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Nick Faldo
Will the beautiful blue skies stick around for Nick Faldo and the rest of the contestants at Turnberry this week? (Franklin/Getty Images)

Notebook: Springsteen concert lures golf reporters

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played a concert in Scotland on Tuesday night for the first time in 28 years. 

The performance was held in Hampden Park in Glasgow, which is about 90 minutes from Turnberry. The concert attracted a fairly large contingent of reporters covering the 138th Open Championship. No word yet on whether any players attended.

The talk of the evening was his performance of "Pink Cadillac" -- the first time the song had been part of a Springsteen concert since Oct. 3, 2003, at New York's Shea Stadium. In addition, the concert began with Nils Lofgren joining eight accordionists in performing "Flower of Scotland."

The final two songs in the main part of the set were "The Rising" and "Born to Run." The encore consisted of "Hard Times," "Thunder Road," "American Land," "Bobby Jean," "Dancing in the Dark" and "Twist and Shout."

"It was a rush to witness the whirlwind of soul, energy and musicianship in action as each song was rolled out in rapid succession with just enough space for the occasional bout of playful rock 'n' roll theatrics," wrote reviewer Fiona Shepherd in The Scotsman.

While Springsteen performed solo in Scotland 13 years ago, the last time he played with Steve Van Zandt, Lofgren and Clarence Clemons, as he did Tuesday night, in this country was in 1981 at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

WHITHER THE WEATHER: Mother Nature, who unleashed her fury on Royal Birkdale a year ago, may be giving Turnberry a break. Tuesday was cool with a mixture of sun and rain, while Wednesday brought abundant sunshine that had fans scrambling for sunblock.

There is a 30 percent chance of showers and a stray gust of 20 mph as the 138th Open begins on Thursday. Winds from the northwest and gusts of up to 25 mph are expected on Friday with increasing clouds and the possibility of more showers on the weekend, although the rain is not expected to be heavy.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: One of the coolest things we’ve seen so far? How about the signs as you leave these tiny coastal villages that say “Haste ye back.”

SCOUTING REPORT: The rough at Turnberry is quite tall and lush, prompting 2002 Open champion Ernie Els to joke last week that it appeared to have been put on steroids. Colin Montgomerie noted that there were 480 balls lost by 150 players in a tournament there several weeks ago.

Finding the fairways this week, then, will be of particular importance.  

“To me, it seems like you’re penalized more for your off-line shots here,” said Kenny Perry, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year. “The rough is very severe just off the golf course in places, so … to me this is more of a ball-striker’s tournament. You’ve got to really hit a lot of fairways this week.

“The greens are in great shape. They’re holding anything you throw in there. It all banks on the weather, what kind of tee time you have. The guy who hits it well this week is definitely going to have more of an advantage than I think the guy who is spraying it a little bit and surviving out of the rough.”

Paul Casey agreed -- calling Turnberry both aesthetically beautiful with its views across the Irish sea and tough. He said the ball is running fairly well in the fairways right now so accuracy off the tee -- and avoiding the tricky and well-placed bunkers -- is imperative.  

“I think it’s in fantastic condition,” Casey, ranked No. 3 in the world, said. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen. It’s the toughest I’ve ever seen it play. It’s very much a tee shot golf course that’s going to be very demanding.

“I think if you look at some of the stats, and the way Nick Price and Greg Norman drove the ball when they won here, that was the key to their victory, getting the golf ball in play off the tee.”

TALE OF THE TICKETS: The Open isn't held often at Turnberry, and when it is the Royal & Ancient takes a hit on ticket sales because the seaside links is a hard place for fans to get to.

Add in the global recession and things are doubly tough this year. Though Open officials say they expect more than the 114,000 who attended the Open when it was last held in Turnberry in 1994, the crowds won't be nearly as big as they have been in other locations in recent years.

The walk-up sales will be key, and for that officials are hoping for a leaderboard that includes Tiger Woods and a British player or two as well as some good weather on the weekend.

"Given fair weather and a good leaderboard, I think we'll be well over 120,000 at the end of the week, which is pretty good given the current economic climate," said David Hill, chairman of the R&A's championship committee.

Tickets can be had for the weekend for less than $100, and children under 16 are free. The R&A has been pushing sales in a marketing campaign the last few weeks, but Hill made it clear Wednesday that tickets will still be readily available.

BIG BUSINESS: Greg Norman is at the Open trying to recreate the magic from last year, when he led entering the final round. That's not stopping him, though, from thinking about the pressures facing his business empire.

Norman, who has built a fortune on interests in everything from wine to course design, said Wednesday that the global recession has forced cutbacks in his businesses that included cuts in employees.

"I've had to make changes. I've unfortunately had to lay off people, which is not a good feeling," Norman said. "It's the first time in my entire life, in my short business life of nearly 20 years, that I've had to do that."

Norman said the recession has hit hardest in his golf course design business, particularly in the United States, where work has dried up. He's been busy trying to drum up business elsewhere, taking a trip to China earlier this month to tap into a market he thinks holds a lot more promise.

"I think I've got a lot of belief in China, like a lot of what the rest of the world does, not just in resources, but in development," Norman said.

Norman said he doesn't believe course design business will come back in the near future in the United States, but that work in China and countries like Vietnam, where he has three courses in development, will help make up for it.

"We'll all work our way through it," he said. "I've been through three of them (recessions) but nothing to this magnitude."

NOT SO BLIND DRAW: Royal & Ancient Chief Executive Peter Dawson made it clear Wednesday that the groupings for the first two rounds of the Open are not random.

For starters, the R&A tries to group one player from North America, one from Europe and one from other parts of the world. There are 44 Americans in the 156-man field, along with Canadian citizens Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.

That would explain why David Toms and Tom Lehman are the only Americans in the same group at Turnberry.

Other factors include TV interests; gallery movement; who plays fast (Mark Calcavecchia is in the first group); and when the gallery which arrive and leave, which helps with traffic.

The most notable group this year is Tiger Woods and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, both of whom attract an enormous amount of photographers. The third player in that group is Lee Westwood.

"I was obviously cognizant of the amount of media interest there is in that group," Dawson said. "I have since spoken to Tiger and to Lee Westwood. They're entirely happy about the grouping. And we're happy that we have good controls in place on the media following that group. There will be a lot of interest in it, that's for sure."

LOVE WITHOUT LANGUAGE: Tom Watson has an affection for Scottish fans, and the feeling is mutual. Of the five Open titles he has won, four of them were in Scotland -- Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield and Royal Troon.

He recalled the final round Saturday in 1975 at Carnoustie, when a young girl who lived next to the house Watson rented gave him aluminum foil with heather, telling him it was for good luck. Watson wound up winning in a playoff. The neighbors knocked on the door after he captured the Claret Jug, simply wanting to say hello and tell him how happy they were for him.

"That's the way it started," Watson said. "And that's the way it's always been."

Still, a language barrier remains, especially if the brogue is particularly thick.

That's how it was Wednesday, when someone at Turnberry said something to Watson. He didn't catch it, so he asked the man to repeat himself -- twice.

"I couldn't understand a word," Watson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



 

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