Golden Bear has attack of the munchies

Click to follow
Greg Norman is being paid pounds 3m to endorse the new Maxfli ball until the year 2000. Yesterday the legendary Jack Nicklaus openly endorsed, for free, another product that he says has helped him over the first two days of the Open.

So what is this new magical product? New ball, new driver, new putter? Nope, it's a Shrewsbury fruit biscuit made in Livingstone, Scotland.

After his triumphant round of 66 yesterday, the Golden Bear arrived at the press tent for his post-round interview and began crunching. "Did I enjoy my round... crunch, munch crunch... don't you enjoy 66s? You have to have fun... crunch munch... and the people were terrific."

Not that the gathered international press took too much notice, but Big Jack said he'd been given the biscuits on day one and so "Why not go with them again?"

Crunching and munching his way through the interview, "I hit the driver five times... crunch... I am having a fun week," he was unaware he was putting the cookie company, Paterson Bronte, on to the international golf market.

If Paterson are now looking for a new advertising slogan for the Shrewsbury, as endorsed by the master himself, can the Diary suggest the following: "Nicklaus: He takes the biscuit."

Faldo Way, Woosnam Avenue and Lyle Street are the cliched enclosure names of the corporate hospitality areas at Lytham with their small neat white picket fences and cute little white chairs enclosed in a tent that reaches sauna temperatures in the midday sun. The areas are supposed to be the height of business-influencing sophistication.

Not so. Tucked behind the clubhouse and overlooking the practice putting green where the raw nerves of the pros are on display before tee-ing off, is the discreetly named Dormy House. For a mere pounds 30,000 for the week each, the 10 or 11 rooms inside Dormy, complete with shared toilet and shower facilities, have been let out to the would-be creme de la creme of companies. A discreet attendant at the door of the house said: "It's lovely in there. There is BAC, an insurance company or two and the odd equity company. It's all very nice."

Ah, but can they see any of the golf? "No, but they can watch the pros warm up." Now there's a bargain.

Mastering greens

Fusarium? It might sound like an obscure American qualifier for the Open (Fred Fusarium?). But inside the hospitality pavilion of the International Greenkeepers' Association, Fusarium is the talk of the Open. The drought of last year followed by a less than compensatory spring in North-west England, meant that Jimmy McDonald, the head greenkeeper of Royal Lytham and St Annes, has been in a permanent state of anxiety for almost a year.

Jimmy, a Scot, has been in charge of the hallowed turf at three Opens. Fusarium, which he describes as: "Just say it's a greens problem", was discovered on a few of the greens at Lytham. However, his experience of the same blight during the 1969 Open meant that Jimmy was confident the problem could be cleared up. And it has been.

Regardless of the good condition of the course, the greenkeepers' tent still resounds with discussions of fertiliser, over-feeding and what is the best lawn-mower.

And the philosophy of setting up an Open course? Jimmy, now aged 62, maintains: "If your dear old aunt was visiting, you'd make a damn good tea, but if the Queen were coming. you'd do it a wee bit differently, wouldn't you?"

Fly in the ointment

Mark McCumber, one of the magnificent Americans among the second- round leaders, had more difficulty getting to Lancashire than playing the course.

"I played in America last week and I was all set to leave on a private plane for Britain on Sunday. But you would not believe the journey we had," McCumber said. "I left Newport News in Virginia at 3pm on Sunday for Newark where we were going to catch the onward flight, arriving here at 8am the next morning.

"But the weather was so bad we could not land. We got to within 30 minutes of New York but had to fly back to Newport News and missed our flight to Britain.

"On Monday we left Virginia again, this time heading for JFK Airport in New York. The weather was still bad and we had to land at Farmingdale in pouring rain. It was a really scary landing and the pilot had to fight to get the plane down.

"The thunderstorm and lightning was frightening. I've flown a lot of private aviation, but when you come over the water at Long Island and you can see nothing... The plane was down to 400 feet before we could see the runway.

"We then took a fast car to JFK but missed the flight to Manchester, even though we ran all the way from the car to the check-in counter.

"Then we were told we could catch the 7.30pm flight to London and a shuttle on to Manchester. But the London flight was two hours late so we missed the connection.

"We finally got a second plane to Manchester and arrived at 4.30pm on Tuesday.

"I must admit, when we were being held up in America, I thought about not coming. But it's the Open and it's a privilege to be exempt at this tournament."

The British Amateur champion Warren Bladon, from Leamington Spa, has a small "army" of supporters at Lytham.

Three friends have turned up in T-shirts sporting the legend "On Tour with Warren Bladon" on the front, and "Rip it Wozza" on the back.

They are still wondering if they can afford the fare to Augusta next April, when the T-shirts might not go down quite so well when Bladon steps out in the US Masters.