As the sporting world focuses on Muirfield for the 142nd Open Championship, a time-honoured tradition will, for the first time, be given some 21st-century assistance.
A loaded leaderboard is all part of the drama of the last day of the Open and, in a sport where the real action unfolds over an acreage the size of a small dairy farm, nothing beats a leaderboard the size of a Las Vegas hoarding. But where Gigantic Jumbotrons and Hawkeyes have infiltrated many global sporting events, golf has stuck to the tried-and-tested method of sliding names and scores into place by hand. Until now. Because for 2013, “the oldest verifiable organised golf club in the world” has succumbed to progress.
Aiding and abetting the famous old manual scoreboard, towering atop the temporary stands beside Muirfield’s 18th hole, will be digital versions, situated at several locations around the windswept links.
They are updated at the touch of a computer button rather than by a small team of sweaty men –and it can only be men, as the board is manned by members of this defiantly men-only golf club – with names and numbers and hooks.
Now, before we go any further, I realise that lamenting modernisation at a club that still doesn’t allow female members is somewhat bizarre, but this is about scoreboards, not sexism.
Gone are the days when crammed football terraces used to crane their ears at half-time to hear the latest scores delivered over a tinny tannoy in alphabetical order. Now, it’s the latest app, video screens, Twitter and “in-play” betting.
I’m an old romantic, you see. To make my heart swoon, I only have to look to Fenway Park in Boston, home to the Red Sox. Their big Green Monster was erected in 1934 and still, to this day, a man scurries in the “rat run” behind it to update not only the latest score in the game, but others from around Major League Baseball.
In cricket, Lord’s may have abandoned the manual scoreboard, but Down Under, the likes of Adelaide and Perth are sticking with wood over circuit board, and those who attend matches are as interested in having their picture taken in front of the old beauties as they are in souvenir shots taken with the players.
So I shall be keeping my eyes on the hand-cranked board at Muirfield. But what about the golfers?
“Players don’t look at scoreboards nearly as often as spectators. You don’t look at it until a few holes to go. If you did you’d be a nervous wreck,” former Ryder Cup captain and 5 Live pundit Bernard Gallagher tells RT.
“You know yourself how well you’re doing by how well you’re playing. Most players won’t look at a leaderboard until the last few holes, unless they think they’re going to miss the cut. “But you should try to resist looking for as long as you can because it puts more pressure on you. You can’t look at a leaderboard and suddenly turn on a birdie.” Because players, like the best scoreboard operators, are only human – it takes more than a flick of a switch.
Bernard Gallagher’s tips
Ian Poulter: I’ve a funny feeling that, inspired by the British and Irish Lions and Andy Murray, we’ll get a home winner. Ian Poulter can feed off the home support.
Tiger Woods: He’s starting to feel the pressure he brought on himself by settling out to beat Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors – he’s still four short of equalling him.
Justin Rose: The first Englishman to win the US open since 1970 has what it takes.