Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez about social distancing and self-isolation:
“It’s almost like living in a horror film watching the world being gripped by this coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully there’s nothing in my lifetime that will ever compare to this grim situation, it’s truly a nightmare.
My heart goes out to all the millions who are suffering and one small, but sad and not so insignificant by-product of this awful problem is that sport has been forced into a complete shutdown.
Elite golfers, footballers, tennis players all bring the global community together, even if it’s just for those people who meet their friends in the pub to watch together the live action on giant television screens.
This is part of the daily, weekly routine that people are seriously beginning to miss. The lockdown situation is clearly something that the governments of the world have needed to bring in but people are starting to feel pent up while being confined to their own homes.
At my time of life, it’s not really a big deal for my wife Astrid and I to stay in and self-isolate and social distance. I must confess that I stopped going to pubs around 50 years ago.
My hole-in-one on the 16th at Royal St George’s in 1967, the first-ever on live television, had a sizeable impact in terms of elevating my status and of course my Open win two years later made me a household name in Britain.
But going to pubs and such-like around that time was a bit of a no-no for me. When you are around people who have had a couple of pints, they do tend to feel they have a licence to give you some verbal abuse.
I remember the first time I rented a house at The Open was the year my good friend Tom Weiskopf won at Royal Troon in 1973. We went into a local hotel and some guy walked over and told me that he thought I was a big head....and lots more besides.
Weiskopf intervened and guided me out of the hotel. Why do I remember that incident almost 50 years on? It’s because it was one of the first signs that I couldn’t afford to expose myself in public places in that way.
I was playing a lot of golf in the United States in the late 1960s and I was not recognised so much there by the general public. In Britain, though, I was a household name and life was quite different for me when I went back home.
I never owned a home in England until I won The Open. I used to stay in digs in London with a family and I also stayed with my parents. It was only when I won at Royal Lytham that I decided to buy my first house in my native Lincolnshire.
Since those days I have preferred to go somewhere quiet for my entertainment, somewhere I am not exposed to the potential of an unsavoury incident occurring. Astrid and I have always been quite a private couple and we prefer it that way.
I always remember England’s star cricketer of the 1970s, Ian Botham, going into a pub in my hometown of Scunthorpe and getting into a confrontation. I had sympathy for Ian but equally you are inviting trouble by going into public places as a high-profile name.
Early in my career I recognised that you give somebody three or four pints of ale and they can get very brave and lose all sense of reason if they come across someone famous.
Sean Connery is another long-time friend of mine and when the two of us used to get together in our younger days, it was to go out for dinner and it was a case of keeping ourselves to ourselves.
Today’s lockdown situation means I’m keeping busy by pottering around in the garden and with my marquetry, which is inlaid art work of variously coloured woods. During my time as a pro golfer I used to travel around the world with everything necessary to create pictures in my hotel rooms.
A lot of my subject matter is golf and the people I have met through the game but I’ve also created woods of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill and Bobby Moore in the past.
I’m managing to stay disciplined too while confined to headquarters. I normally have my first little tipple of the day at around 5pm and I’m trying hard to stick to that.
Typically, it’s a gin and tonic or a rum punch. Something nice and refreshing. But we’re all desperate to see an end to this crisis. Let’s hope it won’t be long before we can return to normal living.”