Northern Ireland

The Open 2019 diary: Phil Mickelson and a prosthetic leg

Fans look on as Phil Mickelson signs a prostehtic leg at Royal Portrush Image copyright AFP
Image caption Phil Mickelson was taken aback by an unusual autograph request

As Open fever consumes Northern Ireland, BBC News NI brings you all the latest news and views from Royal Portrush.

Putting pen to prosthetic

Phil Mickelson is known almost as much for the time he spends signing autographs for fans as for his five major wins.

But even the man known as Lefty was taken aback by what was proffered in his direction when he had his pen in hand at the final hole on Tuesday.

Confronted with a false leg, complete with golf shoe, he asked its owner if he'd been in the military.

After clarifying that this unusual collectable was not in fact going to be worn by an injured serviceman, the big Californian put pen to prosthetic, much to the owner's delight.

"That's the first time I've ever signed a false leg," said Mickelson, a man who regularly spends hours writing autographs for fans post-round.

A Ricky situation for Koepka

There are not many four-time major champions playing here this week who are being overshadowed by their caddies when it comes to shouts of encouragement.

Image copyright Allsport
Image caption Ricky Elliott (right) is proving more popular at Royal Portrush than his employer Brooks Koepka

But that just might be the case for world number one Brooks Koepka.

Asked how his practice round with Portrush man Ricky Elliot on the bag went, the USPGA champion said: "I probably hear more 'Ricky, hey Ricky, what's going on?' than anything else."

Had fate taken a different turn, it could have been Elliot himself playing this week rather than trying to plot a path to glory as a bagman.

As a top youth player at Royal Portrush, he won the Ulster Boys' Championship and Ulster Youth Championship.

But after a golfing scholarship in Ohio and a couple of seasons on the mini tours, the 41-year-old, who grew up playing with Graeme McDowell, knew he didn't quite have what it took, even if his own assessment is a little more harsh.

"I sucked as a pro and it was the next best thing to go caddying - these guys are so good, I am glad I gave it up."

Ricky's parents Pat and Martha still live in Portrush, while brother Peter owns a golf shop in nearby Coleraine.

And it looks like Brooks is becoming part of the family, at least for this week.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Ricky Elliott's expert knowledge of his local course could come in handy for Brooks Koepka

The 28-year-old star revealed: "We went and visited his parents, saw where he grew up.

"We went to the Harbour Bar. It was nice to kind of see everything he's talked about for so long."

In the absence of an Irishman lifting the Claret Jug come Sunday, having Ricky steer the winner home might be as good as it gets.

As he says: "I love the competition of the golf and if you can't do it yourself this is the next best thing."

Let's talk about text

Ricky Elliot may be giving his man a few home secrets this week but it looks like his boss doesn't want him to share the mysteries of Royal Portrush's Dunluce links.

None other than Tiger Woods got in touch to congratulate his countryman Koepka on his stellar showing at this year's majors and was greeted with radio silence.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Was Tiger Woods ghosted by his countryman Brooks Koepka?

"I texted Brooksie congratulations on another great finish and I said: 'Hey dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?

"I've heard nothing."

Ghosting Tiger Woods… now that's a bold move.

Crash course in hospitality

Coming halfway around the world to volunteer at the Open and ending up crashing a brand new motor en route to the course is the stuff of nightmares.

But for two American golf fans, the experience only served to confirm what they'd already discovered about Northern Ireland this week.

Image caption While the Northern Ireland roads have not been kind to David and Jim, the people have been

David Belping from Columbia, South Carolina, and Jim Dupree from Atlanta, Georgia, picked up a shiny hybrid car when they landed at Dublin Airport but they'll not be returning it in the same pristine condition.

A wrong turn on the way from Coleraine to Portrush ended in an argument with a gate their Toyota was never going to win.

Badly shaken, the pair knocked on doors seeking help and were lucky enough to find IT worker John Nesbitt behind one of them.

After checking that the US visitors weren't injured, he drove them both back to their hotel to sort out all the headache of a written-off car.

As the men themselves said: "The Irish people have been exceptional but what happened today will live with us forever."

Related Topics

More on this story