Expect needle near the pin as draw for Open pitches Woods with Faldo

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It should be an interesting atmosphere here on the first tee at 2.09pm on Thursday when Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo shake hands. Indeed, if the temperature stays as hot as it was yesterday then this could just be the coollest place on The Wirral.

It has been one of golf's worst-kept secrets that the best golfer that America has ever produced is not best friends with the best golfer Britain has ever produced.

Ever since Faldo criticised Woods on air in his "other job" as a commentator for ABC Television, the pair have not spoken to each other with the world No 1 blanking the Englishman whenever their paths have crossed. For that reason the draw elicited many sniggers around the Hoylake locker rooms. But not from Faldo.

"I guess I'll see on Thursday if we are speaking or not," said the three-times Open winner. "What happened is all under the bridge, but with a few trout lying on the side. What I said was what I'm paid to do. I'm entitled to my opinion. Sometimes I might be wrong, sometimes I'm right. As long as it's entertaining and the cheques keep coming is what counts."

What Faldo in fact said at last year's Buick Invitational was "What was that?" after Woods had sliced his two-iron second shot to the final green so far right of target it actually missed the water in front of the green. That piece of good fortune enabled Woods to go on to win the tournament, but only after Faldo had dissected the swing in slow motion, exclaimed that he "fanned" it and questioned how the world's finest could have played such a bad shot in such circumstances.

Despite admitting that "I absolutely whiffed it", Woods, who was making changes to his swing under the guidance of his coach, Hank Haney, was furious to hear of the comments and was understood to be extremely keen to play Faldo in the Tavistock Cup later that year. Fortunately for the 48-year-old, bad weather prevented that from happening, but Woods will have a belated chance to make his point in the Open's opening two rounds. Faldo is dreading it for another reason, however.

"I've been thrown in the deep end, the spotlight will be on us and I'm totally unprepared," said Faldo, who won his last major, the US Masters, a decade ago. "I have had only a week to prepare for this. I haven't played a competitive round since April."

Woods - who once again undertook his usual dawn shift at Hoylake yesterday starting his practice round just after 6.30am and was packed up and home four hours later - was not available to give his side of the story. But the 30-year-old is renowned for bearing grudges and is not expected to be in the mood for burying any hatchets.

After missing his first cut as a professional in a major at the US Open when he was returning after a near 10-week absence grieving the death of his father, Woods will, anyway, be completely focused on the job in hand and if this second nonchalant trip around the 7,258-yard layout was anything to go by he will bring some challenge to his nemesis, Phil Mickelson, as well as some embarrassment to his enemy Faldo.

Mickelson, who will be going for his third major victory in four, will also have a British hope for company in Darren Clarke, while Ernie Els will have Luke Donald trying to escape from his formidable shadow. Neither did Colin Montgomerie land the quiet spot he had hoped for. John Daly is anything but a silent partner.

But none of these were the most startling aspects about the draw-sheet. The name Severiano Ballesteros has not been seen on the Open scoreboard since 2001 at Lytham, since the great conquistador has taken long leaves of absence from the game suffering from a chronic back condition. As per the previous four Opens, Ballesteros's withdrawal was expected but the sight of the 49-year-old on the driving range confirmed his participation.

Two 81s at the French Open a fortnight ago - which was his first event in eight months - bode ominously for Ballesteros in such intense competition, so why is he putting himself through it? Jose Maria Olazabal, his great friend and former Ryder Cup sidekick, believes he knows why. "His son is caddying for him this week and I think that's the main reasons why he has come back - to take his son on the golf course and let him see how the game is played," he said.

"Baldomero is a good player and it is time for the son to get his first impression of a links course."

Thirty years ago, Birkdale witnessed a skinny Spaniard announce himself to the world with a display of his potential genius when finishing second to Johnny Miller. Hoylake will have their own teenaged Ballesteros to peer at this week. If this is indeed his father's final hurrah, then the 16-year-old will be having some tutorial.

Thursday's first-round tee-off times at Hoylake

* Open Tee-off times (Hoylake) (GB and Irl unless stated, all times BST):

(*) denotes amateur

Starting at first hole.

06.30 S Elkington (Aus), P Hedblom (Swe), J Kelly (US)

06.41 B Lane, B Andrade (US), M Fraser (Aus)

06.52 S K Ho (S Kor), M Ilonen (Fin), J Senden (Aus)

07.03 M Calcavecchia (US), A Cabrera (Arg), K Ferrie

07.14 B Dredge, B Curtis (US), K J Choi (S Kor)

07.25 N Fasth (Swe), T Herron (US), M Hensby (Aus)

07.36 P Casey, S Garcia (Sp), F Couples (US)

07.47 M Weir (Can), L Westwood, S Verplank (US)

07.58 *E Molinari (It), E Els (SA), L Donald

08.09 J Furyk (US), R Pampling (Aus), G Owen

08.20 V Singh (Fiji), D Howell, Z Johnson (US)

08.31 S Dodd, T Hamilton (US), R Allenby (Aus)

08.42 B Langer (Ger), K Perry (US), P Lawrie

08.58 C Montgomerie, J Daly (US), S Appleby (Aus)

09.09 P Harrington, A Oberholser (US), N O'Hern (Aus)

09.20 P Mickelson (US), D Clarke, Y Imano (Japan)

09.31 I Poulter, S Micheel (US), S Ballesteros (Sp)

09.42 T Muto (Japan), P Broadhurst, B Bryant (US)

09.53 P Price, T Lehman (US), J B Holmes (US)

10.04 A Wall, S O'Hair (US), T Ichihara (Japan)

10.15 T Pernice Jnr (US), W Abery (SA), J Payne

10.26 B Quigley (US), M Wright (Aus), W Bladon

10.37 L Slattery, S Kapur (Ind), V Taylor (US)

10.48 T Aiken (SA), S Kjeldsen (Den), A Marshall

10.59 A Bland (Aus), A Romero (Arg), A Frayne

11.10 N Ludwell, B Bunny (Aus), M Pilkington

11.41 R Beem (US), T Wiratchant (Thai), S Drummond

11.52 F Funk (US), S Lyle, R Sabbatini (SA)

12.03 S Dyson, M O'Meara (US), C Schwartzel (SA)

12.14 R Rock, J Maggert (US), J Lyle (Aus)

12.25 T Purdy (US), M Goggin (Aus), *M Thorp (Nor)

12.36 R Green (Aus), J J Henry (US), J Donaldson

12.47 R Karlsson (Swe), B Jobe (US), J Bickerton

12.58 L Glover (US), P Lonard (Aus), G McDowell

13.09 N Dougherty, M Campbell (NZ), M A Jimenez (Sp)

13.20 G Ogilvy (Aus), C Pettersson (Swe), C DiMarco (US)

13.31 J M Olazabal (Sp), A Baddeley (Aus), C Campbell (US)

13.42 A Scott (Aus), H Stenson (Swe), J Guerrier (Fr)

13.53 S Ames (Can), B Crane (US), K Fukabori (Japan)

14.09 S Katayama (Japan), T Woods (US), N Faldo

14.20 D Duval (US), P McGinley, H Tanihara (Japan)

14.31 T Bjorn (Den), T Immelman (SA), D Love III (US)

14.42 R Goosen (SA), T Watson (US), G Fernandez-Castano (Sp)

14.53 T Clark (SA), S Cink (US), J Edfors (Swe)

15.04 L Oosthuizen (SA), B Wetterich (US), S Khan

15.15 S Wakefield, B Hughes (Aus), B van Pelt (US)

15.26 D Dennison, B Rumford (Aus), R Sterne (SA)

15.37 J Sluman (US), D Smail (NZ), M Brier (Aut)

15.48 U Park (Aus), C Rodiles (Sp), H Mahan (US)

15.59 G Day, B Vaughan (US), M Ruiz (Par)

16.10 G Lockerbie, J Bevan, W Perske (Aus)

16.21 S Little, R Wellington (SA), D Parris

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