Sam Snead, at 87 the oldest living Open champion, will head the select field for a special four-hole exhibition on the eve of the 2000 Open at St Andrews in July. Snead, the 1946 winner, will be joined by up to 24 other past champions in playing the first, second, 17th and 18th holes of the Old Course late on the Wednesday afternoon prior to the 129th Championship.
Last year's winner, Paul Lawrie, will also appear alongside Tom Watson, Peter Thomson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle and John Daly, the last winner at St Andrews in 1995.
Trevino, the champion in 1971 and '72, first suggested the idea of the event to the now retired Royal and Ancient secretary, Michael Bonallack.
Of the 27 living champions, Max Faulkner and Kel Nagle will be unable to appear for health reasons. Otherwise, only a couple have still to confirm, including Johnny Miller, the 1976 champion, who has conflicting television commitments in the United States.
Apart from the record prize fund at the Open of £2.75m, a huge attendance in excess of 200,000 is expected. More grandstand seating and car park spaces will be provided than ever before. Although entry is available on the day, advanced ticket sales are ahead of schedule, and there has been a heavy demand for the free tickets offered to under-16s.
While the rough at Carnoustie last year got out of hand, the R&A and the St Andrews Links Trust, which maintains the Old Course and the five other layouts in the town, are expecting a hard, fast-running links. "We don't use fertilisers," said the head greenkeeper Eddie Adams. All 112 bunkers have been revetted over the past two years, using six acres of turf.
Hell Bunker, on the 14th, will live up to its name: it is 30 yards wide, 30 yards long in places and 10 feet deep and took five greenkeepers two months to rebuild. The Road Hole Bunker on the 17th has been made slightly smaller but in other traps players will find more problems extracting themselves than the ball.
The R&A has yet to make a decision about the new so-called "hot drivers" which have been banned by the US Golf Association. Around a dozen drivers have failed the USGA's new test for "spring-like behaviour", including Callaway's ERC model which Colin Montgomerie may use in this weekend's Spanish Open. Currently, Monty could use the driver in the Open but not the US Open or USPGA. The R&A is still considering what, if any, test they should apply. "We are aware the lack of uniformity between ourselves and the USGA is undesirable," Dawson said. "We want to resolve the matter quickly, but not in haste. We support the USGA's determination to protect the integrity of the game but wanted to study the problem thoroughly."
A study at Birmingham University has suggested the effect of new materials is more significant for handicap players than golf's leading lights. "This business of players hitting the ball 30 yards further is not supported by the physics," Dawson said. "The maximum Tiger Woods could gain is eight or nine yards. Athleticism has just as much to do with how far players are now hitting the ball as technology. No one has ever swung the club like Tiger."