By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

TROON, Scotland --- How All-American am I feeling after a week at the British Open?

So All-American, that as I sat in the interview room with new British Open champ Todd Hamilton, I wanted to grab the press room microphone, point at Hamilton, pause, and say: "You used to work at All-American Burger."

I ask you today at The Cooler: Has "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" earned 100 percent on the Pop Culture Recognition Scale? My vote says aye, but only because I'm in Scotland. Otherwise, I'd say something else, like: "Jesus Christ, doesn't anybody knock anymore?"

Todd Hamilton
Winning the British Open is a big step up from flipping burgers.

The question is relevant because an unknown named Todd Hamilton won the British, and no one really knows what to say about the guy except that he's a) a nice guy; and b) a good player. He won on Tour four months ago, and Golf World magazine came up with what is easily my all-time favorite cover headline:

"All Right, Hamilton!"

This was subject to some debate among the more stickler-ish types of sports writers. Is "Fast Times" universal enough, they ask, to merit a headline that makes reference to Jeff Spicoli's enthusiastic approval of Brad Hamilton throwing a steaming pot of coffee into a burglar's mug, foiling a theft?

Again, I say "aye", but that's only because I'm in Scotland. Were I home, I'd say something like: "You guys had shirts on when you came in here."

Besides, we have precious little to hang our hat on, story-wise, with Todd Hamilton. I mean, great story for the Little Man. But most casual sports fans don't dig deep for the Little Man story. They want legends. They want Tiger, Ernie, Phil. They don't want Todd.

There's another angle, actually: The name Todd. When I lived in Ireland, my Irish buddies and I were riffing in a pub about American things, and one mentioned that he had a particular problem with the name "Todd". "No one outside of America is named Todd," he said. "What is Todd? It's up there with Randy. Who names their kid Randy?"

Of course, he's saying that in a nation where names like Conan were considered hip, long before Mr. O'Brien made it cool with his burst into fame, which was built on the shoulders of comedy bits like "The Coked-Up Werewolf."

(Side note: A brief appearance by "The Coked-Up Werewolf" on Conan's 10th anniversary show sent me into a laughing jag so intense I had sore abdominal muscles the next day. It was one of those Perfect Storms of Comedy: You're just tired enough, you're just unsuspecting enough, and it's been just long enough since your last laughing jag to send you over the edge. My most famous Perfect Storm of Comedy was in the theater with the movie "Kingpin", when the Indians drive by and toss litter at Randy Quaid's feet, and Quaid lets a lone tear roll down his check. My jag was so out of control, my buddies soon coined the verb "To Kingpin", meaning to laugh uncontrollably, to the point where others around you are worried about you.)

Brad Hamilton
Some Hamiltons, however, aspire to bigger dreams.

Anyway, so Todd Hamilton won the Claret Jug, and we can only imagine him putting it into the trunk of the Cruising Vessel before he leaves for his afternoon gig at All-American Burger. He'll ponder breaking up with his girlfriend while wiping out some profanity written on the Troon clubhouse mirror. He'll get angry with a rules official who is in his dish, drawing the R&A's wrath when he tells the rules official: "If you don't shut up, I'll kick 100 percent of your ass." Commissioner Dennis Taylor then might fine Hamilton.

And if he had lost the Open because of a noise Ernie Els made in a Port-A-Potty when Hamilton was over a putt, he could have banged on the door and shouted: "Hope you had a hell of a p---, Ernie!"

See? Any chance we get to lean on "Fast Times", we do it. Because life's the same, when you're moving in stereo. That is, except for my shoes.

Apologies to you non-"Fast Times" fans out there. We'll move on the Weekend list of Five, British Open Style:

1. Big in Japan
What is it about the sentence, "He's big in Japan" that induces such comedy?

It's not that Japan is somehow a lesser place to find success on the entertainment scale. After all, Japan gave us the hit "Sukiyaki," most notably sampled by the poet Snoop Dogg who took the famous chorus "You took your love away from me" and says, as if hurt by the action, "You took your dope away from me."

Perhaps it was the final scene of "Spinal Tap," where the lads find fruitful commercial climes in the Land of the Rising Sun, that jams Japan with the bad rep of digging third-rate American acts.

At any rate, Todd Hamilton is Big in Japan. (There. You've got the Alphaville song stuck in your head now, don't you?) He spent the last 10 years playing golf in Japan, commuting between his Texas home and the pro tour in the Far East. OK, that officially ends all bitching and moaning about any commute you might ever have again, in your entire life.

Your sample commute complaint: Man! The bridge was backed up and it took me an extra 45 minutes to get to work!

Hamilton's sample commute complaint: After we sat on the tarmac for 2 hours, they figured out there was a light bulb out in the bathroom, so we had to taxi back to the gate. At that point, the pilots had worked overtime and walked off the job. I slept in a chair by the boarding gate, but they got us another crew and re-boarded us in another four hours. No problem, though. I had a middle seat in coach, and the guy in front of me only waited until the wheels had just left the runway to put his seat all the way back. But it's cool, because the flight was only 14 hours.

Todd Hamilton is my coach-flying hero. Just think: How many Drew Barrymore or Keanu Reeves flicks has that guy seen and heard through Soviet-era foam-covered headphones?

Godspeed, Todd. Let's hope the Open check buys you some upgrades.

2. Scotland: What a Trip
Ever see "Trainspotting"?

Honestly -- how did they release that flick without sub-titles?

I pride myself on deciphering ridiculous accents, but the Scottish accent is the Loch Ness Monster of accents -- a fearsome thing, never to be solved.

I found myself backing out of conversations all week just by agreeing with whatever was said. "Aye," I'd say. Or, failing that, under pressure, I'd say: "Aye." A guy could have been telling me that he spit in my Tennent's lager when I wasn't looking and wanted me to drink it, and all I'd say is "Aye." Then nod my head and say, with fervor, "Aye."

It reminded me of the Woody Allen bit where he was wearing a white sheet Down South -- he was going to a costume party dressed as a ghost -- when he was kidnapped by Klansmen who mistook him for one of their own. The Woodman, panicked, tried to fit in by saying the word "Grits" to everything. They'd say something, and he'd say "Grits, grits."

The only way I could communicate with the crew was to summon up Mike Myers' old "Saturday Night Live" bit, where Myers plays a Scottish geezer who ran a store called "If It's Not Scottish, It's Crap!"

Occasionally, when utterly baffled, I'd dust off an old "If it's not Scottish, it's crap!" line, and the Celts would chuckle in approval. Of course, that's probably because I had my fly down. And because they had just spit in my Tennent's lager.

Aye.

3. British Newspapers: Just Plain Different
It's not just the sight of chesty young maidens on Page 3. (Say, when they start hiring Cart Girls -- see last week's column -- they can start with the Page 3 girls!) It's not just the daily coverage of the TV show "Big Brother," as if the goings-on of a bunch of narcissists on 24-hour watch rate such coverage. (Typical headline: "JENNA DOES THE DEED WITH MARCO; SHEETS MUST NOW BE WASHED")

It's the sheer difference of British newspapers to our own that rate them as must-reads.

Nick Faldo
Hmm .. perhaps it's not a surprise that Faldo's caddie is named Fannie.

Example: Last Sunday, the Sunday Times had six-time Majors champion Nick Faldo write a diary of his road trip from his home in England to Troon. It was a classic of Faldo minutia, including his varied musings on music (Favorite album: Elton John's "Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy") and his regret at stopping for lunch at a fast-food, roadside diner. ("I had the traditional, high-flatulence special of peas, fish and chips," Faldo wrote.)

For some reason, this is one of my favorite lines in the history of newspapers.

But, oh, how the Brits can be catty. A rival paper, the Sunday Herald, lashed out at Faldo's random musings the following Sunday, with writer Alasdair Reid shredding Faldo's intellect, Faldo's verbosity and, presumably, Faldo's flatulence.

Flatulence seemed a theme of the week. In Scotland's Herald, writer Graham Spiers followed Tiger Woods during a practice round and reported that it was very dull, aside from the sideshow that was caddie Steve Williams' flatulence, or what Spiers called his "anal trumpetry."

Like I said, the British papers -- just plain different.

4. Monty
Or, as the Brits might say, Mon-tayyyy.

(Note: Best said while wearing a smoking jacket, enjoying a pipe and in-between discussions of time spent scaling Kilimanjaro.)

We had a running gag in the press center about the Brits' infatuation with Colin Montgomerie, often saying, in our best stiff upper lip accent, "Brave Monty!" whenever the doughy Scot made birdie.

Colin Montgomerie
"Can I just skip the final day and go to the 19th hole?"

Truth told, there's some sick part of me that really enjoys Monty's act. The guy is obviously brilliant, and obviously short-fused, and obviously talented, and obviously prone to the big spit-up. What's not to like? What, we want robots? Or phonies? Like the rest of the crew out there?

There was no question in the world that Monty would contend at Troon, no question in the world that he would raise Scotland's hopes, and no question in the world that he would, eventually, wedge a chicken bone in his throat by the end of 72 holes.

That's what makes Monty, Monty.

He actually said after Saturday's round that he doesn't find his job fun at all, and that if anyone thinks that, he's kidding you, and that it's actually a job, "and a horrible one at that."

Unsolicited advice, Colin: You might want to try stifling that act when you hang around guys who clean up Port-A-Potties for a living.

Other than that, all I have to say is: Brave Monty!

(Do it in your best upper-crust accent. You'll enjoy it.)

5. Showers. At Last.
A quick word to all who follow the fascinating world of water pressure: Apparently, the 100-year-old technical glitch has been solved. Scotland (and, I'm presuming, Ireland) has excellent water pressure and heat now.

It's 2004, and it's OK to take a shower in the U.K. now.

No shower head that produces barely noticeable mist. No water that goes from 150 degrees to 50 degrees in the span of 90 seconds. No reason to go from scalded skin to hypothermia as you shampoo your hair.

Just thought I'd point that out, for those of you who worry about those things.

Lather up, boys and girls! It's ShowerMania!

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.




Brian
Murphy
WATER COOLER