Strange Scottish Screenplay

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Scottish gems age well ' malt whiskey, ancient links, Old Tom, that would be Watson, an adopted Scot by way of Kansas City via his five names on the Claret Jug, not Morris.
 
Others ' like Tiger Woods bunting ballgame, the same one he used to roll over Hoylake in 2006 ' are best deemed works in progress. Either way, all four had big days on the Firth of Clyde.
 
Turnberrys Alisa Course was at its bouncy best, the whisky flowed freely in the restored resort and Watson, looking more like the toothy version who made history here in 1977 than a 59-year-old making a ceremonial turn on familiar ground, shot his age, or so it seemed.
 
As for Woods, his mastery of Hoylake seemed like a distant memory on Thursday. The cleek Woods used at Royal Liverpool was short and sideways at Turnberry, less a tactical flaw than a matter of execution, and he struggled to a 1-over 71 card that is six strokes adrift of a charging Watson not named Bubba.
 
The course is defenseless, Watson reasoned, who trails Miguel Angel Jimenez by one shot after an opening 65.
 
Scriptwriters could not conjure up such outlandish storylines. An aging warhorse 32 years removed from his memorable Duel in the Sun with Nicklaus at Turnberry in the hunt, a world No. 1 who struggled to find fairways and beaten in his own three-ball by a 17-year-old playing his first Open Championship. That screenplay doesnt sell, too X Files for mainstream.
 
But there it was, in yellow and black adjacent the 18th green as Woods finished up an untidy round: Watson 65, Woods 71, Ryo Ishikawa 68.
 
(Watson) knows how to play the golf course, said Woods, a rare smile inching across his face. Look at all the guys out there playing well, they know how to play the course.
 
So does Woods, if only his golf ball would cooperate.
 
For the most part Woods played under Turnberrys trouble, and behind his playing companions, in an attempt to add his second bunting title to the masterpiece he crafted three years ago at Royal Liverpool. Or maybe he just wanted to see what life is like from Corey Pavins tee shots, either way Woods Day 1 experiment rates an incomplete at best.
 
Woods drove down the right and struggled ' a common problem for Americans on Scotlands byways and fairways.
 
Although he hit driver or 3-wood five times on Thursday, he connected with just eight fairways and, even worse, 12 greens in regulation. Still, he was 1 under through 14 holes before gunning his third shot 12 feet by the hole at No. 15. At the 16th he was burned by the burn in front of the green when his 5-iron approach bounded into the creek. And the reachable par-5 17th was a microcosm of his entire day: a drive into the gallery right, a second shot into the hay right of the fairway and a scrambling par.
 
Sort of made a few mistakes out there and probably should have been 1 or 2 under, said Woods before heading to the practice range. Maybe tomorrow I can clean it up.
 
Maybe he should watch some of that grainy footage of Watson from the 77 Open, or, if unavailable, highlights from the seniors opening round on Thursday, when he proved for all the ages ballstriking is not age discriminate.
 
Watsons opening cards at Turnberry now read 68-77-68-65, a 278 total that would have won three of the last seven Open Championships. And that doesnt count his first-round 64 on the Ailsa Course during the 2003 British Senior Open.
 
It was old timers day at Turnberry and Watson was not the only player having a senior moment. Two behind were former champions Mark OMeara (52) and Mark Calcavecchia (49). Thats a combined 160 years and 77 Open starts in the top 15.
 
Its the kind of golf course where you try and play into position all the time and sometimes those positions arent 320 yards down the fairway, said Lee Westwood, who played with Woods. Toms obviously a classy player and hes quite capable of hitting it 280, 290 off the tee.
 
Perhaps, but then someone forgot to explain links rules to Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa.
 
The teen was 3 years old the last time the Open was played at Turnberry and, playing with Woods, eschewed the tactical status quo, muscling driver all over the lot and charging putts at the hole like a Young Tom Watson.
 
His course management is reflective of him being 17 years old, Westwood observed. He hit a lot of drivers, when Tiger hit 2-irons into position. Over time hell learn that.
 
It all added up to a 2-under 68, three shots better than his idol Woods, which created a buzz in betting circles considering an Ishikawa low-ball bet against Woods would have paid handsomely.
 
Luckily for Woods the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, unlike Ladbrokes, likes to go the whole 72 before they hand out checks. Roger Federer may be the world No. 1s texting pal and Grand Slam equal, but Woods approach to major championships is cut more from the Lance Armstrong mold ' keep pace with the leaders through three days and blow them away during Sundays run through the mountains.
 
Its a truth that makes Thursdays 71 less concerning, if not newsworthy. It wont be easy. Woods has still never won a major after trailing through three rounds and the distance between he and the lead will only get wider if the forecast holds.
 
But then Woods, much like Scottish gems, has a tendency of getting better with age.
 
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