Notebook: A wasted week for Faxon and Parnevik
Alternates Brad Faxon and Jesper Parnevik hung around Royal Liverpool for days, but are heading home disappointed. Plus, Ian Poulter makes another fashion statement, Fred Couples calculates his finances, and more.
HOYLAKE, England -- Jesper Parnevik and Brad Faxon mingled outside the Royal Liverpool clubhouse at dawn Thursday morning, looking like two guys who were the first to arrive with hopes of getting a tee time.
That's exactly what was on the line at the Open Championship, and both left disappointed.
They were the first two alternates, needing players to withdraw to get one of the 156 spots in the field. After waiting for nearly 11 hours until the last group went off, they packed their bags and headed home.
Parnevik interrupted a vacation in Sweden when he learned he was first alternate. Faxon was sixth in line, but figuring the others wouldn't show up, he flew Monday from Rhode Island and took his chances.
"I thought he'd still get in," Faxon said of Parnevik. "I think he did, too."
Faxon warmed up in the morning, then headed to the range again to take a nap in the Titleist trailer. His only hopes of players pulling out were Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer because of their bad backs. There were doubts about Seve Ballesteros, but he went off early and shot 74.
Compounding the disappointment for Faxon was finding a flight home Friday.
"Everything is sold out," he said. "I'm going to have to check around with other airports."
Faxon recalled being first alternate in the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and two guys who were injured tried to play and later withdrew. He wound up going to the Providence Classic, which he won.
"Maybe this will bode well," he said. "Something good will come out of this."
Faxon lost his chance to play first by having a pedestrian year that caused him to slip in the rankings. Then, the U.S. qualifier at Congressional Country Club was washed out, and he didn't get a chance to qualify.
He likes the idea of the Open expanding its criteria to get a stronger, more diverse field. But he questioned criteria that allow the top finishers from the last three PGA Tour events to qualify -- Hunter Mahan (tied for second in Hartford), Mathew Goggin (tied for second at the Western Open) and John Deere Classic winner John Senden.
"I still don't think the qualifying procedure is perfect," he said. "Why doesn't winning a tournament get you in, but finishing fourth does?"
Faxon won the Buick Championship at Hartford last year.
FASHION STATEMENT: About the only distraction Seve Ballesteros faced Thursday was playing with Ian Poulter of England, who wore bright red pants with sequins down each side and a logo of the claret jug on each leg.
Ballesteros, ever the traditionalist, wore a white shirt with dark pants.
"Something different," Ballesteros said. "He looks to me like a Spanish matador. But he should not be in red, because the bull always goes for red."
Poulter certainly didn't find red numbers on the scoreboard. He wound up one shot behind Ballesteros, at 3-over 75.
And the gallery didn't think much of his wardrobe, either.
"Oh my God, look at what he's wearing!" a female fan blurted out as Poulter walked toward the third green. "Isn't that ridiculous? Elvis lives!"
RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT: Fred Couples is a fan of Royal Liverpool, and he couldn't figure out why the R&A waited 39 years to bring the Open back to the course. Someone told him the layoff was due mainly to the infrastructure.
"I guess so," Couples said. "I mean, I'm paying 14,000 pounds [about $25,000] for my house this week, so they must have known we were coming. They had a few years to prepare for this week."
CLARKE'S DETOUR: Darren Clarke stepped up to the fourth tee box, and pulled out his putter.
When Clarke yanked his second shot at the third hole far left of the green, the ball wound up on the tee for the next hole. He considered chipping toward the flag, then decided the putter was the best way to get through a patch of beaten-down rough between the tee and the green.
Only one problem: there was a red power cord running between the two holes. So he pulled that out of the way, and finally got down to a most unusual putt.
Unfortunately for Clarke, he didn't swing hard enough to get the ball through the rough, up a ridge and onto the green. He wound up making bogey, one of his few mistakes on the way to a 3-under 69 that left him only three shots off the lead.
WELCOME BOOST: Lee Westwood gave his Ryder Cup chances a welcome boost with a 69 in the first round of the Open at Hoylake.
Westwood is down in 33rd position on the European points list, with only 10 players qualifying automatically for Ian Woosnam's team to defend the trophy at the K Club in September. Just six weeks remain after the Open before the team is finalized, but with more than a million points on offer to the winner at Royal Liverpool, Westwood cannot be counted out.
"I've been lacking confidence," admitted the 33-year-old Englishman. "From the Masters until three weeks ago I'd missed seven cuts in a row and been making a mess of it on the greens. A 69 is a lot better mentally than 70-odd and I made the most of the par 5s; that's where you make the most of your score.
"It's a tricky golf course, it's not easy. I couldn't see where some people were talking about record scoring," he added. "I would think between 12- and 15-under would be right there at the end of the week. You can tuck the pins away round here."
DANGEROUS DRIVER: England's Luke Donald accepted that the main strength of his game -- driving it straight -- deserted him on the opening day of the Open after carding a 2-over 74. The 28-year-old struggled off the tee and finished seven shots behind leader Greg Owen.
"I drove it in about every bunker I could drive it in I think and those are the hazards you can't afford to go in and I found too many of them," said the Ryder Cup star. "It was a frustrating day. Today was a great chance to post a low number and I didn't take advantage of it.
"I had a three-putt at the third from the front of the green, and then I played five horribly and was 2-over through five and already struggling," he explained. "It seemed every time I make a birdie, the next hole I drove in a bunker and gave it right back.
"I'm disappointed because you look at the scores and everyone seems to be playing well today," he said. "But at 2-over, I have still got a good chance to get back into it."
UNSTEADY START: Welsh veteran Stephen Dodd offered no excuses after beginning his Open Championship campaign with a disappointing 1-over 73.
The 40-year-old Welshman had a double-bogey on the second hole, and dropped further shots at the seventh and ninth holes. But birdies at four, 10 and 14 meant he avoided a disastrous round.
"I just played badly. It is simple as that. I do not know what went wrong," he said. "Nerves were not a factor as I have the experience of playing in big events. You always want to do well but sometimes you just have to get on with it."
FRASER FIGHTS HIS AWE: Marcus Fraser briefly owned the early lead on Thursday after posting a 4-under 68 despite admitting to being overawed at mixing it with the great and good.
The Australian missed the cut last year at St. Andrews when he made Open debut. However, he went some way to making amends this year by chalking up six birdies and two bogeys in his first round at Royal Liverpool.
"I almost forgot about playing golf for the week at St. Andrews, as I had my mum and dad as well as friends there," he said. "I was a bit overawed by it all and still am. But it is now under control. I am happy with the way things are going. I am playing well and looking forward to tomorrow."
RUING HIS RESULTS: Paul Casey, second on the European Tour Order of Merit, knew he had missed a chance to make his presence felt when he began the Open with only a level-par 72.
As one of the early starters, Casey had the best of the conditions, but he failed to build on an opening 25-foot birdie. Two three-putt bogeys quickly followed.
"I've got some work to do," he said. "It was a bit of a grind, I didn't hit the ball great, the greens were difficult to read and I didn't roll the ball particularly well."
AMATEUR HOUR: Norway's Marius Thorp leads the race for the silver medal awarded to the leading amateur at the Open. Thorp, who qualified for Hoylake by winning the European Amateur title last year, carded an excellent first round of 1-under 71 despite two double-bogeys.
The 18-year-old is one shot ahead of France's Julien Guerrier, the 21-year-old British Amateur champion recording a 72 with two birdies and two bogeys. Italian Edoardo Molinari, the current U.S. Amateur champion, fired a 1-over 73 that was one better than playing partner and Ryder Cup star Luke Donald.
England's Danny Denison, who played a practice round with Nick Faldo on Tuesday, could only manage a 6-over 78. The 21-year-old from Leeds was 8-over after 12 holes but finished well with birdies at the 16th and 18th.
DIVOTS: Tom Lehman and Graeme McDowell were the only players who did not make a bogey in the first round. ... U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy birdied the last hole for a 1-under 71. ... Davis Love III is 11th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings and sure didn't do himself any favors Thursday, opening with a 75 that could send him home early for the second straight major. ... Jarrod Lyle, diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago, shot 74.
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