Veteran Golf Journalist Looks Forward to Open

Spencer Robinson is managing editor of Asian Golf Monthly. Every year, the Singapore-based journalist travels to Britain to cover the British Open. Here is a Q&A with Spencer on some of his experiences at past Opens and his hopes for the future. You can read his daily reports from the 2007 Open Championship on the AGM website.

Q. What are the British Open courses you have covered?

A. In England – Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham, Royal St Georges (Sandwich) and last year Royal Hoylake. In Scotland – Carnoustie, Muirfield, St Andrews and Royal Troon.

Q. How long have you been travelling to Britain every year to cover the Open?

A. My first Open was in 1992 at Muirfield – the year Nick Faldo carded 18 pars in the final round to pip Paul Azinger at the post. I’ve only missed one since then, the 1994 championship at Turnberry, won by Nick Price.

Q. What is your most memorable experience as a journalist at the Open?

A. Every Open Championship is memorable! For drama, I guess it’s hard to beat the 1999 championship when a certain Frenchman squandered a three-shot lead at the last and then lost out in a play-off. I’d have to say, though, that I’m still waiting for my most memorable moment. That will come when an Asian player finally wins The Open. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

Q. What is your most memorable experience in terms of a golfer at the Open?

A. I’d probably have to say the farewell Open Championship appearances of Arnold Palmer (2000) and Jack Nicklaus (2005). Both were at St Andrews. On both occasions I was stood alongside the 18th fairway as they played their final hole, stopping on the famous Swilcan Bridge to take their final bow. The noise and incessant applause was deafening. The appreciation of the galleries was genuine. It sent a tingle down the spine. They were special historic moments.

Q. What is a journalist’s relationship with a player at such events? Does the nature of the job mean that it is always professional and never social?

A. With the “big boys” it’s very difficult to get close to them. They’re pretty much cosseted by their respective management companies all week. Often they hire houses for the duration of their stay that are close to the course and even bring their own cooks and nannies! Some players, though, do get out to attend parties at the houses that are rented by their sponsors. Last year, for example, Stewart Cink and Stephen Ames were among those who were at barbecues put on by Nike Golf. The Asian players do get out more. I remember going out to a Thai restaurant with Thongchai Jaidee dinner the year he played.

Q. What kind of interaction have you had with Tiger Woods at the Open?

A. Like all the journalists there, the only interaction with Tiger is at the official press conference. When he’s playing well and in contention he’ll “be requested” to visit the Media Centre most days. If things haven’t gone so well then all we have to feed on are a couple of “quick quotes” picked up when he comes out of the scorer’s hut.

Q. What are Asian players’ hopes this year, and in the future?

A. On paper, you’d have to say not great. But then you never know in golf, particularly links golf. Nobody predicted that Paul Lawrie would win in 1999. And do you know anyone who backed Ben Curtis or Todd Hamilton the years they won? Clearly the best prospects for Asia are Korean Choi Kyung-ju and Indian Jeev Milkha Singh. Choi has already won in the US this year and has played in at least half-a-dozen Open Championships, so he knows what is required. And by winning last year’s Volvo Masters, Jeev showed that he can mix it with the best, especially on tough courses. And it doesn’t get much tougher than Carnoustie. I expect both of them to have a good week. It’s about time, too, that Shingo Katayama made his mark at the Majors. He’s been in great form in Japan recently and needs to translate that to the big stage.

Q. How does the Open fit in with AGM’s editorial content?

A. The Major championships in general and The Open Championship in particular play an important part in our editorial schedule. It’s been more so in recent years since the R&A launched the International Final Qualifying events in Asia, which has meant more Asians and more members of the Asian Tour have earned playing privileges. This year, for example, we had a 10-page preview which included an exclusive interview with Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing as well as a feature on Phil Mickelson and a Q&A with Ernie Els.

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