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|| News Item: Posted 2008-07-29

A Shark Attack, A Lot of Wind and Other Notes from the U.K.
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Ireland's Paddy Harrington finishes up winning back-to-back Open Championships.
If you are ever coming over to the land of the Beatles to cover a golf event make sure you bring your rain gear and something to carry it in. You'll need it. Then you won't. Then you will. Then you won't. And so on. You can count on it to be hot, cold, windy, rainy, cloudy, and sunny. Fellow big men can get great gore THAT FITS from Cabela's or L.L. Bean. I like the PacLite or single weight Gore-Tex and wear the pants all the time on the course over shorts. They keep my legs from getting trashed by the berry bush thorns and, because they zip all the way up the sides from either direction, I can open them up if it gets too warm. The North Face has new Apex jackets that are great to wear in any condition.

If you want to assist anyone over here (or anywhere) check this list off before you hit the first tee (Please note that your employer MAY have different parameters):

• Both card bays are loaded in those Nikon D3's

• All cards are clean and formatted

• Motor drives are set to continuous

• ISO is set to what your employer needs it to be set (frequently all cameras come in from the previous eve at higher settings than what you would need in the early afternoon/morning)

• Check white balance

• Water (you won't find much if any on a British Open course)

• Camera covers and towel (hotel hand towels are perfect)

• Need an umbrella today?

• Fanny pack to store extra stuff charged batteries, card-holders and/or cards, sharpie, spare wide-angle lens, flash

• Lens elements free of water spots and dust?

• Hit the restroom before you hit the links...and if ya gotta go while you're out there just take a moment and go. Didn't you ever see "Driving Miss Daisy?"

• Know some golf terminology or at least get on the same page with your shooter... right or left. Is that from the tee or green? First cut? Rough? Fringe? Bunker? Fairway? Green? Tee? Oh, you would be surprised.

A good assistant must have ten eyes as well. I like my helper/teammate to watch where the ball goes. That helps me figure out where I'm going to go for my next shot. There is not much planning time. When I shoot I am usually sticking with the golfer in case he reacts in a photographic way (screams, throws a club or slaps his caddy). If it is hard for you, assistant/helper/teammate/relative, to keep track of a ball while in flight, there are other clues to help you find its nesting place:

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Greg Norman in trouble on Sunday at The Open.
A. Watch the marshals on the tee box with those hand signs. They will wave them straight for something on the fairway or right or left for the corresponding flight path of the ball. Sometimes they are accurate.

B. Look for scurrying marshals near the landing zone. They will mark balls for golfers that are off of the fairway.

C. Watch for the TV spotters to find a ball to measure the yardage for their talking heads.

D. If you see a horde of patrons dashing to one place...There is a ball far off the mark that we probably want a picture of.

E. IF YOU FAIL TO LOCATE A BALL... It is better to just say, "I don't know where it is." Some folks like to say, "It's way right" when they don't know where it is. Then its way left and you and your photog are now out of position. Gets kinda awkward there. Don't be afraid to ask for help. A lot of people there actually watch the golf.

I also like my guys to help watch frame counts and card counts. Sometimes when we are floating (not covering a specific group) we have to watch for any good picture. We might be walking up one fairway but see a potential image going back the other way. That's cool. Let's go get it. A good shot is a good shot. You might see something that looks interesting and suggest it to your guy (all of my images are not my own bad ideas).

There is a lot of stuff to watch out there. Too much for one person to take in by himself. Watch where other golfers are and what they are doing. It is easy to get caught up in making a picture while another golfer may be trying to line up a shot.

That being said, I spent most of the past four days chasing, for the first time, a great white shark. Right here at Royal Birkdale. No, there was no Tiger on a broken leg. There was no play-off. But there was 53-year-old Greg Norman trying to become the oldest winner of a major ever. With new bride Chris Evert, um, rooting him on, Greg led the 137th Open (they don't call it the British Open here...just THE Open) by two going into Sunday's round.

Here was a guy who doesn't play competitive golf regularly anymore (and when he does it is on the Champions Tour) kicking around golfers who were in diapers when he was blowing leads in majors in the 80s and 90s. He was a Zen Master in the winds and chill on Saturday. Drives were flawless. Putts were true. All that was missing was that cowboy hat he used to wear... And one last fade. And fade he did.

The Shark never looked comfortable on Sunday and Ireland's Paddy Harrington took home 1.5 million pounds (Is that 3 million dollars?!) and became the first European since 1906 to repeat as champion. It was survival golf in high winds on a brutal course. Norman had hung on until the back nine. He had hit into enough bunkers, crowds, gorse and rough to be 30 over but he was still in the lead at +6 (or was that 7?). The back nine split the two with Norman heading south and Paddy saved charging with birdies on 13 and 15 topped by a huge eagle on 17.

With flip-flops on I'm now off to fill my car with diesel to the tune of +100 for the tank. From there it's the Manchester United Airport and a long flight home. Just in time for the Junior Olympic Water Polo Tournament in Irvine, CA. See you there!

(Robert Beck is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated and a frequent contributor to Sports Shooter.)

Related Links:
Beck's member page

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