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THE BRITISH OPEN : Turnberry Is Expected to Take Its Revenge This Time

July 17, 1986|MIKE DOWNEY | Times Staff Writer

TURNBERRY, Scotland — "You won't see the kind of scores you saw here last time," Jack Nicklaus said.

"The golf course is going to play a lot tougher than it did in 1977," Tom Watson said.

"It's one of the toughest Open courses I've played in many, many years," Lee Trevino said.

The course, of course, is Turnberry--site of the memorable 1977 battle between Watson and Nicklaus, and site of the 115th British Open, which starts today.

Yes, it is tee time in Britain.

But it will definitely be no party.

The wind off the Firth of Clyde will be whipping. The waves will be crashing and the drizzle intermittently falling. In Scotland, rain is usually interrupted only by occasional showers.

So, you can bet that Turnberry's fairways will be damp and slow, not dry and fast, as they were during 1977's unexpected drought. They also will be as narrow as bridle paths. No more than 22 yards wide at some place.

"I'm surprised that they have fairways at all after what we did the last time we played here," Nicklaus joked.

The roughs, meanwhile, will be calf-deep and as thick as shag carpeting.

"There are places in the rough where you can actually find your ball," said Nicklaus, on a roll now. "Ten years from now, it'll be shoulder high."

Ten opens ago, in Turnberry's only other time as host, Watson and Nicklaus were 23 under par between them. No one else in British Open history had ever done better than four under.

But the weather was at peace that week. There was neither gale nor storm--nothing but a brief electrical storm one day that sent the golfers running for their head covers.

It was wet during practice rounds here early this week, but the wind was quiet. It was too quiet. Players were not fooled.

"I'm just waiting for the wind to start blowing," Bob Tway said. "I figure a few over par for this tournament will be a very good score."

Trevino said: "I can't remember the last time the wind wasn't blowing. If it starts blowing hard, you could shoot 80 here and still make up ground."

Added Watson: "If we were playing the tournament on a day like today, there would be several scores in the mid-60s. And by several, I mean at least four or five."

The man who wins will have to be a straight shooter. The thin fairways and thick rough make things tough enough, but Turnberry's new irrigation system is adding difficulties for players like Trevino, who used to play short and sweet down the middle and rely on the hardpan for a long roll.

"No more bump and run," Trevino said.

Favorites in the international field will include the player who spends so little time on the U.S. tour, Seve Ballesteros, and the tour's leading money winner, Greg Norman. There is also the No. 2 money winner, Tway, who impresses Trevino no end.

"If you're looking for the next superstar, you'd better look at this guy here," Trevino said. "He's the best to come along in a long while."

Crowd favorites in the field will include five-time British Open winner Watson, three-time winner Nicklaus and 1985 winner Sandy Lyle, the Scotsman.

One player who will miss it is Lanny Wadkins. His manager, Vinny Giles, said Wadkins missed his flight to Scotland and could not figure out any other way to get here.

This really is a tough Open course.

British Open Notes Bookmaker odds here: Severiano Ballesteros, 7-2; Tom Watson, 9-1; Bernhard Langer, 10-1; Greg Norman, 12-1; Raymond Floyd, Bob Tway and defending champion Sandy Lyle, 20-1, and Jack Nicklaus, 25-1. . . . The winner's prize is 70,000 pounds, or roughly $105,000. . . . Watson and Deane Beman played against Nicklaus and Lee Trevino for a small wager during their practice round Wednesday but called it a draw. Beman said that Watson looks to be at the top of his form. . . . By winning, Watson could tie Harry Vardon's record six British Open titles. . . . The course record is 63, set by American Mark Hayes during the 1977 Open in which Watson nosed out Nicklaus.

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