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Mullinax goes from Kentucky to Scotland, don’t miss a beat

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Trey Mullinax was in Kentucky a week ago, missing a rain delay at the Barbasol Championship and facing a long trip across the country to the next PGA Tour event in the hope to turn the tide.

Seven days later he left the Old Course at St. Andrews with a 6-under 66 on his British Open debut.

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

“A little fuzzy,” Mullinax said Saturday with a smile.

He was the last player to qualify for the 150th Open, which reserved a place for the best player in the Barbasol Championship – since no one on the court was eligible for the Open, whoever won had the chance to come to Scotland .

Mullinax, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, didn’t even bother to bring his passport with him.

“I was in such good shape before this week,” he said without sarcasm. He had missed the cut seven times in his last 11 starts. He was 150th in the FedEx Cup, having to go or lose full status.

And then he played 34 holes the next day, birdied 15ft 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.

He first had to return home to Alabama to obtain his passport. He flew with his father to New York, Dublin, Edinburgh, all the way to the Gray Old Town, and was on the tee around noon on Tuesday.

One day he was taking envelope-sized divots on soggy Kentucky turf, then he found himself on a course some 600 years old on turf he had never known.

“You get the ball in the air here, it’s great. So it was totally different golf courses,” Mullinax said. “But it’s so much fun to hit shots that I’ve never hit previously.”

One of them came on Saturday. He was a bit to the left of the tee at the par-4 17th, and the pin was completely left of the green. The infamous Road Hole bunker protects the central front. The play had to aim 20 yards left of the green to be safe, but not so far left that it rolled through the firm links into a burn.

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

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

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

It turns out that the airport staff inspecting his luggage didn’t put all the clubs back in the golf bag. Some were inside the travel case and they were folded.

“I actually found out last night that my putter was at 2 degrees,” he said. “I knew it looked funny. I had to say to my caddy, ‘Man, I have to press it a lot.’ The ball wasn’t rolling like in Kentucky. I sure as hell didn’t lose it in two days.

“I played a lot better today.”

He was having fun anyway. Mullinax is looking forward to returning 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 is entering Maui for the winners-only start of the year and the PGA Championship for the first time.

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

“Walking my 18th hole yesterday was a really cool moment,” he said. “It was starting to get dark. The sun was starting to go down. Just to get that view while crossing the bridge, just all the memories you saw here. Just sunsets, perfect. My father was here. It was very cool.”

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