Long before the first tee shot went in the air at Royal Troon, the championship buzz fixated on who wasn’t at the 133rd British Open.
Through July 11, six players had withdrawn from this year’s championship before play began, including five-time British Open champion Tom Watson, who is recovering from a triceps injury.
“I didn’t have any power. It’s like an eight-cylinder engine trying to run on four cylinders,” Watson told the Kansas City Star. “I’m very disappointed, especially about missing the British Open. Troon is one of my favorite courses, and I feel comfortable there.”
The rash of withdrawals came on the heels of an embarrassing episode at the inaugural International Final Qualifying event in the United States. Half the field for the one-day, 36-hole qualifier either withdrew or failed to show for the event June 28 at Congressional Country Club.
Joining Watson on the sidelines for this year’s championship will be Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Fred Funk, Kirk Triplett and Scott Hoch.
While no reasons were given for Funk, Triplett and Hoch’s withdrawals, Elkington was sidelined with a pulled groin muscle. An ailing back forced Couples to withdraw from the championship for the fifth time in 11 years. Couples tied for seventh at Royal Troon in 1997.
Australian Mark Hensby, a last-minute qualifier via his victory at this past week’s John Deere Classic, also declined his spot in the British field, citing his inexperience on links courses and the lack of time he would have to properly prepare for the championship. Hensby was replaced in the field by Barry Hume, the first alternate from the Local Final Qualifier at Western Gailes.
Although Hensby passed on his chance to play golf’s oldest major, nine players made the cut at the John Deere and made the long trip to Royal Troon. Defending champion Vijay Singh, the highest-ranked player in the field, led the way with his tie for fourth. Other British Open entrants to make the John Deere cut were: Stewart Cink (T-8), Jay Haas (T-11), Zach Johnson (T-20), Glen Day (T-24), Shigeki Maruyama (T-27), Chris DiMarco (T-32), Nick Price (T-46) and Todd Hamilton (T-59).