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Golf News: - Posted 27th June 1998

Record entries for 1998 Open Championship

Reuters

St. Andrews, Scotland - A record 2,336 players, including 11 past winners, have entered next month's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale from 16th - 19th July, the Royal and Ancient announced yesterday.

The total exceeds the previous record of 2,133 set for last year's Open at Royal Troon.

But only one former champion at the Royal Birkdale layout on the northwest coast of England is among the entries, American Tom Watson, who won the last of his five titles there in 1983.

The past winners are led by defending champion Justin Leonard and include Jack Nicklaus, who has entered but has said that whether he played would depend on how he felt when he arrived there.

If he does play it will be his 37th successive Open Championship in Britain and his 155th major championship.

The list of notable absentees includes the last Open champion on the course, 1991 winner Ian Baker-Finch of Australia, whose career has nose-dived in recent years. His brief comeback for last year's Open at Royal Troon ended with an opening round of 92.

Other absentees include twice champion Greg Norman, the world number four who entered but then withdrew following shoulder surgery which will keep him out of the game until later this year.

R and A secretary Sir Michael Bonallack said the size and quality of the field, with 20 per cent of the entries from overseas, "confirms the universal appeal of the Championship."

The field will be whittled down in regional qualifying on July 6 on 16 courses and final qualifying on July 12 and 13 will involve 480 players on four courses in the Southport area.

The winner of the title will earn 300,000 pounds ($502,000).