TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND — That annual chartered airplane from the John Deere Classic to the British Open carried quite the motley assortment from Illinois to the west coast of Scotland on Sunday night.
It carried one 29-year-old with zero links experience and a passport he hadn't even brought to Illinois, and it carried a 49-year-old who finds experience "way overrated" and salved his screaming back unapologetically with beers.
Heck, in those two alone, it somehow carried two of the three golfers around the summit of the leaderboard.
"Well, I've played four links rounds -- two practice rounds and then the first two rounds, ever, yeah, pretty much," said Steve Marino, who didn't even figure he'd make the 156-man field until he vaulted up the alternates' list through withdrawals and sent his father flying from Virginia to Florida to corral and overnight the passport.
Yet as he joined the throngs under par with 67 on the placid Thursday, then had only 22 putts in a 68 on a turbulent Friday, his unfamiliar name spent almost the whole day atop the board until Tom Watson tied him with a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 18. That can happen when somebody holes out for birdies from a bunker and holes out from 116 yards.
"Well," Watson said, "I never played links golf before I played Carnoustie in 1975, and it turned out pretty good for me there," becoming the first of his five Open titles.
And then, somewhere else on that jet sat Mark Calcavecchia, 49, perfectly willing to describe the series of beers he drank to chase pain until suddenly, he said, "The next thing you know we were landing."
Yet the 1989 Open champion has gone 67-69 for four under par, one behind the leaders, with his wife, Brenda, as caddie and the experience level not particularly mattering.
"I would never think I'm the type of guy anybody could learn anything from, to tell you the truth," he said. "And I think experience is way overrated. All that means is I've hit more bad shots than all the guys that are 20 years old, and they're lingering in my brain."
The Daly report
In his by-now-familiar European Tour clothing that pretty much surpasses loud to reach the level of blaring, John Daly has hung in so far this British Open, shooting 68-72 to sit on the edge of contention at even par.
"It was brutal out there today," the 43-year-old Daly said of the wind, but he stuck with it and, as Calcavecchia said, "J.D. has really kind of recommitted himself. I think it's that more than anything."
And then there's the (very) pregnant situation involving England's Ross Fisher, at 28 years old and No. 21 in the world.
With two excellent rounds -- 69-68 -- Fisher lurked in a five-way tie for fourth place at three under, even while knowing that at any minute his wife, Jo, could go into labor with their first child.
"I'd love to be here for all four days, but obviously my wife comes first," Fisher said. "If she were to go into labor later on this evening or tomorrow, I've got no choice. I want to be there. It's going to be a great experience and one that I don't want to miss."
Young and old
Imagine you're 16 and you've become the youngest winner in 124 British Amateurs and you're playing alongside 59-year-old Tom Watson and you're wildly talented and you make the cut at one over par and you clinch low amateur for the British Open and then, on the No. 18 fairway just before a rousing ovation, Watson says to you, "Don't change anything, just keep enjoying the game and you'll get there."
Said the Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero, "The crowd was unbelievable," and, "I'll remember this day for a long time."