Golf / 123rd Open: Turnberry Diary - Olazabal pays price on the green

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IN THAT frustrating couple of hours before Turnberry began to bleed birdies yesterday, Jose Maria Olazabal saw his Open chances slowly dribble away thanks to the classic golf irony with which players of all standards will be familiar. Since he arrived here, the Spaniard has spent pounds 4,000 to help solve his driving problem and was promptly let down by his putting.

Olazabal's woes off the tee recently have caused him to demote the driver with which he won the US Masters in April. Last week he arrived with a selection of seven others and during a hunt around the exhibition tent bought four old persimmon-headed clubs from the Leeds specialist Paul Gibson at about pounds 1,000 apiece. One, a 1955 Toney Penna driver, pleased him so much on the practice range that he used it on the first day of The Open.

Although it flew far, it leaned left and is back with the makers for a slight adjustment to the face. But the spell of bad driving had been broken and he has been functioning well with a Maruman metal driver. As Olazabal reflected yesterday, striking the ball well doesn't mean you are going to score well if your putting is off.

As for paying so much to supplement his collection of drivers, he said: 'The way I was playing was far more expensive than that. You have to spend money to make money and I have always liked clubs made from the old persimmon wood because it is so solid. I like the way a ball comes off a solid wooden face.'

Once the club makers at Leeds have shaved the face of the Penna club to his requirements it will be flown to meet up with Olazabal at this week's Dutch Open. It is doubtful, however, if that reunion will be as tearful as that between the American Greg Kraft and his stolen putter yesterday.

The putter, a vintage Arnold Palmer worth about dollars 2,000, went missing when Kraft's caddie was taking a hamburger break on Tuesday. The caddie was sacked and Kraft played with a Ping bought in the exhibition tent. He three- putted five times. On Friday evening, the treasured putter was handed in by a spectator. 'I had to fight back the tears,' said a delighted Kraft.

THE BRIM of his Panama hat pulled low over his eyes, the commentator Bruce Critchley will be treading a wary path around Turnberry today. You might care to keep an eye out for him while you watch the BBC's live transmission of the final day of The Open, because if one of the Beeb's cameramen spots him he'll be in focus in a flash and placed at the mercy of a Peter Alliss barb.

So far, Critchley has managed to avoid detection among the Turnberry crowds but since the former Walker Cup player left the BBC to join their big rivals Sky earlier this year he has felt himself a marked man.

'It wouldn't surprise me if all the cameramen positioned around the course had been alerted to keep an eye out for me. I've spent my life avoiding Peter's verbal Exocets and I don't want to give him a chance to score a hit,' said the man who was Alliss's erudite partner in the commentary box.

A FELLOW sportswriter whose name I refuse to reveal because it would publicise a cut-price rival newspaper had an odd experience here on Friday. He suddenly felt the need for the nearest point of relief and, since Turnberry is not sprouting with lavatories and possesses very little of the cover one can seek on tree-lined courses, he was in a quandary.

Suddenly, he espied the ninth tee which stands in splendid isolation amid the rocks alongside the lighthouse. After watching a group drive off, he scrambled down to the sea-line behind the tee.

It was only while he was engaged in his solitary pursuit that he noticed he had placed himself next to a BBC microphone. He found out later that it had been installed there to catch the realistic sound of the waves beating against the rocks.

THE golf tourist industry is very lucrative, and many destinations are jostling for attention here. Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland all have stands in the main exhibition tent.

Meanwhile, a major offensive is being undertaken by Carnoustie, where they still smart from being ejected from the rota of courses staging The Open, which they last hosted in 1975. And they have friends in high places. John Calder, chairman of the links committee told me: 'Neil Armstrong (the astronaut) played here last week, and he was over the moon.'

(Photograph omitted)