CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After the storm comes the calm. Just a 25 minute-drive from the mayhem of St. Andrews, Carnoustie and the Senior British Open Championship should be a far-less manic week.
Course: Carnoustie Golf Links (7,421 yards, par 71), Carnoustie, Scotland.
Purse: $2 million. Winner’s share: $314,600.
Last year: Loren Roberts won the event for the second time in four seasons, beating Mark McNulty with a par on the third hole of a playoff at Sunningdale. Fred Funk was eliminated on the first extra hole.
Tom Lehman – The bookies favorite. The former Open Champion is coming off a top-14 finish at St. Andrews. So he takes his “A” game to Carnoustie.
Corey Pavin – Lost a playoff in the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour two weeks ago. Carnoustie might be too long for him at 7,297 yards, especially if the wind blows. But if anyone can shape shots around the links, he can.
Mark Calcavecchia – Another form horse coming off a good Open Championship.
Tom Watson – Won the Open Championship here in 1975, so he has fond memories of the course. Not swinging as he’d want to, but he can’t be discounted.
Andy Stubbs – The European Senior Tour managing director qualified to play in the championship despite last playing professionally in 1990. Now an amateur who plays once every two weeks, it should be interesting to see how he fares.
And probably more exciting than the coronation of King Louis (Oosthuizen), which turned into a two-day procession to victory over the Old Course in the Open Championship.
Tom Lehman is the bookies’ favorite heading into the championship. He is 8-1 to add the senior crown to the Open Championship he won at Royal Lytham in 1996. The bookmakers are right to install him as favorite. Lehman finished joint 14th at St. Andrews last week and is keen to get into serious contention against his senior peers.
“I don’t like the feeling of playing well and finishing top 15,” Lehman said about his performance at St. Andrews. “You can feel good about playing well, beating a bunch of young guys and finishing 14th. I beat (Tiger) Woods and (Phil) Mickelson last week but is it really fun to finish top 15 playing well? The answer is no. It’s more fun to play well and win.
“I know if I played the PGA Tour full time, I’d get a chance to win maybe a couple of times, but out on the Champions Tour I get a chance to win every week.”
Lehman went 33 straight holes last week without making a birdie. He’s hoping the 7,297-yard, par-72 Carnoustie yields more birdies than St. Andrews last week.
“It’s hard to get the ball close enough to the flags at St. Andrews to make birdies,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be easier this week because last week was frustrating.”
This is the first time the Senior British is being played on the course most experts feel is the toughest track in the British Isles. Many in the field remember it as “Carnasty” in the 1999 Open Championship, when the severe rough took no prisoners. Luckily for the round bellies, the course is set up far gentler than it was then.
Lehman will have strong competition this week. Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson and Mark Calcavecchia are just behind Lehman as bookmakers’ favorites; Mark O’Meara and Nick Faldo aren’t. Both have withdrawn. Faldo pulled out due to tendonitis and O’Meara because of the death of his father.
Also missing are Nick Price and the still-recovering Greg Norman.