Royal course conquered by a fearsome foursome Soft conditions yield par-busting 1st round

July 16, 1993|By Larry Dorman | Larry Dorman,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

SANDWICH, England -- A funny thing happened on the way to the hardest British Open ever. It rained. Royal St. George's got soft. And with the soft conditions came the fiercest first-round onslaught anyone can remember in the 122-year history of the tournament.

A working title for opening day at the Open: Soggy Sandwich Very Edible.

They ate Royal St. George's alive. Devoured it. Big names -- Greg Norman, Mark Calcavecchia, Fuzzy Zoeller -- and Peter Senior led the assault. Coming on like the Saxons came ashore here around the year 600, the foursome of Norman, Calcavecchia, Zoeller and Senior pillaged St. George's for 66s that were startling, even given the conditions.

"The course was there for the taking," said Norman, "and you don't get many opportunities to take anything from around here. When you get the chance, you'd better do it."

What is this? The Nike Tour goes European? Just do it? Well, they did it. All of them.

With just a hint of a wind coming off the English Channel, an Open record 47 players broke par. Twenty-two others equaled it on a course that did not yield a single sub-par score in the first round of 1981 Open.

In addition to the quartet at 66, 4-under par, there were 10 players at 67. There were 14 at 68. Jack Nicklaus was one of 19 at 69.

For a little perspective on just how defenseless St. George's was, consider that Nicklaus had his best opening round in a British Open since 1977. Nicklaus shot his best opening round since '77 -- the year he staged his memorable duel with Tom Watson at Troon -- and he got beat by 28 players?

Precisely. And a couple of the players on the lead are Nicklaus' Palm Beach County, Fla., neighbors. Calcavecchia and Norman are making their presence felt in a major for the first time in a long time.

Norman, who was last a major factor in the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah and the '90 British Open at St. Andrews, overcame a terrible start to shoot a terrific round. He double-bogeyed the first hole, fought his way back with three birdies and one more bogey on the front and then embarked on a patented Shark feeding frenzy on the back.

Spurred on by a bogey at the 11th hole, Norman smelled blood. On the 13th through the 17th, it was nothing but the bottom of the cup. Five birdies in a row.

"How do you explain that?" Norman said. "I don't know."

Here's the only way: pitching wedge to 18 inches at the 13th; a 45-foot chip-in from the rough at the 14th; a 6-iron to 2 feet at the 15th; a 6-iron to 24 feet at the 16th; a 5-iron to 5 feet at the 17th. He then completed the round with a 15-footer for par at the 18th after hitting his second shot into the right-front bunker.

Calcavecchia's round wasn't as spectacular, but for a player who has won one tournament since his victory in the '89 British Open at Troon, it was a huge step in the right direction.

He didn't have a bogey. He was making three-footers the way he once did. After birdies at Nos. 2, 7, 10 and 12, he saved par three times, one-putting three of the last four holes. That was Calcavecchia's way when he was going well, and he hasn't really gone well since he was seventh on the money list in 1990.

"Maybe I was looked at as one of the up-and-coming superstars, but maybe my brain didn't allow that to happen," he said. "I might have gotten satisfied with what I had. But I have dreams. I want to win majors. It's still there. It's just not easy."

For one day on one soft golf course, it looked easy. It looked easy even for Zoeller, the 41-year-old, wisecracking former U.S. Open champion who has not won in seven years.

"I had a good time out there," said Zoeller, who birdied five holes and bogeyed just one. He should have had a good time, the way he was driving it. He hit every fairway. "It was a very enjoyable day at the links."

For everyone concerned. The golf course that was forecast to be about as enjoyable as a Turkish prison was just another day at the country club. And the rains that fell when the day was done and the ones that were forecast for this morning certainly will not make it any harder.

What all this means is as unclear as the sky over Sandwich. Certainly, the stars are out on the leader board. Bernhard Langer (67), Nick Price (68), Seve Ballesteros (68), Fred Couples (68) and Nick Faldo (69) are all poised. Nicklaus still has some miracle scenario in mind. The course might be soft but the guys who can play hardball are right where they want to be.

Even if it is a little soggy where they're standing.

BRITISH OPEN

! The leaders . . .

Fuzzy Zoeller.. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. 32-34.. .. .. .. ..66

Peter Senior .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. 31-35.. .. .. .. ..66

Mark Calcavecchia .. .. .. .. .. .. ..33-33.. .. .. .. ..66

Greg Norman .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..35-31.. .. .. .. ..66

. . . and followers

Bernhard Langer .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33-34.. .. .. .. ..67

Nick Price .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35-33.. .. .. .. ..68

Fred Couples .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 36-32.. .. .. .. ..68

Seve Ballesteros .. .. ... .. .. .. ..33-35.. .. .. .. ..68

Jack Nicklaus ... ... .. .. .. .. .. 34-35.. .. .. .. ..69

Donnie Hammond .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..32-37.. .. .. ... .69

Nick Faldo .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 32-37.. .. .. .. ..69

Lee Janzen .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. ..33-36.. .. .. .. ..69

Raymond Floyd .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35-35.. .. .. .. ..70

Tom Watson .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 36-35.. .. .. .. ..71

Payne Stewart .. .. .. ... .. .. .. ..35-36.. .. .. .. ..71

John Daly .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. 37-34.. .. .. .. ..71

Ian Woosnam .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 36-36.. .. .. .. ..72

Tom Kite .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..38-34.. .. .. .. ..72

Complete scores: 8D

BRITISH OPEN LEADERS' BOX SCORES

Player.. .. .Putts.. .. .Eagles.. .Birdies.. .Pars.. .Bogeys... Other

Senior .. .. 31 .. .. .. ..0 .. .. .. 5 .. ... 12 .. .. 1 .. .. ..0

Calcavecchia 29 .. .. .. ..0 .. .. .. 4 .. .. .14 .. .. 0 .. .. ..0

Norman .. .. 24 .. .. .. ..0 .. .. .. 8 .. .. . 7 .. .. 2 .. .. ..1

Zoeller .. ..31 .. .. .. ..0 .. .. .. 5 .. .. .12 .. .. 1 .. .. ..0

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.