The Open Championship
The Open Championship
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The Open
All eyes on Tiger Woods again
Final hurdle for Phil Mickelson
Ballesteros back on familiar turf
Tom Lehman warns the long hitters
Paul Azinger withdraws with flu
Van de Velde makes it through qualifying
In depth preview
Tiger Woods resists Norman's advice
Quotes from Tuesday's practice
Davis Love aiming to improve Open performance
Gary Player set for final Open
Injury worries fade for Els & Langer
Goosen enjoying new found status
Woods aiming for Claret Jug again
Weather & rough will make for a stern test
Early tee off for Tiger Woods
John Daly aiming for major comeback
Bob Charles won't be emotional at last Open
Darren Clarke sights set on first Major
Montgomerie hopeful despite poor Open performances
Harrington hoping to go one better
Greg Norman withdraws for personal reasons
Garcia's aide suffers buggy accident

All eyes on Tiger Woods again

Officially, Tiger Woods' coming out party occurred at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, where he tied for 60th in his professional debut. In truth, it came a month earlier at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where the Stanford junior-to-be fashioned an eye-popping, 5-under-par 66 in the second round of the British Open.

Tiger Woods has four PGA Tour victories in 2001.

Woods tied for 22nd, 10 strokes behind winner Tom Lehman and earned the silver medal for low amateur. More importantly, he proved to himself and the rest of the golfing world that he had the skill and tenacity to compete at the highest level.

"That's where I realized I can really play with these guys," said Woods, who made eight birdies during an 11-hole stretch in the second round.

Woods returns to Royal Lytham & St. Annes next week, this time as defending champion. Last year, he won the 129th Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews, shooting 67-66-67-69 to beat Thomas Björn and Ernie Els by eight strokes.

Whether his game will be as sharp this time remains to be seen. In 2000, Woods was dripping with confidence after a record-smashing, 15-stroke victory in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Woods took charge with a first-round 65 and never pulled his foot off the accelerator.

In last month's U.S. Open, he was a surprising non-factor at steamy Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Woods bogeyed the first hole and played catch-up the rest of the Tournament, tying for 12th. He struggled with his ball-striking most of the week and only a deft short game kept him within shouting distance of winner Retief Goosen of South Africa.

That said, Woods remains the man to beat. Even at 90 percent, he's scary-good and obviously has fond memories of the course. He's had a week to refine his mechanics and get comfortable with his swing -- assuming he didn't spend all his time fly fishing in Ireland -- and is hungry to add a seventh major to his resume.

As was the case last year, Woods brings five victories, including a major, into the British Open, and he won by seven strokes in May at The Memorial Tournament. The only discernable difference is that he has finished out of the top 10 five times compared with only three all of last year.

Woods is the first to admit he hasn't played quite as well. It should also be noted that his fellow competitors have raised their games and spend more time working out and practicing than looking over their shoulders. Woods has elevated the bar and many, namely Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Sergio Garcia, Joe Durant, Scott Hoch and Mark Calcavecchia have responded.

If Woods is worried, it doesn't show. Sticking to his routine, he flew to Ireland with pal Mark O'Meara a week early to acclimate to the time change, relax and practice his casting. Woods has become as competitive in fishing as he is at golf and now gives scratch-angler O'Meara a run for his trout.

Many consider Royal Lytham & St. Annes one of the most demanding courses in the rotation, especially when the wind blows. Located about a mile from the sea, the course is characterized by the usual obstacles -- firm terrain, deep bunkers, shaggy rough and small, tricky greens. The premium is on driving accuracy, and those who spray tee shots will be non-factors.

With three par 3s, including the 206-yard first hole, the front nine offers the best chance for scoring. The 494-yard, par-5 sixth usually plays downwind and is easily reachable in two. In nine previous Opens held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, two players have recorded 6-under 29s.

The back nine is bruising. It features only one par 5 and one par 3, and closes with six straight par 4s of varying lengths. To be sure, it is a nerve-racking stretch, even for the steadiest of players.

In 1926, the great Bobby Jones won the first of three British Opens at Royal Lytham & Annes, punctuating the victory with a miraculous approach to the par-4 17th. Tied with Al Watrous, Jones hooked his drive left into a sandy waste area. Faced with a blind 175-yard shot over trouble, Jones flushed a hickory-shafted mashie (5-iron) onto the green and two-putted for a par. Watrous was so stunned by the play, he three-putted and wound up losing by two strokes.

Other winners at Royal Lytham & St. Annes include Bobby Locke(1952), Peter Thomson (1958), Bob Charles (1963), Tony Jacklin (1969), Gary Player (1974), Seve Ballesteros (1979 and 1988) and Lehman. After a scintillating third-round 64, Lehman slipped to a final-round 73, but still edged Els and Mark McCumber by two strokes.

The last player to claim consecutive Open titles was another Stanford alum, Tom Watson, who accomplished the feat in 1982 and '83. Woods might not be the overwhelming favorite he was last month at Southern Hills, but he's still the player to watch.





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