Woods draw destroys Westwood's quiet dream
Tuesday 13 July 2004
How things have changed at the Royal and Ancient. Being in charge of the Open Championship is an important job but in recent times blazers have been exchanged for windcheaters, under the appropriate climatic conditions as approved by the championship committee, and now they seem to have developed a sense of humour.
The last thing Lee Westwood said on leaving Loch Lomond for Ayrshire and Open week was that he was planning to keep things "low key". His noble intentions were made harder when he was drawn with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday.
Woods may have been made only joint favourite with Ernie Els at 8-1 with some bookmakers, but the world No 1 remains the centre of attention. Nor is the third member of the group exactly unknown. Greg Norman is a two-time champion who lost in a play-off at Troon in 1989 to Mark Calcavecchia.
"We've had Henmania and that's enough," Westwood said in hoping to stay out of the limelight, despite admitting his game is at its best entering a major than at any time in the last four years. "I want to stay out of the way and stay fresh. I'm going to be reclusive."
There was a definite up side in the draw for the 31-year-old from Worksop in that he will be playing in the afternoon on Thursday and the morning on Friday. The racehorse he owns is running at Hamilton on Friday evening and he should be able to make it.
Tiger would have lost his No 1 place in the world rankings had Els won the US Open. The South African has another chance to go the top of the list by winning a second Open title in three years. If he should do so, Woods will have to finish 17th or better not to be overtaken.
Els has been drawn with Justin Leonard, the champion here in 1997, and Luke Donald, the Chicago-based Englishman who played with Tiger last year. Paul Casey, another of the young British talents, could be killed with kindness when he plays with Shigeki Maruyama and the Masters champion Phil Mickelson, both of whom like to flash the white teeth.
Frank Lickliter is expecting plenty of smiles in his threesome which also includes Colin Montgomerie and Thomas Bjorn but it could be a group of sudden mood swings. Lickliter is a hunting and fishing American who has been described as a "hot head", so he should be in good company.
Montgomerie and Bjorn had a "handbags" moment in the steamy heat of Bangkok earlier in the year when Bjorn had to back off a chip because the Scot was still stomping across a bridge to the green. At the end of the round the tournament director, at which point they were not speaking, had to get them to shake hands and make up.
Before the draw could be finalised there was a confused end to the qualifying system at the John Deere Classic in America. As at Loch Lomond, the highest-placed player not already exempt earned a place. But the Australian Mark Hensby told his opponent in the play-off, Bristol's John Morgan, that he would reject the invitation if he won and that Morgan could have it.
Hensby duly won at the second extra hole and the 26-year-old Morgan, in his second season on the US Tour, thought he was coming to Troon despite not having claimed his maiden title. Embarrassed US Tour officials had to inform Morgan later in the evening that the exemption could not be transferred. "It would have been lovely," Morgan said. "It's just one of those things. You've got to follow the rules. They apologised to me. It's a shame."
With practice rounds getting underway in earnest, Leonard was among those to praise the set-up of the course. "I think the R&A do an incredible job at setting the course up fairly and maintaining the course the way it is meant to be played," said Leonard, who watched the mayhem on the final day of the US Open on television after missing the cut. "They don't worry about the winning score. The weather dictates that."
Leonard, however, had no explanation for the run of five successive American winners at Troon. Calcavecchia said: "You don't have to play the course 20 times to understand it like some of the others. That's the only thing I can think of."
Calcavecchia made a passable attempt at a British accent when he said it would be, "shocking, as you would say, a shocker," if he was to win this week. "After '89 I thought there would be at least one more major by now. You can always have worked harder, but I'd rather have a root canal than go to the gym. But I've no regrets. I had a great time."
Leonard, now a husband and father, is generally strait-laced but almost confirmed the story of his celebrations seven years ago. "According to the rumour I heard, I was out on the 17th green in the dark, there was pizza and a few pints and three or four guys but that's just what I've read."
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