Notes British Still Mystery for Mickelson

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Despite all the preparation at Royal Troon and playing the majors better than ever, the British Open remains somewhat of a mystery to Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
 
He started with nine consecutive pars on the easier front nine, didn't make a birdie until the par-5 16th and wound up with a 2-over 73.
 
'I didn't hit the ball the way I wanted to, and I didn't putt that well,' Mickelson said. 'But I was able to keep the ball in the right spot and salvage 2 over, which I wouldn't consider a good round today.'
 
Mickelson was in the 12th group Thursday morning, when conditions were the tamest of the first round. He finished in a tie for 73rd and tees off at 1:42 p.m. when the wind is supposed to be its strongest, so making the cut might be his first priority. Then again, he's still only seven shots behind.
 
Even though Mickelson has never finished in the top 10 at a British Open, he had some history on his side. The last player to win the Masters and finish second in the U.S. Open the same year was Arnold Palmer, and the King went on to win the British that year -- at Royal Troon.
 
WHAT A TRIP
Chris DiMarco made 30-foot birdie putts on Nos. 15 and 18 to salvage a 71, not a bad start to the British Open considering how long it took him to arrive at Royal Troon.
 
DiMarco was supposed to leave Monday night from Philadelphia until a blanket that was stuffed into the toilet on the airplane caused the entire system to malfunction and eventually led to the flight being canceled. The next night, electrical problems delayed that flight, so he didn't arrive until 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.
 
And by then, the course was closed for play.
 
'They let me walk around the course,' DiMarco said. 'I actually played here about four years ago in a pro-am with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, so I knew it a little bit. But not in conditions for a British Open.'
 
The lack of knowledge -- and a bad bounce -- cost him on the 11th.
 
DiMarco hit a drive slightly to the right, while Rod Pampling hit his drive well to the right.
 
'There's one ball in the fairway, and I figured it was mine,' DiMarco said. 'His must have kicked to the left. We looked 5 minutes for mine and never found it.'
 
He wound up with a triple bogey, but rallied down the closing holes for a hard-earned 71.
 
DiMarco was wearing rain pants on a sunny day and a white shirt with a Royal Troon logo, an indication that even getting to Scotland didn't mean his problems were over. His suitcase never arrived from Philadelphia.
 
But at least his golf clubs did.
 
UNION JACK
Ian Poulter caused quite a stir at the British Open -- not for his golf, but his pants.
 
Poulter, who often spikes and dyes his hair various colors, wore Union Jack trousers that were the rage of Royal Troon, and even outraged some.
 
The switchboard at the staid club was lit up with phone calls protesting his attire, but the 28-year-old Englishman thought it was smashing.
 
'I've had comments all around the golf course, wolf whistles and 'Love the pants.' It's just good fun,' Poulter said. 'I'm always trying to be different. I don't like the way most people dress on the golf course -- pretty bland, pretty boring. My persona is not like that.'
 
Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson told the Press Association that there is nothing in the rule book that bans players from wearing Union Jack trousers.
 
'All you can do is hope players adhere to the dress code on the European tour,' Dawson said. 'I wonder what he has in store for tomorrow?'
 
A BIG MAN IN A SMALL BUNKER
Tom Weiskopf did not make a triumphant return to Royal Troon, taking four shots to get out of a pot bunker for a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole.
 
A wire-to-wire winner at Royal Troon in 1973, Weiskopf now spends much of his time on course design. And he had no problems with the pot bunker that brought him down Thursday.
 
'Just big enough for an angry man with a club,' he said.
 
The 61-year-old Weiskopf has not played in the British Open since 1995, and this will his last appearance. He opened with an 80.
 
Weiskopf played with former British Open and Masters champion Sandy Lyle, who had his own take on seeing the tall American buried in a bunker.
 
'He may be 6-foot-5, but he was digging so big a hole in the sand that he was disappearing at one stage,' Lyle said.
 
LATE FILL-IN
David Griffiths was the fifth alternate from local qualifying, and he thought about going to Italy to play a Challenge Tour event. Instead, he hung around Troon with hopes someone might withdraw.
 
Within 30 minutes of the first tee shot, former British Open champion David Duval withdrew and Griffiths found himself on the first tee, playing his first Open.
 
It wasn't the best way to prepare for his first major. On the other hand, he didn't have much time to let nerves get the best of him.
 
'I didn't have time to think until (No.) 6 when I made an 8,' he said.
 
Griffiths wound up with a 75.
 
POSTAGE HISTORY
Ernie Els was not the first player to make a hole-in-one on the Postage Stamp eighth hole, nor was he the most famous. That distinction belongs to Gene Sarazen, one of five players to have won the career Grand Slam.
 
Sarazen failed to qualify for the first British Open held at Royal Troon in 1923. Fifty years later, the 71-year-old known as 'The Squire' made an ace in the first round and a birdie in the second round, although he missed the cut.
 
'Me and Gene Sarazen,' Els said with a smile. 'I don't know what he played, probably hit his 5-iron.'
 
Els hit wedge from 123 yards.
 
The last player to ace the Postage Stamp was Denis Edlund in the second round of the 1997 Open. He went on to a 77 and missed the cut at 16-over 158.
 
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