Golf: Twitty rules the roost: American hits the heights to score 64 in Bell's Scottish Open

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The Independent Online
HOWARD TWITTY, paying his first visit to Scotland, his second to Britain, has an in-built handicap for golf. At 6ft 5in, 'Howard the Hippo' reckons that by and large he is physically disadvantaged. 'The swing gets a bit up and down,' Twitty said. 'Being so tall can cause you problems.'

It also has its benefits and yesterday everybody was looking up to the American after the first round of the Bell's Scottish Open here. Twitty shot 64, six under par, covering the inward half in 30. At the age of 45, Twitty, a native of Arizona who lives in Paradise Valley, has decided to broaden his horizons. In 1980, he won the Sammy Davis Jnr-Greater Hartford Open when Sammy was still a song-and-dance man.

Then Twitty established a record for the US Tour - the longest period of time between victories. Leonard Thompson went 12 years but Twitty eclipsed that by seven months when he won the United Airlines Hawaiian Open in January 1993.

His victory in Hawaii persuaded him to cross the Atlantic and play in the Open Championship at Royal St George's last summer. He 'just loved' the Kent links and those little bump-and- run shots. He 'just loves' Gleneagles but was a trifle disappointed to discover that the King's course does not lend itself to such classic links idiosycrancies. Twitty - the shafts on his clubs are an inch longer than standard - is not exempt for the Open at Turnberry next week and is scheduled to play at Barassie in an attempt to qualify. 'Hopefully I won't need to worry about that,' he said.

In addition to prize-money of pounds 600,000, there are five places for Turnberry up for grabs here. Over the front nine holes, there was no sign that Twitty would end the day leading the field. He had a solitary birdie, at the sixth, but really got going at the 12th where he chipped in from 60 feet for a birdie two. He holed from 25 feet for a birdie three at the next and considered himself fortunate to get another three at the 14th. He drove within inches of a bush but had a shot to the green and put it to a foot from the flag. He asked a marshall what sort of bush it was (gorse) 'because I figured I'll be in another one before the end of the week'.

Referring to the question of height, Twitty cast an envious, downward glance at the figure of Ian Woosnam. 'He just stands there and swings,' Twitty said, 'and he doesn't have to bend anything.'

To listen to Woosnam you would have thought he scored 76 instead of 66. At four under par he is one of six players in joint second place, two strokes behind Twitty.

Yesterday, despite his score, Woosnam reiterated that there was barely anything right with his game. 'I feel like I'm thrashing at it. . . I can't get any distance. . . I've lost 25 yards. . . it's all a big effort. . . I didn't putt that well.'

Having dispensed with the coaching services of Bob Torrance 18 months ago, Woosnam went in search of the oracle and found himself in the fine-tuning bay of David Leadbetter. However, before the first round here, Woosnam did some work with Torrance. 'I'll take a tip from everybody,' he said. 'I was bending my right knee and I shouldn't do it. I'm too small.' So much for Twitty's lofty observations.