Don’t expect changes at St. Andrews
TURNBERRY, Scotland – The tradition each year at the British Open is to congratulate the champion on the large scoreboard over the 18th green and look forward to the following year, in this case St. Andrews.
And what will everyone see? About the same Old Course from the last British Open there in 2005.
“Length will be about the same,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said following a wrap-up news conference at Turnberry.
The only significant change being planned is for No. 4, the 480-yard par 4 in which players try to carry a mound of thick stuff to reach the left side of the fairway.
“What we’re planning to do is make the shot up the right more accessible,” Dawson said. “There is a plateau in the middle, and the proper way to play the hole is up the right. Many of the pros don’t fancy that. They tend to shove up the left.”
This should be good news for Tom Watson.
Watson has won on every Scottish course on the British Open rotation except St. Andrews. Asked if he liked his chances, especially after coming within an 8-foot par putt from winning at age 59, Watson said it would depend on the wind.
“If the wind comes from the west there, I have a hard time with that golf course,” he said. “Hole No. 4 gets me. I can’t hit it far enough to get it over the junk. You have the rough there, and it depends on how deep the rough is. I’m driving into the rough all the time. It’s like the 10th hole at Bethpage Black there at the first U.S. Open. When they moved the tee back, nobody could get to the fairway.”
Sounds like next year, he’ll at least have a good option.
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MICKELSON UPDATE: Phil Mickelson, who has not played since his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, is still waiting on one more test before they decide how his wife, Amy, will battle breast cancer.
Even so, it’s looking better.
“The best news so far is that the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes, which improves our chances of beating this in the short and long term,” Mickelson said on his Web site last week during the British Open. “We’re awaiting one test result that will influence Amy’s treatment plan. The waiting and wondering sometimes can be the most difficult part, but she has a very positive attitude and has handled all of this with her usual grace.”
Mickelson’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the week his wife had surgery.
He said Mary Mickelson had surgery last week and everything appeared to go well.
“We are all optimistic,” he said. “It meant so much to me and Amy to be there with her.”
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SETTING HIM STRAIGHT: Mark Calcavecchia made it through all four rounds at the British Open, and so did his wife, Brenda. She caddied for him again, a tough chore considering the bag is loaded with rain gear.
“I can’t lie, it is physically tough,” she told TNT Sports over the weekend. “But even when I’m not carrying the bag, we talk throughout the round and I give him encouragement. This is a way for me to be out with him full-time, and it works for us.”
Calcavecchia, however, is notorious for throwing clubs, and his wife gave him an incentive not to do that.
“He did throw one club one time at the Tour Championship,” she said. “It almost hit my ring. I said, ‘If you break the diamond, you buy a bigger one.’ And that was the end of that.”
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TURNBERRY TEST: Turnberry is the only British Open course to yield a 63 in different years, and it was getting a reputation of being among the easiest links courses on the rotation.
But it was lengthened this year, with bunkers added to put a greater premium on accuracy.
The winning score was 278, 10 shots higher than when Nick Price won in 1994. There was only one round below 65, shot by Miguel Angel Jimenez in the opening round. Someone asked R&A chief executive Peter Dawson if he would be concerned if someone shot a 63 this year.
“I’d be surprised,” he replied.
After the opening day, Dawson had no worries. Without a trace of wind, the best anyone could imagine was the 64 by Jimenez.
“The proof of the pudding was not Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Dawson said, noting that no one did better than 67 those days. “It was Thursday, when it was deathly calm, and the course did very well. I knew then, once the wind blew, it would be fine.”
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THOMSON’S TIME: Everyone talks about the golf balls, metal clubs, big drivers, shafts, launch monitors and lawn equipment when the discussion shifts to technology. Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson says not to forget grips.
The drivers really were made of wood, and Thomson said if a player found a good driver with a good head and the right loft, he would hang on to it for as long as he could until the wood began to wear out.
“Also, they have wonderful, slide-on rubber grips now,” he said. “But in those times, in the 50’s, we wrapped the leather grip around and had to do this every week to get a fresh tackiness. So we battled with equipment and right up to the last minute people were changing their clubs hoping for something better than last week.
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DIVOTS: Butch Harmon was voted No. 1 in Golf Digest magazine’s annual survey of “America’s 50 Greatest Teachers,” which comes from a direct ballot survey of golf teachers across the country. It was the fifth straight year Harmon was voted No. 1. He beat out Hank Haney, the coach for Tiger Woods, by seven votes. David Leadbetter finished third, followed by Jim McLean and Chuck Cook. ... Ernie Els finished out of the top 10 in the British Open only two times this decade. ... With Tiger Woods missing the cut at the British Open, the longest active cut streak on the PGA Tour is 22 tournaments by Kenny Perry.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: The British Open was decided by a playoff four times this decade, the most of any major.
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FINAL WORD: “This was absolutely Tom Watson’s Open, win or lose. Tom long ago secured his legacy in the game. This would have been something to add to the top of the cake.” – Jack Nicklaus.