Almost 40 players missed out on a day of practice at the Women's British Open after a passport mix-up involving Lexi Thompson. Joe Hughes has the details
The opening day of Women’s British Open week was tranquil. There was very little sense that a huge occasion is on the horizon, yet we know there is.
Greenkeepers and event staff were everywhere, paying particular care to every detail to ensure this year’s host venue, the Marquess course at Woburn, is befitting of such a prestigious competition. The course is neat with smooth, undulating fairways and rough that’s tough but fair. The greens are undoubtedly the slickest they have been since the last time they were here.
But there were very few players.
The strange scheduling of back-to-back majors has been partly responsible for a subdued day of practice, but now we know the biggest reason for the absence of many of the world’s best being absent on Monday.
And it was revealed on Monday just why.
Many of those who were still at Evian on Sunday, where Jin Young Ko was collecting her second major of the season, did not see their clubs arrive at Woburn until late Monday afternoon due to a mix-up involving Lexi Thompson.
A van which was transporting almost 40 sets of golf clubs from Evian Resort to Woburn, including those belonging to Ariya Jutanugarn and Nelly Korda as well as Thompson, was held up when the 24-year-old discovered she had left her passport in her bag.
The driver of the rented van was asked to pull over and wait for Thompson’s caddie, Benji, who had been sent to retrieve the passport.
Speaking to Golf Channel, the driver explained that he had to unload the entire van before reloading once the passport was found. This led to him missing the ferry on which he was booked. “I had to drive through the night,” he said. After that, he spent most of Monday sat in rush-hour traffic jams as he tried to get to Woburn.
“I could have screamed,” he added.
By the time the clubs had arrived safely there was no time left for a practise round as the course was closed for the greenkeepers to get to work.
Lexi spoke to the press on Wednesday morning and was wholly apologetic for the unfortunate situation saying: “I didn’t know that was going to happen. I didn’t mean anything by it. But it happened, and i’m very sorry.”
There didn’t seem to be much talk between players regarding the delay and Lexi confirmed this.
“I haven’t talked to many players about it… They haven’t come up to me. I can kind of feel it.”
Throughout her press conference it was clear that the American was genuinely sorry about what had happened but believes that in that moment, with that particular set of circumstances any player would have done the same.
By Tuesday morning, the range was packed and the fairways populated by those who battled at Evian finally grabbing a chance to get out onto the course.
While this was a major inconvenience to many, upsetting their preparation, we must not forget that there were plenty of players who weren’t engaged in such strenuous activities as the final round of the Evian and the Women’s British Open is all that is on their mind.
For the early arrivals, the sparsely populated facilities were at their disposal and their decision to get to work now seems astute having seen the range bays fill up and the course become more crowded.
Among those getting a head start was Europe’s Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew who knows exactly how to win a British Open, so who’s going to argue with her routine?
But even more notably we got an early sighting of our defending champion, Georgia Hall.
— Lady Golfer (@LadyGolfer_com) July 29, 2019
The Englishwoman was whisked from the clubhouse to the practice area mid-morning and headed to the first tee shortly after, joined by two brilliant champions in their own right.
Alice Hewson who earned her spot in the field thanks to a win a the European Ladies Amateur, got to tee it up alongside Hall as they used to do for England in years gone by, and British Ladies Amateur champion Emily Toy completed the English three-ball.
There is much to be learned from watching a tour pro practise and by really observing their preparation, as I did with Hall on Monday, and when better to get up close and personal than a quiet day in tournament week?
The constant caddie chat, annotation of the yardage and green books, and the playing to a range of different pin placements from all around the green emphasises the work ethic and drive for perfection that the world’s best possess. It’s fascinating to watch.
While all this was very impressive, the demeanour of the reigning champion and her willingness to chat with her partners and offer advice where appropriate showed to a golfer a side that we all love to see.
She is a role model to so many individuals, undoubtedly to the two alongside her on Monday, and by acting in such a way, positivity spreads and this is what golf’s image should be all about.
While Hall is focused on the task at hand this week, armed with a game that looked sharp around the Marquess course, the sociable personality and beaming smile remains.
It will have been made easier by her bag arriving on time…