Johnston beefs up his standing with the fans

Andrew Johnston during the first round of the British Masters. Nicknamed "Beef", the English golfer's excellent PR skills have won him fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Andrew Johnston during the first round of the British Masters. Nicknamed "Beef", the English golfer's excellent PR skills have won him fans on both sides of the Atlantic.PHOTO: REUTERS

WATFORD • Fan favourite Andrew "Beef" Johnston had the galleries eating out of the palm of his hand with a buccaneering eight-birdie, six-under 65 in the British Masters second round.

An 11,000 crowd turned up at The Grove in Hertfordshire on Friday and most seemed to be rooting for the golfer affectionately known as "Beef", after he surged to within one stroke of leader and fellow Englishman Richard Bland (64).

"The fans have been amazing," the bearded Johnston told reporters after his 10-under tally of 132 earned a share of second position alongside Swede Alex Noren (65).

"I have a good relationship with the crowds. I just have a good time with them, all the kids, all the people, coming up and asking for pictures and to sign stuff.

"Some guy last night asked me to sign his forehead so I put a big 'Beef' across it and took a picture," he said.

Johnston won a host of admirers for the smiling way he interacted with the fans while finishing eighth in the British Open at Troon in July.

His fan base has also extended to the United States as was evident from the amicable reaction of fans when he took part in this year's US Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.

He may be an idiosyncratic showman but the 27-year-old can also produce some golfing fireworks.

Johnston started at the 10th hole on Friday and three times made inroads on par on his outward half before a crackerjack back nine saw him pick up five birdies and two bogeys.

The world No. 79 is now demanding that the galleries continue their vociferous support over the weekend.

"Make some noise and what I want to hear is 'Beef!'," said Johnston, whose sole European Tour victory came at the Spanish Open in April.

"Just keep it up because I'm loving it."

Compatriot Lee Westwood (68) was among a group on 135 but fellow former world No. 1 and tournament host Luke Donald missed the 142 cut by five shots despite a 70.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Johnston beefs up his standing with the fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe