Apparently they weren’t mandatory, but it seemed like everyone at The Renaissance had one anyway.
No, no face masks – and you only had to wear these if you were in one of the covered areas of the course. No, I mean another key point in the return of golf fans to the fairways at the abrdn Scottish Open.
Rab and Rhona Backpack were back and it was just great to see them. In fact, Milletts and Blacks must have been stripped of all backpack products in the past week. You wouldn’t see that many if you stayed in Glencoe for a full month.
Back behind the bright blue ropes
Spectators follow the action on the first day at The Renaissance.
Around 4,000 fans were allowed to watch behind the light blue ropes at The Renaissance – almost forgetting how exciting it was to get tangled up in it – but it seemed a lot more.
When someone encountered one near a flag, there was a sound explosion. It wasn’t real, but it just felt that way. We have been used to the only slow gossip from a deeply unimpressed journalist in the 21 months since the last spectated golf tournament in Scotland, Dunhill Links 2019.
32,000 visitors will be attending the Open at Sandwich next week. We have to bring earplugs.
The players totally loved it for a man. Most have been playing in a vacuum for almost two years and it has been daunting. They rediscovered how cheered they are by the cumulative reaction of the crowd.
“You go into the countryside with your head held high”
Justin Thomas gets audience on the first day at The Renaissance.
“They really want you to puncture everything,” said Robert MacIntyre, who really takes a lot to show off his natural exuberance. “You go to the green with your chin raised”.
The weather was exceptional for a major Scottish golf event. It was lovely and sunny, and there were sunglasses and hats, and all the rucksacks full of cleverly packed rain gear were left unopened.
There were lots of excited children – one little boy nearly passed out when Henrik Stenson gave him a golf ball.
There were pizza picnics – the wood-burning pop-up pizzeria was a welcome lockdown addition – and, of course, ice cream. A few awkward falls over the slopes? This is what happens when you are a slave to fashion and wear Converse instead of golf shoes.
Distancing? Well, it wasn’t slavishly obeyed, to be honest. It was quite difficult when the banner groups of MacIntyre-Lee Westwood-Collin Morikawa and the all-world afternoon group of McIlroy-Rahm-Justin Thomas were being chased.
But the best golf fans in the world (trademark) clapped at the right time, as always. The disappointments when a MacIntyre putt was held up were, as always, real.
“It felt” normal “again”
Jon Rahm smashes you out of the rough.
It doesn’t take much to get optimistic about Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, and he’s been thrilled all day.
“I drove in today and saw the setup and it was easy to smile when I felt the word ‘normal’ again,” he said.
“I think this is the first time in almost 18 months at one of our tournaments that I have been to the village. We didn’t have any villages because we didn’t have fans.
“To see the people in the stands is just great. If you talk to the players and talked to quite a few of them today, they said it changed the whole atmosphere.
“We are incredibly excited about a possible return to some kind of normalcy and this is a good first step.”
“We have shown that we can create a safe environment”
The first announcements to be announced are @ JonRahmpga… # abrdnScottishOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/kLUN0usGgX
– The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 8, 2021
Pelley said the Scottish government’s help has been “spectacular”.
“We have shown that we can create a safe environment. We’re still playing in a constrained bubble, of course, but even then we’ve made a few changes.
“For example, one allowed spouses to come back this week. That gave the players a big boost. Just a little hope that the fans will come back and grow makes people feel good. “
Englishman Jack Senior was the surprising leader, one shot ahead of Lee Westwood and Justin Thomas. Jon Rahm, the new world number one and US Open champion, started with a 66 and was only two behind the lead.
But it almost didn’t matter. At last you could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, glittering with thousands of backpack tags. We’re back guys.