The Scottish golf writers went in two by two? Well, we tried to do it in a dignified, orderly fashion but getting ourselves all on board the Cairnryan to Belfast ferry for this week’s Open Championship at Portrush was a nautical nonsense that had more bellows, howls, oinks and hoots than old Noah’s shipload of biblical beasts.

The Ark, to be fair, probably had a more pleasant aroma by the end of the embarking process.

Given that some of our more cherished and venerable colleagues have not been on a ship since they held a pre-sailing press conference with Nelson on the poop deck of HMS Victory, the confusion generated by the suggestion that ‘we’ll meet for a coffee on the starboard side’ forced the captain into hastily arranging an elaborate maritime flag semaphore to get us all assembled in one place.

Personally, this scribe blames the Scottish Open for our bleary-eyed footerings and plooterings. Not getting away from The Renaissance until 10pm the previous night didn’t help our general state of mind, after all.

But, then, that’s what a lucrative television deal with a US broadcaster does for you. A leading group teeing off at nearly 4pm on the final day of a championship tends to go down like a sack of spanners with the increasingly irritable golf scribblers, particularly when the turnaround between leaving the Scottish Open and getting to Open is so quick you barely have time to birl a clean semmit through the hand cranked mangle.


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Not that the organisers, the promoters, the tourist board or the sponsors would care about that, of course.

Live pictures being beamed across the Atlantic of a glorious sun-soaked scene in East Lothian, with bridges over the shimmering Forth here, distant glimpses of Auld Reekie’s splendour there and various shots of flora and fauna everywhere had those involved with the domestic showpiece cooing like turtle doves at a candlelit dinner.

Would our viewing friends across the big pond have been enthralled by a play-off between Bernd Wiesberger and Benjamin Hebert? Who knows, but there was a sizeable stream of foot soldiers on the actual site departing early. And who could blame them?

Faffing around until yon time on a Sunday night, particularly on a day when there was a considerable amount of other sporting events on the box, is, in some ways, the reserve of the absolute diehards. Oh, and the fact one of the later trains from North Berwick back to Edinburgh was inconveniently cancelled may have had a few folk saying ‘sod this’.

Golf fans are a fairly stoic and devoted bunch who have a big role to play in showcasing these events but you often feel that the loyalty of the rank-and-file is taken for granted.

Let’s face it, TV rules the roost and those running tournaments want to jump into the nest with the golden goose.

If that means a 4pm tee-off time on the last day then poor old Norman and Janice from Prestonpans, with their rucksacks and flasks, are just going to have to grin and bear it.

A couple of years ago after the Scottish Open, Martin Gilbert, the then head of the event’s sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management and now the chairman of the merged Aberdeen Standard Investments which still backs the domestic showpiece, made this telling statement.

“For us it is all about TV,” said Gilbert, whose company, it has to be said, has been a terrific backer of the Scottish game at all levels down the years. “For the European Tour it is all about how many tickets they sell.

“I don’t care how many tickets they sell. We want the top players and TV for our name to be out there in the US.”

By that measure, you could play the Scottish Open in front of one man and his dug then? A few more 4pm tee-times and they might be.


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I’m being annoyingly flippant there, of course. But one year at Castle Stuart, during the third round which was equally as late and played out in awful weather, there was hardly anybody waiting to greet the leading group in a grim spectacle that looked as upbeat as a mortuary. Visit Scotland? Blimey.

But let’s be a bit more jolly. A total of 66,864 punters came through the fancy automatic gates at The Renaissance last week, the highest attendance since the days when the Scottish Open was regularly held at Loch Lomond. It hasn’t been on those bonnie banks since 2010.

Despite the heavy showers which drenched the course but not necessarily the spirits, the fairly decent weather helped this year, too. The 17,000 or so who turned up on Saturday was, again, the best since the Loch Lomond days.

The fact Rory McIlroy was there no doubt helped put a few more on the attendance. Will he be back next year when, as is expected, The Renaissance will stage the championship again? You can’t guarantee anything in this game.

McIlroy, like a few other high-profile names, wanted a tougher links examination prior to the Open.

The soft conditions and the lack of wind put paid to that, but then any links course will be rendered as defenceless as a new-born calf when the elements are consistently benign.

The quiet mutterings about this, that and the other concerning the links test was a recurring theme.

But then professional golfers have always enjoyed moaning and will complain if the test is too severe prior to an Open, like they did at Royal Aberdeen a few years ago.

Just like us crotchety golf writers grumbling about late tee-times, you’ll never please everybody.