Golf: Jacklin hits the Burma Road

Tim Glover watches as a British legend revels in a sentimental journey
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The Independent Online
The lorry driver's son from Scunthorpe took a sentimental journey down the Burma Road and it seemed that all he had to keep the cold wind at bay were the memories. Tony Jacklin was not so much in the fast lane as on the hard shoulder. "I wasn't expecting to win the tournament," he said. "I came for old times' sake."

Jacklin took one last look down the 18th at Wentworth and the flashbacks began. "We were allowed to play here once a month and I seized every opportunity." Thirty-five years ago, when he was 17, Jacklin was the assistant pro at Potters Bar and the chance of playing the Burma Road seemed like a God- send. "I always rated it one of the great courses in the world, and, if anything, now it is even better. It's a fantastic test."

In the second round of the Volvo PGA yesterday, Jacklin shot 82, stood at 17 over par and checked with the airline to see if he could get a flight back to West Palm Beach in Florida. "I'm used to temperatures about 25 degrees warmer than this," Jacklin said. "It's so damn cold and when you're the wrong side of 50 you lose all feeling. It's too much of a course for me."

To protect the Burma Road from over use, they've recently increased the price of a round to visitors to pounds 140 but demand has been just as great. When Jacklin played in his first Open, at Royal Lytham in 1963, he was in the top 50. He was so strapped for cash he asked the R&A for his prize money there and then. When they told him the cheque would be in the post, he borrowed a fiver to get home. Six years later he returned to Lytham to win the Open and added the US Open in 1970.

Jacklin was exempt for the PGA Championship having won it here in 1972 and at Hillside in 1982. Then he remembered scoring a 63 at Wentworth in the World Matchplay, going to the turn in 29 only to lose to Lee Trevino at the 18th.

Jacklin was playing for the first time in Britain in three years. "Apart from my dad's funeral I haven't even visited," he said. When he turned 50 he moved to Florida to compete on the US Seniors Tour. Despite winning pounds 300,000 last year, he lost his card.

"It's very lucrative and very competitive and I just can't afford to be away. When I left I was 44th on the money-list and I need to be in the top 31 to get my card."

Meanwhile, Jacklin, like most people, has fallen under the Tiger Woods spell. "He is easily the best I have ever seen and I think the Grand Slam is on. The only thorn could be the Open at Troon. Links golf is so unpredictable. Whatever he does, he's already been of huge benefit to the game."

First as a player then as Ryder Cup captain, Jacklin was a trail-blazer for European golf but you would never have guessed it when he came down the 18th yesterday. When he missed an eight-footer for a birdie he was greeted with a ripple of applause, more sympathetic than anything else.