Notebook: No tension as Woods and Faldo cross paths
Plus, the R&A sees no more changes to encourage women to try to qualify, Chris DiMarco has one eye on the Ryder Cup standings, David Howell has an opinion on the weather, officials like what they see of Royal Liverpool, and more.
HOYLAKE, England -- Far from being sworn enemies, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods looked more like the best of buddies when their paths crossed on the practice ground on the eve of the Open Championship on Wednesday.
The tabloids have been buzzing all week about Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo playing together the first two rounds, fueled by Woods' comments Tuesday that he would be surprised if Faldo wanted to talk. But there was talk and a handshake Wednesday afternoon on the practice range.
According to photographers who were across the street on the range, Faldo and Woods chatted briefly, then shook hands. Faldo later circled behind him and spoke with swing coach Hank Haney as Woods continued to hit balls.
The golfing giants have been paired together for the first two rounds. It will be their first duel since Faldo's television criticism of a swing made by the world No. 1 during a tournament in America 17 months ago.
Faldo, 49, played down any animosity between the two after the draw was made on Monday, saying it was "water under bridge with a few trouts" and that he had kissed Woods "on both cheeks and then the face."
But the response from Woods was more frosty when he was questioned about their relationship earlier in the week.
"We don't talk much," Woods replied, and when asked if they would shake hands on the first tee added: "I don't know. It's up to him. I'll be in my own world trying to win the Open."
Woods, 30, was then asked what his reaction would be if Faldo initiated conversation.
"Surprised," he said.
It prompted more than one newspaper to publish a boxing tale-of-the-tape between the two and bookmakers offered odds on them coming to blows in the opening round.
Today's meeting may have served a purpose in taking some heat out of their meeting. But Thursday is when it is for real and everybody continues to wait to see what happens.
NO CHANGES FOR WOMEN: Golf's top women players cannot expect any easier route into the Open Championship in the near future.
For the first time this year, the Open was not restricted to men only. The top five finishers in each of the four women's majors were told they could enter at the 18-hole local qualifying stage.
If successful at that they would then have to play a 36-hole final qualifier, but nobody took up the chance.
"You can't make people enter, I suppose is the answer," said Championship Committee Chairman Martin Kippax.
"Our difficulty in opening up the championship to women golfer on a level-playing field basis was that there was no absolutely accurate way of assessing equivalence of ability," added Royal and Ancient Club Chief Executive Peter Dawson. "We're still a little in the dark and until we do see women entering regional qualifying, seeing how they perform, it would be very difficult to modify the system."
POSITIVE IMPRESSIONS: Early indications are that Hoylake will not have to wait another 39 years for the Open Championship to return.
"We've seen absolutely nothing yet which would indicate other than that we'll be back," Royal & Ancient Club Chief Executive Peter Dawson on the eve of the Royal Liverpool Club's first staging of the event since 1969.
"We would have been here much sooner from a golf course standpoint -- we've never had an issue with the golf course -- but we did have an issue with the amount of land available for the modern championship infrastructure," he added. "The land acquired made it possible to return."
"We're very pleased to hear this morning that the national rail strike [planned for Friday] has been called off, said R&A Director of Championships David Hill. "We carried approximately 6,000 people by train this morning to the course, so that's good news. Otherwise that would have caused some inevitable further delays perhaps to the traffic.
"Around the course, obviously, with the big games, spectators aren't going to see every single shot, but that applies in almost every Open Championship," he added. "We have a record number of grandstand seats at this venue -- 23,000."
COURSE SURPRISES HOWELL: David Howell has given a graphic illustration of how hard and bouncy Hoylake has become on the eve of the Open Championship -- and what a difference the wind makes.
"I hit a drive down 17 that went about 370 yards past a bunker that I didn't contemplate even being in play," the European Tour Order of Merit leader said. "I could have putted [for his second shot to the 459-yard hole]. When I played it a week ago, I hit a 2-iron short.
"The 18th was playing into the wind on Wednesday, so it was driver, 3-wood," he added. "When I played here last Sunday, I hit 3-wood and a 9-iron.
"That's one of the tricky things when the course gets that firm. It's very hard to think outside the box the way we normally think," he explained. "You can hit 3-irons 290 yards and it's just hard to get your head round that, basically. I guess as the week goes on you learn each day. It becomes easier to remember what's going to happen."
Asked if it favored the Europeans more used to links golf, Howell said: "We're more used to it than the rookie Americans, but Davis Love has been coming here for 20 years."
As for the fierce heat, he added: "I'm pleased I came up last week and played the course a couple of times in very windy conditions, and when I played last summer it was the prevailing wind, which we haven't had the last three days, so I'm pleased by that as well.
"I teed off at 7:30 [Tuesday] and it was still unbelievably hot when we finished. I wouldn't have liked to play yesterday afternoon," he said. "It's not as hot as it was at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago and I think the temperature is going to drop by a few degrees on Thursday. I don't think the weather is a particular problem.
"Obviously it's unusual for the Open," he said. "You prepare yourself for particularly bad weather, not particularly hot, but it's a pleasant surprise."
DIMARCO EYES THE RYDER CUP: Chris DiMarco hopes a good performance at the Open will help him avoid having to rely on a wild card to play in the Ryder Cup.
The 37-year-old was expected to be an automatic selection, and was penciled in to be Phil Mickelson's partner, but a skiing accident in March curtailed his season. He has not had a top-20 finish since and has slipped to 21st on the American points list; only the top 10 are guaranteed Ryder Cup places.
However, winning the Claret Jug this week could rocket him into fourth place, and he is determined to give it his best shot.
"Absolutely, that is exactly what I'm looking at. I feel like I'm a little more ready this year," he said. "Obviously, my goal is just trying to get to the Ryder Cup. I'm doing everything I can to get there. That is the No. 1 thing.
"I was very unhealthy at the beginning of the year, I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago and that didn't help," he added. "It's been kind of a crap year, it really hasn't been the best, especially since March."
DiMarco, who won the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship in January, had been earmarked to partner Mickelson after their success in the Presidents Cup last year. But his poor form has not gone unnoticed by U.S. Captain Tom Lehman.
"I would have to say form is way more important than reputation," Lehman said. "What he brings to the team is invaluable, but if he is not playing well, how do you pick him? So my message to him is and has been: 'Get yourself in the top 10. You've got two months. Go do it'."
IN THE ZONE: Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson believes too many players are content to live in the comfort zone because of the high prize money on offer around the world.
When Thomson took the third of his titles at Hoylake 50 years ago, he collected a check for about $1,800. This year a cool $1.2 million is on offer for the winner.
"It is too easy for modern players to become comfortable," said the Australian legend. "Not too many people want to win desperately or have it in their make-up that they really squirm if they do not win.
"A lot of people are content not to be the managing director but a general sales manager or something like that," he added. "The responsibility at the top is too much for most players. Not everyone wants the crown."
Tiger Woods defends his title at Royal Liverpool after winning at St. Andrews, where he had his maiden Open victory. Thomson is convinced the world No. 1 can go on and emulate his record of five titles.
"If Tiger sticks at it long enough, he is bound to win five Opens," he said. "He is after higher, more glorious heights than anyone has ever dreamed of. Tiger is a very determined person. He is having a bit of stumble at the moment but will play well again, I am sure."
Thomson says Hoylake remains a stiff test.
"This is a very difficult course to figure out, " he said. "I never really got the hang of it, even after I won here. All I did was find out where the trouble was, figure out how to keep away from it and make the most of chances elsewhere."
McCORMACK TO THE HALL: The late Mark McCormack, a pioneer in sports marketing whose handshake deal with Arnold Palmer led to the creation of IMG, was selected Wednesday for the World Golf Hall of Fame through the Lifetime Achievement category.
McCormack, who died in May 2003, will be inducted Oct. 30 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., along with Larry Nelson, Vijay Singh, Marilynn Smith and the late Henry Picard.
"Very few things could have pleased me more than to get word that Mark had been chosen for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame," said Palmer, who will introduce him at the ceremony.
After making the deal with Palmer, McCormack signed Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, giving him the "Big Three" in golf.
He later formed a media division (TWI), which became the world's largest non-network producer of televised sports. Among tournaments created by IMG is the HSBC World Match Play Championship in England, and McCormack was behind the development of the Official World Golf Ranking, used by the four majors to determine their fields.
WAITING GAME: Brad Faxon got in another practice round Wednesday, but it might be his last at Royal Liverpool.
Asked how he was doing, Faxon winced and said, "Depressed."
He was sixth alternate when he flew from Rhode Island to Hoylake on Monday, hopeful that none of the players ahead of him on the list would show up and enough players would drop out for him to get a starting time Thursday.
Trevor Immelman withdrew Tuesday night because his wife gave birth to their first child (a boy they named Jacob), and the news went out soon enough for first alternate Andrew Buckle of Australia to catch a flight from St. Louis.
The second alternate is Jesper Parnevik, who lives in Florida. He was in his native Sweden on holiday, but when he heard he moved up to first alternate, he came to Royal Liverpool.
"I don't think Brad was too happy to see me," Parnevik said.
Then again, the Swede wasn't all that thrilled when he stored his clubs in the locker room Wednesday afternoon.
"It's getting slimmer," Parnevik said of someone else withdrawing.
His last hope might be Seve Ballesteros, who has not played the Open since 2001 and has a history of saying he will play tournaments, only to withdraw before they start. But the Spaniard is using his son as a caddie this week, and he did play in the French Open last month, badly missing the cut.
"It looks like he's keen on playing," Parnevik said. "I don't think he's played here before, and he wants to play."
No one in the field has played Royal Liverpool, last used in the rotation in 1967.
If Parnevik does get in, at least he'll have his regular caddie.
Lance Ten Broeck was coming to Britain, anyway, because he will try to qualify for the Senior British Open on Monday.
EARLY START: Mark Calcavecchia wanted to beat the heat Wednesday, and he was on the steps of the clubhouse at Royal Liverpool shortly after 5:00 a.m., wife Brenda along as his caddie.
"The door was locked, and we couldn't get the clubs," Calcavecchia said.
They knocked on the door until an attendant came by, only to inform them that the course would not open until 7:00 a.m.
"That wasn't going to work," Calcavecchia said.
He got his clubs, headed to the first tee and was done playing by 9:00 a.m.
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