Tiger Woods is looking to become the fourth player to win the Open in the shadow of the Ailsa Craig. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Notebook: Turnberry's history bodes well for Woods
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- This week marks just the fourth time in history that the Open Championship is held at Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland, just off the Irish Sea.
On the three previous occasions -- 1977, 1986 and 1994 -- the winners were Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price, respectively. The significance in that is all three champions were considered the No. 1 player in the world at the time of their win.
That should bode well for world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who makes his Turnbery debut.
“They [Watson, Norman and Price] were some of the best ball strikers,” said Woods, who missed the 2008 Open Championship at Carnoustie while recovering from knee surgery. “At this course, you can understand why. You really have to hit your ball well here. And you have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons well too. You just can’t fake it around this golf course. You just have to hit good golf shots. Those are some of the best ball strikers of all time, or certainly in their eras.”
Woods is looking for his fourth Open Championship victory overall and first since hoisting the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool in 2006 -- another course he saw for the first time the week of that championship.
Woods is winless in two majors this season -- he tied for sixth at both the Masters and U.S. Open -- but leads the PGA TOUR with three wins in 2009, the latest coming in his last start, the AT&T National, which he hosts.
“It’s been a tremendous success,” Woods said of his play since returning from injury. “I remember looking at the year and just trying to get back in playing -- hopefully I can play and hopefully I can play at a high level. And to sit here and say I was going to have three wins halfway through the year, if anyone would have looked at my situation, they would have said you probably might be reaching a little bit.”
WITHDRAWAL: India’s Jeev Milkha Singh withdrew from the Open Championship on Tuesday morning due to a recurring muscle injury.
The 37-year-old has been suffering from a torn muscle in his side since the European Open two months ago and contemplated withdrawing from the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, but stuck it out only to miss the cut.
Australian John Senden will take Singh’s place in the field, making American John Rollins the first alternate. This will be Senden’s fourth Open Championship appearance overall, and his first since tying for 45th at Carnoustie in 2007.
REIGNING CHAMPION: Two-time defending Open Champion Padraig Harrington is at Turnberry looking to do something that hasn’t been done since Peter Thomson in 1956 -- win the Open in three consecutive years.
“I would say it’s very sketchy, obviously,” Harrington said when asked to assess his game. “Not really showing much form in the last couple of weeks. Not really knowing what to expect. I could only be hopeful rather than expectant to put in a good performance this week. We’ll wait and see how that comes in.”
So far, it’s been a rough 2009 season for the three-time major champion. In 13 starts on the PGA TOUR, the Irishman has yet to crack the top 10 and has missed the cut six times, including the last three in a row.
Much, if not all, of Harrington’s struggles can be attributed to a swing change.
“I’ve just been working on things, trying to change my impact position and through that a combination of other things turned up; when you change one thing there are a few other adjustments needed. Trying to figure out which adjustment goes with which has been a little more complicated than expected. It’s taking a little longer than expected.”
NO REST FOR THE WEARY: Nobody can ever accuse Lucas Glover of pulling back on his word.
The U.S. Open champion hasn’t missed a tournament since his major triumph at Bethpage Black. That makes this week at Turnberry his fifth start without a break.
Talk about a major hangover.
If there is any hangover, Glover’s game certainly hasn’t showed it. A week after winning the U.S. Open, he tied for 11th at the Travelers Championship. He followed that up with a tie for fifth at the AT&T National before finishing in a tie for 66th at the John Deere Classic, where he made the cut but only played two rounds because of the weather that forced a 36-hole Sunday finish.
So how’s Glover holding up?
“Good,” he said. “I ended up with Sunday off at the Deere, so I didn’t have to do the 36, so that was a nice day off. And then I had a good travel day, no hiccups getting here or anything, so that made it easy. But I’m good, just trying to do the stuff that put me in the position last time and that’s just get well prepared and well rested at the same time.”
ENGLAND’S FINEST?: Keep an eye on Ian Poulter this week at Turnberry.
The Englishman finished second to Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and has played great ever since.
Poulter has four top-10 finishes in 11 starts on TOUR this season, highlighted by a runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS. With his play over the last several months, Poulter seems primed for a victory.
“I’ve often gone out with too many expectations and it didn’t work,” Poulter said, referring to past experiences in the Open Championship. “I’m not going out there with any expectations apart from to try and execute every single shot I need to on the golf course.
“I’m not going out there having the mindset on Thursday morning I have to win, I have to win, I have to win. I’m going out there to play a round of golf. Yes, I do have expectations to try to go one better than I did last year, but I will be pacing myself from Thursday to try and get in position to strike on Sunday afternoon.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME: In these parts of the world, the oldest major is known simply as “the Open Championship.” It’s not unusual for Americans to refer to it as the British Open, although one will rarely hear that from British and European players, or any players from South Africa, Australia and other parts of the world.
That’s why it was alarming to hear Ian Poulter refer to it as the “British Open” last week.
Not just once, either. He said it five times.
Poulter is from England but has played mostly on the PGA TOUR, and last year skipped the final European Ryder Cup qualifying event in Germany so he could concentrate on the FedExCup playoffs in America.
One reporter brought his Open faux paus to his attention Tuesday.
“I did say it the other day,” Poulter said. “I got caught up on it, I suppose. So sorry. The Open Championship.”
Asked if it mattered what it was called, Poulter didn’t get caught up in this dialogue.
“I’m sorry if I offend anybody with saying it or having said it. I won’t say it again,” he said. “I do apologize.”
TURNBERRY TESTED: If the weather turns particularly nasty this week, Paul Casey will be among those equipped with experience. He played the British Amateur at Turnberry in 1996 under tough conditions.
“They were shocking,” Casey said.
He recalls being 1- or 2-under par in appalling conditions, but when he reached his final hole, he needed a par to qualify for the match-play portion of the championship.
“I buried it in the bunker on the corner and made 8,” he said.
His greater memory comes from his playing partner that day, Gary Shemano, who Casey said is now a stockbroker in San Francisco.
“He stole the flag on the 14th hole, because he was having such an appalling time, and we were the last group out,” Casey said. “He took it as a memento, and it’s hanging in his office in San Francisco. I’ve seen it framed there; it’s very nice. I can’t blame him. It was just very, very tough. I’m not too scarred for life. I do like the golf course. It’s just a shame we couldn’t play it in good conditions.”
BRITISH ODDS: Here’s a news flash: Odds are Tiger Woods will win the Open.
The William Hill betting house is offering 13-5 odds on a Woods victory, with second favorite Sergio Garcia way behind at 30-1. Woods is such an overwhelming favorite that oddsmakers are trying to find other ways to bring in money on the tournament.
That includes offering 9-4 odds on two-time defending champion Padraig Harrington making the cut. Those who see a three-peat in Harrington’s immediate future can get 40-1 on him winning.
Among the proposition bets are 6-4 odds on Woods hitting the fairway with his first shot and 4-11 odds that Woods will win more majors than Roger Federer.
Englishman Lee Westwood, who has never won a major, attracted a lot of attention in the William Hill books in early betting at 33-1 odds, while bettors can get 28-1 action on any English player winning the Open.
SAY CHEESE: Tiger Woods’ patience might be tested the first two days of the Open, and it might not have anything to do with pot bunkers, gorse bushes or those crazy bounces in links golf.
It’s the shutterbug.
Woods will be playing with 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, who already has won three times on the Japan Golf Tour and is a a sensation among the Japanese media. When he made his PGA TOUR debut at Riviera this year, organizers had to double the size of media dining as credential requests increased fourfold.
A Japanese reporter asked Woods how he thought it would go.
“Very quiet,” Woods said with a smile. “I don’t think you guys will be out there, will you?”
Woods is ultra-sensitive with photographers. So is his caddie, Steve Williams, famous for putting one corporate photographer’s digital camera into a pond at the Skins Game when he clicked in Woods’ back swing.
“It will be interesting,” Woods said. “There will be a lot of people inside the ropes. It is what it is. I’ve been there before.”
He started to mention that Ishikawa had not, then remembered how much media he has coped with in Japan over the last few years.
“He’s been there, but he hasn’t done a major championship yet,” Woods said. “But he certainly has had to deal with a lot at a very young age, and he’s handled it well.”
The third member of the party is Lee Westwood, who already faces the pressure of playing before a home British crowd.
HISTORY MINOR: Mark Calcavecchia is not big on history.
His wife, Brenda, is caddying for him this week at Turnberry, and as they approached the 12th green, she inquired about the monument atop a knoll that honors fallen airmen during the World Wars.
Halfway through the explanation, Calcavecchia listened in, then turned and gazed toward the granite monument.
“I never realized that was there,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.