Troon 'Frat House' an outlet for stress at The Open
Spieth, Fowler, Thomas, Johnson, Dufner, Walker sharing living quarters this week at Royal Troon
July 14, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are just two of the players staying together at The Open this week. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
TROON, Scotland – Less than 24 hours before the start of this week’s Open Championship, a game of catch broke out in the backyard of the “little frat house” about a mile down the road from Royal Troon. Rickie Fowler had brought a baseball and a couple of gloves to Scotland, so he and Jimmy Walker decided to have a casual toss.
Soon, the other housemates -- Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner and defending Open champ Zach Johnson – joined in the quintessential American activity near the shore of the Firth of Clyde. Eventually, they found other equipment, including tennis balls and a makeshift bat, and started taking a few swings.
Spieth said he “hit a couple of dingers” but the hottest bat belonged to Dufner.
“Duf was on fire,” Spieth noted. Added Fowler: “Duf’s probably got the best swing of us all. He’s a sneaky athlete.”
The session lasted two, maybe three hours, said Thomas. For the guys in the house, it was a chance to step away from the looming business at hand.
“It was great,” said Thomas, who at age 23 is the second-youngest person in the house behind the 22-year-old Spieth. “We were like little kids again. Well, not for me and Jordan, I guess. But them. It was fun.”
Thomas certainly had plenty of fun on Thursday, shooting a 4-under 67 in his first appearance in the Open that puts him near the top of the leaderboard after the first round. Fowler felt good about his 69, Spieth not as much about his even-par 71 in which he struck the ball beautifully but could not convert his birdie opportunities. Walker shot a 72 after suffering a triple-bogey on the back nine.
The four had morning tee times, so after finishing their rounds, they headed back to the house to watch Johnson and Dufner in the afternoon television coverage. “We’ll keep an eye on them,” Fowler said. “Probably heckle them through the TV.”
Sharing a house during tournament week is nothing new for most of the guys, and certainly nothing new for Spieth, Fowler and Thomas, who – along with Smylie Kaufman – went on a “spring break” trip together after the Masters in April.
“We do quite a few houses during the year,” Fowler said, “so it’s nice to have a sense of normalcy in a way. We wake up, have food, not stuck in a hotel. … It’s nice to have stuff to do when you get off the golf course.”
For obvious reasons, Fowler wouldn’t reveal the exact location of the house, but he did say there was no pecking order on how the rooms were divided. “I don’t think there’s too many (rooms) better than the other,” he said. “It’s a pretty level playing field.”
Thomas was asked who the messiest roommate was in the house. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Everyone has their own designated rooms. My room is on one side of the house. I mean, I don’t really think I would let anybody go into any of our rooms, to be honest.”
Fowler was asked who was the loudest. “Hmm, I don’t know,” he echoed. “I think we’re all causing a bit of a ruckus over there.”
While there are six golfers in the house, each equally capable of emerging as the winner this week, the most important housemate might be the seventh person – the chef, Michael Parker, who prepares all the meals, mostly breakfast and dinner since the players have lunch at the course.
The food selections evidently are favorable to the American palate.
“Yeah, we’ve had some really, really good meals,” Thomas said after his round Thursday. “Last night, we had brisket tacos. We had steaks two nights ago. We had some chicken the night before that, and then before that, we had just a really good salad.
“He’s cooking us (food) like chicken and cheese quesadillas. Just typical Americans, we want to stick with what we know and don’t try anything. He’s been great. I think he’s saved us all, for sure.”
After dinner, it’s usually time for a movie. The players try to reach a consensus on what to watch, although the suggestions are generally rotated. So far, the choices have been the, ahem, classics – you know, movies such as Tommy Boy, The Equalizer, The Other Guys.
And yes, Fowler said, the guys do talk a little golf. But generally the house offers a respite from the tension of playing in a major. Fowler describes it as a “guys week.” Thomas said he’s glad to be in the “little frat house.”
And Spieth offered a two-word description: “Just fun.”