Notes St Andrews Weather Quickly Turns Ugly


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Now this is more like it.
The British Open felt like Florida much of Tuesday, the temperature climbing to 84 degrees'downright sweltering in these parts. Fans strolled along the Old Course in shorts and T-shirts, while hundreds of sunbathers cooled off in the waters of nearby St. Andrews Bay.
Then, with stunning swiftness, things got back to normal.
The wind shifted, the temperature plunged 22 degrees in only five minutes and a thick fog rolled in off the North Sea. In local lingo, its known as the haar'sea fog.
The temperature of the North Sea is very, very low, meteorologist Mike McClellan said. The hot air over cold water created the fog. When the wind shifted, it just brought it right on inland.
Golfers who had been practicing in short-sleeve shirts suddenly had to dig out sweaters and jackets. Shivering fans flocked toward the exits, no longer dressed appropriately and not able to see much anyway. Once the fog settled over the course, the flag at No. 1 was barely visible from the tee box.
Suddenly, its back to normal, two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said.
Tom Pernice, who played 18 holes in the heat of the day, grabbed his bag and scrambled for the warmth of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse.
The Scottish weather has come, he said. The other was a bit too warm.
McClellan said summertime temperatures in the mid-80s are hardly commonplace in eastern Scotland. The usual high this time of year is around 65.
Temperatures are expected to sink into a more normal range the rest of the week'between 65 and 70 -- while the winds should pick up to 15-20 mph, still rather light by Scottish standards but stiffer than they have been.
Thursday is going to be kind of breezy, McClellan said. That should be a good day at the Open championship. They want it kind of windy around here.
St. Andrews'which is shorter than most major layouts and has plenty of width on the fairways'relies on the unpredictable Scottish weather to help keep scores in line.
Five years ago, when the wind and rain stayed away, Woods overpowered the Old Course for a 19-under 269, the lowest score in relation to par in major championship history. But in 1995, John Dalys winning score at St. Andrews was 13 strokes higher.
They keep it fair and let Mother Nature dictate what the winning score is going to be, Woods said. The wind didnt blow in 2000 and I went low. The wind blew in 95 and we didnt go very low. Its kind of cool when you play it that way.
While McClellan forecast more normal conditions the rest of the week, stay tuned. As Tuesday showed, things can change drastically in a matter of minutes.
This is like Pebble Beach, he said, times five.
Tiger Woods has a familiar role at the British Open.
Betting firm William Hill made Woods a 5-2 pick to win his second Open championship, hoping to stem the flood of money pouring in on the nine-time major champion.
It wasnt working.
Hill predicted a record of more than $35 million will be wagered on the tournament in this betting-crazed nation'much of it on Woods. Already, the firm took a bet of about $35,000 from a Scottish client, while a London gambler put more than $14,000 on the American to win.
This time last year, you could get 6-1 for Tiger to win the Open, but he is coming into this years event bang in form and our customers are backing him as though defeat were out of the question, Hills spokesman Graham Sharpe said. If he wins, the industry will take a multimillion-pound hit.
Woods won the Masters in April and was runner-up to Michael Campbell at the U.S. Open last month.
Ladbrokes, the other of Britains two largest betting firms, made Woods a 3-1 pick, with the lure of a slightly higher payout should he win.
Hills second choice was Ernie Els at 10-1, followed by Vijay Singh (14-1) and Phil Mickelson (16-1). Ladbrokes also made Els its second choice (8-1) and was giving the same odds on Singh and Mickelson.
British gamblers already are lining up behind Woods to break Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major titles. A Hill client wagered almost $20,000 -- at 10-1 odds'that Woods would claim his 19th major title by 2010.
Hill was giving 6-1 that Woods would eclipse Nicklaus mark before retiring.
And what about Nicklaus, who is playing the final major of his storied career at St. Andrews?
Ladbrokes had the Golden Bear at 5,000-1, while Hill made him a 1,000-1 long shot. The latter firm also provided 3-1 odds on Nicklaus making a birdie at his final hole'whether its Friday (should he miss the cut) or Sunday.
Mark Calcavecchia made short work of his practice rounds.
The 89 British Open champion is staying at the Old Course Hotel, just off the 17th fairway at St. Andrews. Rather than walk up to first tee, Calcavecchia rolls out of bed and heads for the second tee across the fairway. And after he plays the 17th, he goes back to his room.
I did the same thing in 2000, he said. I never played the first or 18th holes until the tournament started.
Tuesday was different. He started at 5:45 a.m., so early that he played among the mowers. He was done by about 8:30 a.m., only this time he played the 18th.
But only because I had to go inside and register, Calcavecchia said.
So much for Jack Nicklaus fading into retirement.
In addition to all the furor created at St. Andrews by his last appearance, Nicklaus will get more attention at next months PGA Championship.
The Golden Bear has been named honorary chairman of the final major of the year, which begins Aug. 11 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
The day before the tournaments first round, a permanent commemorative plaque is to be placed in Nicklaus honor on the 18th tee of Baltusrols Lower Course, where he won a pair of U.S. Opens.
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