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Mullinax goes from Kentucky to Scotland, doesn't miss a beat

AP TEST ROYAL WEDDING POOL
Posted at 12:50 PM, Jul 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 12:50:57-04

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Trey Mullinax was in Kentucky one week ago, sitting out a rain delay at the Barbasol Championship and facing a long trip across the country to the next PGA Tour event in the hopes of turning his season around.

Seven days later, he walked off the Old Course at St. Andrews with a 6-under 66 in his British Open debut.

Even for a slow-moving sport like golf, plans can change quickly.

“A little bit of a blur,” Mullinax said Saturday with a smile.

He was the last player to qualify for the 150th Open, which reserved a spot for the leading player from the Barbasol Championship — given no one in the field was eligible for the Open, whoever won had the chance to come over to Scotland.

Mullinax, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, didn't even bother bringing his passport with him.

“I was in such good form heading into that week,” he said with no small measure of sarcasm. He had missed the cut seven times in his last 11 starts. He was 150th in the FedEx Cup, needing to get going or lose his full status.

And then he played 34 holes the next day, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win in Kentucky and was on his way to Scotland for his first British Open — his first test on links golf, his first major in five years.

First, he had to go back home to Alabama to get his passport. He flew with his father to New York, on to Dublin, over to Edinburgh, up to the gray, old town, and was on the tee by about lunchtime Tuesday.

One day he was taking envelope-sized divots from the rain-soaked turf of Kentucky, and then he was on a links some 600 years old on turf he had never experienced.

“You get the ball in the air here, it’s great. So it was totally different golf courses,” Mullinax said. “But this is such fun, getting to hit shots I've never hit before.”

One of them came Saturday. He was a little left off the tee at the par-4 17th, and the pin was all the way to the left side of the green. The nefarious Road Hole bunker protects the middle front. The play was to aim 20 yards left of the green to be safe, but not so far left that it rolled across the firm links into a burn.

“Just hit it over there and hope for the best,” he said. “That was kind of a cool shot. I’ve never played 20 yards away from a green.”

It was his only bogey in a seven-birdie round, and it wasn't even the best round in his group. He played alongside Kevin Kisner, who was 7 under through 11 holes and had to settle for a 65.

Some players change equipment when they come to a links course, and Mullinax was no exception, but with a twist. He had to change his back to the way they were.

Turns out airport personnel inspecting his luggage didn't put all the clubs back in the golf bag. Some were inside the travel case and they were bent.

“I actually found out last night that my putter was 2 degrees off,” he said. "I knew it looked funny. I was having to tell my caddie, ‘Man, I’m having to forward press this a lot.’ The ball wasn’t rolling like it was in Kentucky. Surely I didn’t lose it in two days.

“I played a lot better today.”

He was having a blast either way. Mullinax looks forward to getting home to Alabama next week to celebrate his first PGA Tour win and reschedule the rest of his season. He now has a two-year exemption and gets into Maui for the winners-only start to the year, and the PGA Championship for the first time.

And there were times when he felt no rush to leave.

“Walking on my 18th hole yesterday was a really cool moment,” he said. “It was getting dark. The sun was getting low. Just to have that view walking across the bridge, just all the memories you’ve seen here. Just sunsets, perfect. My dad was out here. It was really cool.”