SOUTHPORT, England--One of the guilty pleasures for Americans visiting the Open Championship is the opportunity to sample Britain's newspapers, particularly the notorious tabloids. Here's a sample of their coverage today:
The News of the World, Britain's highest circulation newspaper (almost 3.2 million copies) features a "World Exclusive" on the cover, an interview and photographs of the first man--formerly a woman--to give birth to a baby ("Man-mum's little girl"). The back-page photo shows Greg Norman waiting on the 10th tee during the third-round delay. The story starts: "Greg Norman looked down on his Open rivals and insisted: 'I'm no choker--I can win it.' " The paper, however, picks Padraig Harrington for victory--"Irish hero a good bet to grab another lovely juggly"--and includes the tale of Paul Casey's third-round brush with Prince Andrew when Casey hit his ball into deep rough on the 15th hole. "The Duke of York was there and said he'd hit his ball into roughly the same spot the other day," says Casey. "I said, 'Did you find it, Sir?' and he laughed and said 'No!' " Casey didn't find his, either.
The Mirror leads on the front page with a story about ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney Heather Mills' half-million dollar vacation in the Caribbean ( "Heather and the Loveboat"), and the back page announces the news from Birkdale with that most predictable of headlines, "Shark Attack." The Mirror redeems itself on the inside pages, however, with the best golf headline of the day: "Jurassic Shark." (Honorable mentions: "Great Grey Shark is on a title hunt," Sunday Express; "Buggies bug moaner Monty," Daily Star.) The Mirror also has a story about English hopefuls Justin Rose and Lee Westwood failing to live up to their promise, and an item about Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger living it up in the local pubs.
The Mail on Sunday, a tabloid that unconvincingly tries to dress up in respectabie clothes (page 3 headline: "John Cleese is having fling with blonde half his age"), also features Norman on the back page: "Great White Shark Scents Victory." Inside is a story ("Rule book blown away") that says because the wind was so strong, the R&A was forced to waive the rules regarding a ball moving on the green; waiving a rule is of course against the rules. There's also a good column by Sam Torrance--he says he's not surprised by Norman's position atop the leaderboard as "even now he is as fit as Tiger Woods"--and a piece on Seve Ballesteros, younger than Norman at 51 but absent from Royal Birkdale. It was here that the five-time major champion first showed what he was made of when, as an unpolished 19-year-old, he finished runner-up to Johnny Miller in the 1976 Open. But his game has long since deserted him. "I can't explain all the feelings I keep in my heart," says Seve in the story, from his home in Spain. "I wasn't tempted to come back. Everyone knows that I have retired for good. I will watch on TV and avoid yearning for the past." As will we all this Sunday.