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BRITISH OPEN NOTES

Any Thoughts of Feud Come to Grinding Halt

July 21, 2006|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

HOYLAKE, England — Those craving the underlying drama of a simmering feud met with disappointment Thursday when Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo shook hands before and after their round together.

In fact, they'd already established diplomatic relations Wednesday night on the practice green, to the delight of photographers who snapped pictures of them chatting briefly.

The unusual pairing of a 30-year-old defending champion and a 49-year-old with little chance of winning had loosed a barrage of headlines both tabloid and understated.

In Faldo's first turn at broadcasting for ABC for the 2005 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, the six-time major champion had criticized and then dissected-and-criticized Woods' golf swing. The subject had not liked it.

In a Tuesday news conference, Woods had said nothing to indicate a coming detente.

But Thursday afternoon brought a courteous handshake. "We were out there playing and competing," Woods said afterward. "Nick didn't get off to a good start, and neither did I. We were grinding, trying to get ourselves back and turn things around."

Faldo, a three-time British Open champion, shot a 77, 10 shots higher than Woods.

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The PGA Championship's return to Medinah, Ill., next month, for the first time since 1999, will conjure recollections of Sergio Garcia's splash there as a 19-year-old runner-up. His 68 Thursday wound up illuminating the lack of a major title that makes him seem older than 26.

It was his best round in a major since a 68 during the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and the first time he has opened a major with a round in the 60s since a 69 in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields in Illinois.

"If I roll the potato nicely, that would be good," he said.

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Of his opening 68, S.K. Ho, who sat one shot off the lead halfway through the 2003 British Open, said, "There are a lot of Korean women golfers doing very well. This week it is time to show how well the men can play too."

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Europeans haven't won a major tournament since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open, covering 27 chances, and they probably didn't expect the next one to come from Finland, land of only 5 million people and not so many courses, but here's Mikko Ilonen, from the Finnish town of Lahti, where in summer you can get in nine holes at 10 p.m.

After his first-round 68, he said, "Where I was born and where I live now, there's not too many golf courses, really. We only have two around the city and one a little bit away from the city."

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One month off his close call in the U.S. Open, Colin Montgomerie opened in the major tournament that has been his toughest with a 73, a disappointment given the barrage of great scores. The culprit: putting.

"Very, very, very" frustrating, he said.

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