies....
Except that the skies were anything but blue that day. "It was raining sideways," noted Phil Mickelson, and when a BBC radio reporter boasted that his own socks were "weather-repellent," the phrase served, when repunctuated, as an eternal forecast for the Open: "Weather: repellent."
And it isn't just the weather that's uniquely British. Some Troon members coughed out their dental plates at the sight of Ian Poulter in Union Jack slacks and claimed that a man so brazenly attired would never be admitted to the grounds on any other week of the year. To which Poulter replied, plaintively, "How can you fault a man for his pair of trousers?" He was pleading, in other words, for fashion tolerance. He sounded like Mahatma de la Renta.
Then again, the Scots are not exactly in the fashion avant-garde. Glasgow's official tourism slogan, posted on placards at Troon, is GLASGOW: SCOTLAND WITH STYLE, which, if you think about it, says more about Scotland than it does about Glasgow.
And yet on Sunday, by way of penance, Poulter was fartin' through tartan, relieved to have shot a 72 in his Scotch-plaid plus-fours. "The last thing you wanna do," he said, "is post an 80 wearin' tartan troozahs."
Yanks and Brits are, as George Bernard Shaw observed, divided by a common language. It's not true that all visitors to Scotland inevitably sound like Daffy Duck. In fact, while watching Bob Tway, near the River Tay, in the land of tweed, you sometimes speak like Tweety Bird. This makes it a challenge to say "the train at Troon," which famously screams past the 11th tee box, while 747s take off from adjacent Prestwick International Airport, while the surf from the Firth of Clyde relentlessly pounds the beach that borders the course. In the middle of this cacophony, a lone ranger holds a stick that futilely whispers QUIET PLEASE. Inexpressibly poignant in his optimism, the ranger evokes that student standing before the tank at Tiananmen Square.
All of which makes the Open more fun than a barrel of Montys. Troon member Colin Montgomerie, as gray and brooding as the Scottish sky, was asked if playing in the British Open is as much fun as it looks.
"No," he replied. "Not at all. And anyone who says this is fun is joking.... This is a job. And a horrible one." As ever with Monty, you got the impression that he was partly putting you on—like that tent in the food court at Royal Troon that identified its fare as THE BEST OF BRITISH FOOD.