Sport Golf

Saturday 10 December 2016

'Beef' on a roll as America warms to new sensation

James Corrigan

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

In the media centre on the eve of the season’s final Major, the voice on the Tannoy announced: “Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston is entering the interview room”. Photo: Getty
In the media centre on the eve of the season’s final Major, the voice on the Tannoy announced: “Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston is entering the interview room”. Photo: Getty

Andrew Johnston has taken relationship advice from the four-times-divorced John Daly. And so the legend of 'Beef' takes on another delicious twist.

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Quite rightly, Johnston is still riding the wave of his burgeoning fame, which was given such a platform at the Open two weeks ago.

At the US PGA Championship, the Londoner has been granted such prominence that, should he prevail at Baltusrol on Sunday, they will doubtless rename the place 'Beef Roll'.

In the media centre on the eve of the season's final Major, the voice on the Tannoy announced: "Andrew 'Beef' Johnston is entering the interview room".

Forget that he is 88th in the world, rated a 300/1 shot and, in strictly golf terms, did not warrant being within a five-iron of the big chair on a Wednesday - golf authorities do not do monikers and never have.

They never welcomed Jack Nicklaus as 'The Golden Bear' or Arnold Palmer as 'The King' or definitely not Daly as 'The Wild Thing'.

Swooning

So, what is so different about this 27-year-old from Finchley? Everything - as the latest swooning press conference confirmed.

Roughly three times as many attended his interview as did Masters champion Danny Willett's, and twice as many as for Open champion Henrik Stenson and world No 1 Jason Day.

It was the traditional Beef fare. Questions about his unruly beard, his happy-go-lucky attitude, his inability to look stern and serious like the rest of his colleagues.

"Just be yourself, man," was his message to the children who, like him, might be the butt of cruel overweight jokes.

Beef's beauty is that he is the same on the course as he is in the media. In an age when the young sporting millionaires seem more detached than ever, here is a figure to whom the crowds can relate.

Corporate America has predictably latched on. On Saturday, he could be found at Arby's in Manhattan, a fast-food outlet which quickly endorsed him after Troon, dishing out the sandwiches.

"Beeeeeeef" they shouted as he stood laughing, with his gummy grin, ample stomach and his wacky facial topography.

He is an everyman phenomenon, perhaps the first golf has seen since Daly, and in that sense it is appropriate that this is the 25th anniversary of Daly stunning the world when winning this tournament as the unknown ninth reserve.

No doubt, they are poles apart in talent, and we can only hope in demons, but they are so similar with the ease in which they can connect.

Inevitably, Johnston has grown friendly with Daly, and has had lunch with him here and, even though the alarm bells rang when he revealed he had asked whether his girlfriend should join him full-time on Tour - "Yeah, if she makes you happy," Daly said - nobody should believe him to be dumb.

When quizzed if he feared being remembered as "Beef, the genial character" rather than "Beef, the professional golfer", his expression and tone changed.

"It might come across like that, but it's all about the golf. I want to be able to look back and say, 'Yeah, I did great on the course', and not just, 'Yeah, I had a good laugh'.

"I love the support and I love giving back the time, but I had a big learning curve yesterday. I was signing so much as I was playing a few holes that I probably should have waited until afterwards.

"You've got to get your practice in, man. I've got to get that balance right."

Yes, it is a wise person who plays the clown, yet it is a wiser one still who knows when it is time to hang up the curly wig and flashing nose.

Let us pray Beef survives being the temporary hotpot. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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