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Travelling PGA Tour stars become ultimate golf tourists on the DP World Tour

Travelling PGA Tour stars become ultimate golf tourists on the DP World Tour

For Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, playing iconic venues ahead of events on the DP World Tour and The Open has organically developed into something of a unplanned tradition. This week has been no different.

On Tuesday evening in North Berwick – a few days after teeing up at Sunningdale with Rickie Fowler - a gaggle of locals slowly began to stretch into a small crowd as Spieth and Thomas were joined by Thomas’ dad, Mike, Spieth’s coach Cameron McCormick and McCormick’s son Callan on the West Links course.

There were no ropes, no grandstands, and no caddies. Jordan Spieth had a push trolley, and Justin Thomas spent a few minutes cuddling an eight-week old puppy that a spectator had brought with them. With a few holes to go, Smylie Kaufman joined them purely for the walk in the evening sunshine. At the back of the 16th green, they had a putting contest over the undulations.

This is starkly different to the preparations they would usually have during a tournament week, but the opportunity to play courses they normally would never get the chance to has proved too enticing to pass up on several occasions.

For Spieth and Thomas, playing extra holes was simply a case of taking advantage of the Genesis Scottish Open week to play golf for fun. For the local crowds, the luck of a happenstance to watch two Major champions play at their local course.

As Spieth revealed on Wednesday, it was far from planned or typical for him to do.

"I've never played 27 holes on a Tuesday of a tournament week, but I knew this morning would be nine holes in the morning and plenty of time to rest," he said.

He had walked the course ten years ago ahead of his Open Championship debut at Muirfield in 2013, but that time hadn't played. This week, he thought he would take just a few clubs. Instead, he took a full bag and enjoyed the first few holes so much he played the entire 18.

"Ten years ago, I walked it when the Open was at Muirfield, my brother and dad and friends were playing, Michael, he's my friend, too, they were all playing one of the evenings and I didn't want to during an Open week.

"I didn't want to go out and play another round and I walked the last four holes and thought they were just stunning, really impressive holes. I know the history of North Berwick and I didn't play it last year and so this year, when Cameron and my coach and his son were going to go out and play, I thought I would just go out there maybe with a few clubs and chip-and-putt and walk with them. I ended up taking my bag and played all 18 holes. Played the first few and was like, I can't really quit on nine after links like you can in the States and I know that the last five, six holes are just incredible. I went out there and we were with Justin and his dad as well. It was just a fun evening to play golf. We don't really get a lot of fun, random rounds on the road, and that was one to take advantage of."

Thomas arguably started the tradition in 2019, travelling the short distance from The Renaissance Club to North Berwick West Links to play with his dad and Kevin Kisner. That time, they arrived a day early.

He reiterated then that playing at a different course wasn't something he would normally do ahead of a tournament.

“You don't often, basically never, would we be going to a golf tournament in the States and get in a day early and want to go play golf somewhere," he said.

"My dad and Kevin Kisner, we went out to North Berwick and played and that was really fun. But, being over here, having the opportunity to play a course that obviously none of us would play unless we were here; and we needed to stay awake, it was our first day, so we knew if we laid down on the couch, we were toast.

“We took some trolleys and went out and played 18 holes and went in the pub and had a couple pints after and really enjoyed the whole experience.”

Since then however, when he comes over to play on the DP World Tour, that's exactly what Thomas does. After that first trip to North Berwick, he – often with Spieth - has become the ultimate golf tourist everywhere he goes.

Last year Thomas, Spieth and Fowler took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the local experience ahead of the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland. The crowds walking behind them on the fairways included a goat at Lahinch, while the boys were welcomed with pints of Guinness on the tee at Tralee.

Ahead of this week's Genesis Scottish Open, they arrived even earlier. On Saturday, the same trio decided to head to former Open venue Sunningdale Old Course in Surrey, before fitting in a non-golf outing to Wimbledon's centre court on Sunday.

Both were a case of taking advantage of being somewhere different.

"I think just the last two years, coming over sooner, the JP McManus Pro-Am last year, I thought playing Irish links would be more fun than practice rounds since we would playa Adare twice and he set that up to make that happen.

"We were just planning this trip to London and thought it would be a good idea to mix one day of golf and not take five days off right before you play two weeks. That's also unusual to take more than one day off before a couple-week stretch.

"We were fortunate that we were able to get hosted out at Sunningdale and that was just a treat. The only parkland course I've played in the UK was Gleneagles before Sunningdale, and it was just an unbelievable golf course. I would love to see the other one, as well. We played the Old Course. It's as good as advertised."

And while it was just Thomas and Spieth at North Berwick on Tuesday, it wasn't because Fowler didn't want to join. Knowing he couldn't make it work with practice times and commitments on Tuesday, Fowler played his own round at North Berwick on Monday.

"We played Sunningdale on Saturday, went to Wimbledon on Sunday then I played North Berwick yesterday – nice little stretch!” said Fowler.

They are aren't the only players to do it either, and North Berwick is slowly gaining status among the traveling PGA Tour stars as something of a rite of passage when they come over here.

Last year, Max Homa made the very short trip from The Renaissance Club, inspired to play after watching a video of the course on YouTube. He had told the PGA Tour it “looked like the coolest course in the world”, and it didn't disappoint.

“It became my favourite course I had never played,” Homa said.

“I knew I was going to be beat but it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things and I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t play.”

Each year, the buzz around playing the local venues continues to grow, among regular DP World Tour players too. On Sunday, Dan Bradbury arrived a day early to play North Berwick.

Others have multiple Open Championship venue Muirfield on their radar.

And for Thomas, Spieth and Fowler, the only question is - where next?

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