Pampling's par leaves British foes senseless

Australian keeps cool, turns in 71 before noon

July 16, 1999|By BOSTON GLOBE

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The winds blew across the links of the Carnoustie Golf Club in yesterday's opening round of the 128th British Open, and the glowering skies early in the day were a telling sign.

"Par doesn't matter," said native son Colin Montgomerie. "Forget par. It doesn't matter this week as long as you're one less than the rest of them."

This was the game at its grueling best. You merely tried to survive. How else to explain defender Mark O'Meara shooting 83, or youthful Spanish prodigy Sergio Garcia turning in an 89?

"This is the hardest championship course in the world," said Sir Michael Bonallack of the championship committee. "There was a strong wind today, but even without wind or rough, it would still be a tough test."

No player bettered par, and the leader as the final players straggled in around 9: 30 p.m. in the lingering Scottish twilight was a relatively unknown Australian named Rodney Pampling out of Queensland, who is playing in this competition for the first time at age 29. He played in one European PGA Tour event this year and missed the cut. He checked in before noon with an even-par 71.

The fact that score stood the test of the long day was remarkable, but in the cold winds out here in Antrum by the North Sea, this was seemingly predictable. Germany's Bernard Langer and Nike Tour graduate Scott Dunlap out of Pittsburgh and the University of Florida trailed by one at 72, and a seven-player grouping at 73 included 1996 British champion Justin Leonard and final Pleasant Valley champion Steve Pate.

"I would like to have shot even par," said Tiger Woods, "but I knew realistically that even par today would probably have been around 75 or 76." So he shot 74 to trail by three.

"I hit some weird clubs off the tees, but kept it in play beautifully and just wasn't able to make the birdie putts I'd like to make," Woods said.

The course, where Ben Hogan won his only British Open claret jug in 1953 and Tom Watson won the last one in 1975, was the winner with its narrow fairways, blustery and chilling winds, and its 7,361 yards of tantalizing terror.

So into this atmosphere walked Pampling, who grew up in the village of Caboolture. Since his wife, Angela, is a clinical psychologist, the former greenskeeper turns to her for support. "You're likely to be [too excited] playing in the British Open," he said. "So I try to slow things down and stop myself from reacting too much. She watches how I am handling myself on the course. If I have a problem, we talk about it."

Pampling, who has played just twice competitively since March on the Nike Tour, had 11 straight pars before a bogey on the 12th hole when he hit a sand wedge to the back edge of the green and failed to save par. He regrouped with a birdie on the par-3 13th when he rolled in a 10-foot putt, and went to 2-under when he holed a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th. Bogeys on 15 and 17 brought him in at 71.

So no one broke par at storied Carnoustie, where Watson turned in an 82 and David Duval had to settle for a 79. That was just above the average score of 78.312. There were just seven eagles and 219 birdies.

"Anything in the mid 70s had to be a good score," said Greg Norman after a 76. "Realistic par today I think is 74."

Pub Date: 7/16/99

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