One week to go before the Open and the world's golfing elite are as happy as lambs. It does not take much. Merely a superb golf course, in magnificent condition, situated in place of stunning natural beauty with a sizeable pot of pounds 800,000 to be found at the end of the rainbow on Saturday.
The dreamy setting on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond has attracted a so-called "field of dreams" for the World Invitational. Five of the top 10 in the world are here, and four of the top six. Greg Norman, deposed as No 1 by Tiger Woods' victory in America at the weekend, US Open champion Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lehman and Nick Faldo head a line-up which has Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Payne Stewart as part of the chorus line.
Lyle Anderson, the president of Loch Lomond, insists appearance money, or even the legal "facility fees", are not being paid. There are other arrangements that can be made, and the sponsors, Gulfstream, offered to fly Lehman, Stewart and Tommy Tolles over from Chicago.
They should have left after the Western Open on Sunday night, but mechanical problems on their plane delayed their arrival until Monday evening. No wonder Norman is swapping his Gulfstream for a Boeing, a transaction that might put his appearance in this tournament in future years in doubt.
Some problems of international sportsmen can be identified with more readily. Vijay Singh did not make it past immigration at Miami Airport as his visa has run out and he had to withdraw. Els had to move rooms three times in his hotel on Tuesday night. "The beds were not big enough," the 6ft 3in South African said. "It was either Liezl [his girlfriend] sleeping on the floor, or me."
After two weeks off since following up his victory at Congressional by winning the Buick Classic, Els has been working hard to regain his touch. Lehman, after a lie-in, headed out for his first practice round at four o'clock yesterday after telling his wife he would be back at nightfall. By then, Montgomerie had completed his preparations, which probably need not have been anything more taxing than slipping on a video of his last- round 62 in retaining the Irish Open on Sunday.
Montgomerie was fourth in the inaugural event here last year, five behind Thomas Bjorn, but no Scot has won in Scotland since Ken Brown at the Glasgow Open in 1984. Monty was scuppered by Peter O'Malley, seven under for the last five holes, in the 1992 Scottish Open. "Somebody upstairs didn't want me to win that day," Monty said.
"I am not thinking any further forward than tomorrow and I will go out there to enjoy myself. I am playing well enough to enjoy myself, and in most walks of life, if you enjoy what you are doing, you are usually quite good at it. There are expectations on me here, but I have never backed away from that. I think it is great the support you get when you come back home to Scotland."
Norman thinks Scottish fans are "the best in the world" and lamented the sort of gallery at Congressional which so disturbed Monty. Norman, who was involved in an incident at the Kemper Open when he thought a spectator told him to "chunk it in the water", is concerned that crowds are not so much fuelled by Tigermania as booze. "I have seen a change over the last few years," he said. "I don't know if alcohol creates a problem, but in baseball they have banned the sale of alcohol after three o'clock. There have been a couple of times when I have feared for my safety."
n Wayne Grady, who was involved in a three-way play-off at the 1989 Open at Royal Troon, has withdrawn from next week's Open championship. No reason has been given.Reuse content