From travel to bent clubs, Trey Mullinax takes non-linear journey to Open

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – A late arrival to this Open, Trey Mullinax was so busy learning the Old Course that a few equipment issues were met with a shrug.

After winning the Barbasol Championship on Sunday to earn the last available spot into The Open, Mullinax began a whirlwind journey that took him from his home in Birmingham, Alabama (to retrieve his passport), to New York to Dublin to Edinburgh to the home of golf, all in about 24 hours.

At least he’d treated himself to a first-class seat.

But when Mullinax opened his travel bag ahead of an afternoon practice round Tuesday with former Alabama teammate Justin Thomas, he noticed something peculiar.

All of his irons were out of the staff bag.

“A lot of the clubs were bent,” Mullinax said Saturday, “so we had to adjust and stuff like that.”

Still, there was much work to do, and he already had a backup set waiting for him on-site if he needed to swap out the irons, so he didn’t fret the inconvenience. With air travel these days, he figured, at least his clubs had arrived at all.

Full-field scores from the 150th Open Championship

Through two rounds, Mullinax had shot rounds of 71-73, making the cut on the number in his third career major, but he wasn’t rolling his putts as well as he had last week in Kentucky, where he shot 66 in the final round and sank a 20-footer on the final green to capture his first Tour title. Something felt off.

On Friday night, he had someone look at his putter. At last, an answer: The face was 2 degrees open.

“I knew it looked funny,” he said, laughing. “I was having to tell my caddie, Man, I’m having to forward press this a lot. I don’t know what’s going on. The ball wasn’t rolling like it was in Kentucky. Surely, I didn’t lose it in two days.

“I putted a lot better today.”

In the first two-ball out Saturday morning, Mullinax and playing partner Kevin Kisner lit up the Old Course, with Mullinax carding a 66 to (at least by the time he finished) climb inside the top 15. There might not be two more disparate courses than Keene Trace and St. Andrews, but Mullinax’s game has traveled across the pond – even if his clubs got banged up along the way.

“You’re taking gouging divots out in Kentucky,” he said, “and if you get the ball in the air here, it’s great. But this is such fun, getting to hit shots I’ve never hit before.”

The breakthrough victory at the Barbasol gave Mullinax some competitive freedom. Entering the week he was 150th in the FedExCup standings, in danger of once again losing his Tour card, but now he’s safely inside the top 75 and armed with a two-year exemption.

What did it mean to him?

He’s still sorting through those emotions.

“I haven’t slowed down,” he said. “I really haven’t had any time.”

Next week he’ll settle in, spend time with his family, host a few friends.

For now, however, he’s focused on making his Open debut even better.