Tiger at the British Open (1997)


The British Open is the oldest open golf championship. It was first held in 1860, at Prestick, Scotland, and Willie Park was the winner. Last year, the Open (as purists are wont to call it) was held at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, Lytham, England, and Tom Lehman won.

Ninety-eight players in this year's field are exempt from qualifying. Fifty-four players made it to the field by winning qualifying matches.


Tiger Woods has played the British Open before as an amateur, finishing tied for 66th at St. Andrews (1995) and tied for 22nd at Royal Lytham (1996).

Woods' practice round on Monday (July 14) was mobbed by the biggest gallery of the day (some 400). One of his playing partners, Mark O'Meara, said:

"He's excited about playing here. This is the type of golf he likes. He likes to play knock-down shots and creative shots.

"If he plays the way he can, there's no reason he can't contend for the championship. His confidence is high.''

Best quote from Monday came Steve Elkington: "Tiger hits the ball so far he wouldn't notice some of these bunkers even if there was a guy lying dead in there as he walked by."

Bookmakers in England have odds that Woods will win at 5-1. UPI also reports: "Other than Woods at 5-1, the current odds for the favorites include Colin Montgomerie at 9-1, Ernie Els at 10-1, defending champion Tom Lehman and Greg Norman at 12-1 and Nick Faldo at 16-1."

The Course


----   ---   -----	 
  1     4     364
  2     4     391
  3     4     379
  4     5     557
  5     3     210
  6     5     577
  7     4     402
  8     3     126 "The Postage Stamp"
  9     4     423
       --     ---	 
 Out   36   3,429

 10     4     438
 11     4     463 Palmer says "the most dangerous hole I've ever seen"
 12     4     431
 13     4     465
 14     3     179
 15     4     457
 16     5     542
 17     3     223
 18     4     452
       --     ---	 
In     35   3,650
       ==   =====
Total  71   7,079  
The British Open courses are "links" courses, traditional fairways, greens, and rough that formed out of nature. Unlike the American "park" courses, links courses look more barren, and less green. Often, there are fewer trees, if any. Golf started on wind-swept courses like Troon.

Tiger's First Round Highlights

Best quote from Tiger: "I hit a driver more than 400 yards on the fourth hole and then on the back nine I had a shot of 165 yards at the 15th and I hit a 6-iron. I probably haven't used that club for that distance since I was 11 years old."

UPI reports that Tiger came out "attacking" the course, but was bent back by the brisk, blowing wind on the back nine. He took a triple bogey on the par-4 11th, but recovered to hit two birdies over the last three holes.

Colin Montgomerie, who considers Troon his home course, shot a 5-over 76.

The final leader board:

Darren Clarke           32-35--67   4-under
Jim Furyk               32-35--67

Fred Couples            31-38--69   2-under
Justin Leonard          34-35--69
Greg Norman             32-37--69

Angel Cabrera           35-35--70   1-under
a-Barclay Howard        32-38--70
Davis Love III          32-38--70
Andrew Magee            34-36--70
Jesper Parnevik         36-34--70

Tiger Woods             35-37--72   1-over

Tiger's Second Round Highlights

What highlights? I finally watched yesterday's round and saw the nightmare that Tiger experienced on the 11th. By UPI reports, today's nightmare on the 10th was worse. Tiger had what looked like an unplayable lie (the ball was in a bush), but he decided to hack it out instead of taking relief. His ball advanced only a few inches, reminiscent of Annika Sorenstam's 3-inch hack at last weekend's Women's US Open (Pumpkin Ridge).

Tiger also bogeyed the third and fifth holes, according to Reuters.

The leader board at the end of the second round:

Darren Clarke          67-66--133         9-under

Justin Leonard         69-66--135         7-under

Jesper Parnevik        70-66--136         6-under

Fred Couples           69-68--137         5-under
David Tapping          71-66--137

Jim Furyk              67-72--139         3-under
Tom Kite               72-67--139

Angel Cabrera          70-70--140         2-under

Mark Calcavecchia      74-67--141         1-under
Jay Haas               71-70--141
Davis Love III         70-71--141
Tom Watson             71-70--141

Tiger Woods            72-74--146         4-over

Right now, it looks like Darren Clarke's tournament to lose. The 28-year old from North Ireland is displaying amazing form, and with 13 shots up on Tiger Woods, Mr. Clarke looks like he's going to escape Tiger's claws this tournament.

According to UPI, Tiger claims "I can still win. I was 13 shots behind at Pebble Beach this year with two rounds to play and I almost won." Brash but true. When I tuned into the final day at Pebble Beach earlier this year, I was amazed to see him 5-back from the leaders, since he was most assuredly out of it based on Friday night's scores.

The leader board from this year's Pebble Beach Pro-Am:

1.  Mark O'Meara          67-67-67-67     268
T2. David Duval           65-71-62-71     269
T2. Tiger Woods           70-72-63-64     269
However, I don't recall Tiger saying that he was going to make a big comeback at Pebble. He just did it.

Tiger's Third Round Highlights

So I come home from shopping in the early Saturday morning, and when I tune into ABC's coverage of the Open, I was startled to find that Tiger was on the leaderboard at 3-under. Darren Clarke and Justin Leonard were teeing up on an early hole on the front nine, and with Tiger on the first page of the leaderboard, the results of today's televised play would determine if Tiger actually had a chance on Sunday.

Reuter's quoted Tiger as saying: "If you take away those two bad holes (from the first two rounds), I'm three under. So I'm not playing that bad. I just happen to have had two bad holes."

Tiger shot a record-tying 64 at Troon. Greg Norman was the last player to shoot a 64 at Troon in 1989.

Tiger's round was extremely highlight friendly. His score card:

Out     4 4 4  5 3 5  4 3 4  36
Woods   3 3 4  4 4 4  3 3 4  32

In      4 4 4  4 3 4  5 3 4  35  71
Woods   4 5 3  4 3 4  3 2 4  32  64
UPI reports that his round included a bounced ball of a little girl's head on the 7th, but the ball found its way on the green, and he took a birdie. The girl was taken off the course for further examination, although UPI reports she was not seriously hurt.

Trouble on the 11th seemed to cloud Tiger's round. He found himself in danger, but his fourth shot on this par-4 rolled to within two feet of the hole. He made the bogey, and then took the stroke back with a birdie on the 12th.

On the 16th hole, Tiger's approach shot was a driver, and he rolled it onto the green, and by draining the 15-foot putt, he carded his first eagle of the tournament, putting him at 2-under.

On the 17th hole, he hit a 4-iron off the tee, but his ball found the left spectator area, a trampled down lie, leaving him with an uphill chip play. A par seemed in the making, but instead he holed out his pitching wedge bump and run, making a birdie to put him at 3-under.

In the end, Tiger totaled an eagle, and seven birdies, passing 39 players with his third round heroics, surely shaking the knees of the bettors who have odds on Tiger at 40-1 starting today's round.

Darren Clarke, on the other hand, had a tough round, shooting a 71, after getting himself into trouble a few times. He relinquished his first place position to Jesper Parnevik, who shot a 66.

Jesper lost a heartbreaker in 1994's Open to Nick Price. Jesper took a risky 18th hole shot with his driver, and eventually made a bogey. Afterwards, he told the press that he failed to notice that he was in the lead by two shots over Price, and if he had played a safer shot, perhaps 1994 could have been his first British Open win.

The third round leaderboard:

                    Tot  3Rd
Jesper Parnevik     -11   66
Darren Clarke        -9   71   
Fred Couples         -6   70
Justin Leonard       -6   72
Jim Furyk            -4   70
Eduardo Romero       -4   67
Stephen Ames         -4   66
Tiger Woods          -3   64

Tiger's Fourth Round Highlights

Despite wearing his traditional red, and flirting with -5 for the tournament on the front nine, Tiger found trouble on the Postage Stamp (the 8th hole). He put up a triple bogey there (6 shots on a 126 yard hole!), and later said "I knew I couldn't win after that."

He carded a 74 today, and finished even for the tournament, tied for 24th.

UPI reported that the little girl who got hit by Tiger's errant tee shot on the 7th in yesterday's third round is Vanessa Black. She is fine, and is in possession of the infamous ball.

In a dramatic finish, Justin Leonard's game held up to the Sunday pressure, and he won with a 65 in today's round. His putting was fantastic, including a 12-foot birdie on 16 after a bad chip shot, and a 35-foot birdie on 17 which put him the lead for good. He finished two shots ahead of Jesper Parnevik and Darren Clarke.

Justin Leonard maintains the streak of 20-somethings winning the majors this year, at the age of 25. He is from Dallas, TX, and this is his third title as a professional.

Tiger Woods: FAQ | On the Internet | Mailing List | On the Money List | On the Tour

Rick Umali rgu@world.std.com
Last Updated: Mon Jul 28 09:06:19 EDT 1997