THE OPEN: Troon Talk

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Canny fans plan ahead

to the millennium

One down and two more to go until the Millennium Open at St Andrews in 2000. Golf followers at Troon have already given indications that they are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to planning. Perhaps noting Royal Troon's own club motto, Tam Arte Quam Marte (As much by skill as by strength) the main hotels at Southport near the Royal Birkdale course are said to be already booked up for next year's arrival of the Open circus.

And in 1999 when the Open returns to Carnoustie, where Tom Watson won in 1975, a new four-star hotel is being built on the site of the eyesore architecture that used to serve as the old clubhouse. At Troon this week the new hotel was already taking bookings. As one member of the Scottish Tourist Board pointed out, "it says something about Scotland's pulling power when we can book a hotel that isn't even there yet."

If the hotels near Carnoustie are booked out, what are the options? St Andrews, aiming to get in some crowd practice before the year 2000, is planning a hovercraft service to take the well-heeled from the hotel delights of Rufflets, Rusacks and the Old Course Hotel directly over the Firth to Carnoustie. A case of air today, the old course tomorrow.

Arnie's Army eclipses Tigermania - it's official

The older members at Royal Troon will be relieved that one of the more obscure records of golf over their links has survived the year of Tigermania. While much was made of Master Woods' early demands to have armed guards around him to fend off the over-enthusiastic or even the psychotic, the memory of the 1962 Open, according to some, puts Tiger in his place.

The '62 Open at Troon is still called Palmer's Open. Just as much worry then surrounded the potential tactics of Arnie's Army. In the days before the fairways were roped off, around 20,000 fans were expected to rush after Palmer's every shot. Which they did. But while Tigermania was under strict control, one casualty of Palmer's time remains a quiet record. The match referee, Charles Lawrie, was responsible for the final game between Palmer and Ken Nagle. The crowds were so fierce that, at the 15th Lawrie, was knocked head-first into a bunker during one of the crowd's surges.

As one elderly member of Troon told the Diary, "Charles disappeared and the match was thus refereeless. I don't know the implications as regards the rules but we never saw him again until the 18th when he caught up." Even the crowds outside the old clubhouse were so fierce that a window caved in due to the pressure.

Has there been any damage this year? As one club official said yesterday: "Of all the records Arnold Palmer holds, maybe this is one the R&A will be glad to never see repeated."

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