The sportswriters make all of Merseyside seem like it's just now recovering from the havoc wrought by German bombers and Thatcherite privatization, but it's not true. As the best golfers in the world tangle along the grass of Royal Liverpool in 100-degree heat - and guys like John Daly channel the Beatles at a rebuilt-for-tourists Cavern Club - a rare international eye is turned Liverpool's way. And the reputation that's dragged up is hardscrabble at best.
But Merseyside is, in reality, a diverse area with tough, inner-city neighborhoods only a few short miles from windswept coastal scenes of great beauty and simple farming towns. The Wirral, across the Mersey from Liverpool, is home to the bigger, urban towns of Birkenhead, Wallasey, and New Brighton. But the mallet-shaped peninsula is also bound by the Irish Sea and the Dee, a tidal estuary separating it from the hills of northern Wales. Along that coast, at the corner of the rectangle facing Wales and Ireland, is the sandy spit where Tiger, Phil, and the rest of the greats are battling in the Open Championship. Royal Liverpool stretches from Hoylake in the west to West Kirby, around the bend. Both towns are what you would call upscale, by the way - the Wirral's gold coast.
There's a winding path that runs through the dunes along the edges of the course, and to walk its several miles is to escape any notion of downtrodden northern England. At the end of the walk is the wide, wide beach at West Kirby. There a few years back, we paid 50p for Devon to ride a pony on the sand. It's one of my favorite photographs. He's bigger now. But as I caught a glimpes of Tiger struggling in a pot bunker, the wind kicking up the sand, I could see over his shoulder in the distance the wide vista along the coast. And I remembered that pony ride and a very special place.