Notes Rain Not Yet a Factor

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SANDWICH, England -- The horns sounded just before 4:00 PM local time. Thunder had arrived and rain was on the way.
 
As expected, the heavens opened Wednesday, but only for a short while. The brief shower might have added a little moisture to a considerably firm and fast Royal St. Georges golf course, but certainly did not contribute enough to make a considerable difference.
 
Its going to need a pretty strong deluge to make this course play soft, said 1994 Open Champion Nick Price.
 
According to Tiger Woods, officials had watered the course over the first couple of practice days so that the course wouldnt get away from them.
 
When the Open was played 10 years ago at RSG, heavier Wednesday rains provided relief for the players once the tournament started. Such is not expected this time.
 
Though it may again rain Wednesday night and a little on Thursday, that's about all the course will receive.
 
Temperatures, which have hovered near 80 degrees over the first three days, are forecasted to drop into the mid-60s Thursday, steadily increasing to Sunday.
 
Even if we do get some rain between now and 6:30 tomorrow morning, that wont be enough to change the nature of the course as we see it now, said Royal & Ancient Secretary Peter Dawson.
 
And the forecast for the championship itself is pretty dry conditions. I think the course will get progressively quicker as the championship wears on.
 
GET A MOVE ON
 
Pace of play is always an issue in the Open Championship. There are 156 players in field, and with the wind and the difficult course conditions the time between shots increases.
 
In an effort to get play in under the sunlight, tournament officials have pushed up starting times on Thursday and Friday to 6:30 AM. They are also hoping that will pick up the pace of play.
 
It enables us to have starting intervals of 11 minutes rather than 10 minutes, said chairman of the R&As Championship Committee David Pepper. I think you will find on the average tour event you have a 10-minute interval, and that one extra minute certainly helps.'
 
If this does not help, and players fall behind their required positions, penalties will be enforced.
 
They have so many seconds in which to play the shot ' 40 seconds in some cases, 50 seconds in others. And if they have a bad time they are warned,' Pepper said.
 
And if they have a second bad time then they are penalized one shot. There are further sanctions, which eventually go as far as disqualification. But I dont think Ive ever come across a situation beyond one shot.
 
Since they do not employ split tees, the last tee time is at 4:06 PM, meaning every ounce of daylight will be needed to complete the first two rounds on time.
 
THE LANG AND SHORT OF IT
 
Bernhard Langer has never won the Open Championship, but he has had great success at Royal St. Georges.
 
He finished second in 1981, tied for third in 85 and finished solo third in 93. But he isnt expecting a similar result this week.
 
When I came here in 81, 85 and 93, I had had three tremendous years. I played extremely good golf throughout the whole year. My confidence was up and I cant say that now, said Langer, who has been playing through a major swing change.
 
The 45-year-old German may not be able to add to his 1985 and 93 Masters victories, but he hopes to make one more major move by taking the reigns as European Ryder Cup captain in 2004 at Oakland Hills.
 
Langer has long expressed his interest, and said Wednesday that he would focus fully on his captaincy, should he get the job, than try and be a player-captain.
 
Once you commit to be the captain they say you cant be captain and player, he said. So I guess after many months of thinking it through Ive committed to the captaincy and I will see who gets the job.
 
NOT-SO GREAT EXPECTATIONS
 
Kenny Perry has won three of his last four events, but, like Langer, he isnt expecting too much this week.
 
Its not my style of golf. Im not much in the wind and I dont hit it very low, he said. 'I hit it real high, and then run it up. But technology has changed. The golf ball flies straighter now, and it has helped me. I noticed yesterday it helped me a bunch. It made me feel a lot more comfortable.
 
The 42-year-old Kentuckian has competed in only one Open. He missed the cut in 1991 at Royal Birkdale.
 
BACK IN THE OPEN
 
Fred Couples wasnt sure if hed be able to make the cross-continental trip due to his chronic back problems.
 
This years Shell Houston Open champion pulled out of last weeks Barclays Scottish Open, but made his way to Royal St. Georges.
 
Got here and felt horrible (Tuesday), but had a back doctor (Tom Boers) here in town and I feel really good today, Couples said Wednesday. So Im going to see him tonight, tomorrow and hopefully be ready by Thursday.
 
Couples skipped last years Open. He has played only five times since he tied for ninth at this venue in 1993. He has eight top-10s in 14 career starts.
 
AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
 
Colin Montgomerie will be trying to win his first major with the help of a belly putter ' a device he uses, but believes should be made illegal.
 
Its not fair, he said of the club. Three pivot points for us is not right. You should have two bodily parts touching the club at one point, at one time. And three shouldnt be allowed. But as long as it is allowed, Im using it.
 
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