It has become something of an annual pilgrimage for Englishman Andrew Murray, the testing transition from radio commentator at The Open Championship to player at The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
As Phil Mickelson began to absorb his majestic final round 66 and first Claret Jug at Muirfield, Murray’s attention quickly turned from his on-course commentary duties for BBC Five Live to his own bid to qualify for a fifth Senior Open Championship.
The 220 mile journey from Gullane, on the east coast of Scotland, to Southport on England’s North West coast, is certainly not the most gruelling he has completed since commencing the yearly voyage in 2007. Four years ago, he travelled through the night to navigate the 420 or so miles from Turnberry to Sunningdale.
On both occasions, the road trip proved worthwhile, as he successfully qualified to take his place alongside some of golf’s most iconic names who he had followed the previous week at The Open.
On Monday, the 57 year old, who won the 1989 European Open on The European Tour, qualified in joint first place from Hillside, wiping away any fatigue to seal a spot in this week’s Championship at Royal Birkdale, a somewhat shorter journey from his Manchester home.
“I’ve only been exempt one year for The Senior Open, so it is something that I’m used to now,” he said. “I’m used to racing down on the Sunday night after we finish at The Open and then playing the following week in The Senior Open.
“I managed to get two sneaky practice rounds in at Hillside, where I qualified, a couple of weeks ago so that was good planning. I only live half an hour away and I got some advice from Paul Eales who is a member there and I played pretty well, just like he told me to.
“I executed according to his plan so I’m really happy to have qualified. I played really nicely.”
Of course Murray is not the only Senior Tour member with one hand on the microphone and the other on his clubs. Compatriot Mark James was also in the commentary box last week for the BBC, while Sam Torrance and Tony Johnstone regularly offer their expert opinions throughout the year.
Murray is hoping this experience can assist his challenge this week, having described The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 1998, when Mark O’Meara won, and 2008, when Padraig Harrington captured his second Claret Jug.
“Although Birkdale is only three-quarters of an hour away from where I live, I don’t play here that often,” he continued. “I used to come with my dad who knew one of the members. But that was 15 years ago. It’s changed a bit since then. However, I’ve commentated on each Open here, but I’ve probably not played here for five years or so. It’s one of my favourite courses, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Used to juggling his attention, Murray will also have one eye France, where his son Tom is playing in Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge on the European Challenge Tour.
“Tom or Matt would have been here, probably on the bag, but Matt is caddying for Tom,” he said. “They are a bit sick that they are missing their home Senior Open.”