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BRITISH OPEN FYI

Tiger Woods is all over the place in a 71

The favorite has an inaccurate round and faces another major deficit.

July 17, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND — Tiger Woods' first-ever round at Turnberry included a drop beneath a left-side TV stand, a reach downward to pull up a wad of cables to clear room for a shot in the right rough, an approach to No. 16 that roamed into the back trough of the curling burn, two clubs either dropped or tossed and one hollered instruction on No. 13 toward a traveling ball of "Don't do it! Don't do it!"

It did it anyway.

His brilliance saved par there, but his waywardness sent shots rightward everywhere. "On 16, I hit a five-iron I was trying to play about 20 feet left of the hole and the ball landed about 15 feet right of the hole," he said. "Not a very good shot."

He began to notice the glitch on the practice range beforehand, and he hurried to correct it on the practice range afterward. His one-over-par 71 on a benevolent course doling out red numbers meant that in the three majors this year, Woods has started out with a 70 and a five-shot deficit (Masters), a 74 and a 10-shot deficit (U.S. Open) and a 71 and a seven-shot deficit (British Open).

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Greg Norman's woes

With Tom Watson shooting 65 at age 59 and Greg Norman shooting 77 at age 54, it seemed clear that Norman might have suffered from youth and inexperience.

Actually, the 1986 Turnberry champion suffered from unprecedented driving woes just one year after he enchanted the 2008 British Open by starting off 70-70-72 to lead after the second and third rounds.

"The way I drove the ball today was probably the worst I've drove it in my career, and if you're not hitting fairways here then you're going to struggle," said Norman, who hit seven of the 14 fairways. "If I play nine holes tomorrow and the rest play 18, I might be OK now. But I got what I deserved today."

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The Tiger group

One day after finding the whole thing surreal and saying, "I can't believe that Tiger is talking about me," Ryo Ishikawa teed off with Woods and Lee Westwood, hearing Woods say, "Good putt, Ry," when Ishikawa birdied No. 2.

The teen, whose U.S. debut came at Riviera in February, felt intense nervousness but overcame it to shoot 68 to Woods' 71, and to receive appreciative cheers from the crowds. And while the forecast called for overwhelming commotion around the morning round given all the Woods media and the Ishikawa media and, yes, the bit of Westwood media, the scene actually proved quieter than expected, with the bleachers on some holes qualifying as sparse.

Westwood, who matched Ishikawa's 68, did direct the populous Japanese photographers on occasion and said, "It gave me a nice chance to practice my Japanese."

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Ben Curtis, again

And in a game eternally strange, here again comes the golfer who came to the British Open for the first time in 2003 and won it. "You kind of have to pinch yourself every now and then," Ben Curtis said, "to realize that, hey, I won the biggest tournament in the world on the first try. It's just weird that it happened to me."

With another 15 rounds in the cranium since then, including three missed cuts and two top-10 finishes in 2007 and 2008, Curtis regards himself as "definitely" a better links player nowadays, a matter evidenced by his first-round 65 that featured an eagle on No. 7 and tied Watson for second place.

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The Daly show

Near the end of the day, here came John Daly with a 68, whereupon he told of the "sprained rib head" he has battled in his sore back, and said, "If they rub on it anymore I'm going to feel like a piece of gingerbread."

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Plenty in reserve

Once seventh on the alternate list, John Senden had moved to fourth by Sunday because of three withdrawals, but fourth still seemed remote, so the 37-year-old Australian left the John Deere Classic in Illinois and flew to his home in Dallas. By Monday morning, he had advanced to first, so he took a 1 p.m. flight across the ocean, arrived Tuesday, fell asleep Tuesday night at 9 and woke at 1 a.m., of course.

It probably goes without saying that by Thursday he shot a glistening 66.

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chuck.culpepper@yahoo.com

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