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Sunshine brightens prospects for Open
AFP
08:17 AEST Thu Jul 19 2012

Sunny skies finally greeted golfers at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Wednesday as weather forecasts on the eve of the 141st British Open called for dry conditions throughout the tournament.

More rain was expected overnight, the lastest drenching in a deluge of wet weather that has seen record levels of rainfall soak the northwest of England this summer, creating dense rough, penal and thick, for wayward shots.

"The champion on Sunday I doubt will have won from the rough," said Royal and Ancient Golf Club chairman Peter Dawson. "There's a premium on hitting fairways this week. If you stray a long way off you are going to be penalized."

There's no thought of allowing lift and clean rules for muddy balls and all of the 206 formidable pot bunkers scattered across the 7,086 yards of the par-70 links layout are expected to be dry and ready to test golf's greatest.

Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, seeks his fourth British Open crown and his first major title since the 2008 US Open on the well-bunkered tract.

"The bunkers are staggered differently here," Woods said. "There are some forced carries where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt past them. You can't just either lay it up or bomb over the top."

Woods, who has three US PGA titles this season, will try to add his name to a list of Open champions at Royal Lytham that includes Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Tony Jacklin and Seve Ballesteros.

"There has to be some shape to shots. I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen, I think, the list of champions here have all been just wonderful ball strikers," Woods said.

World No. 1 Luke Donald and World No. 3 Lee Westwood of England seek their first major titles while Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, ranked second, tries for a second major after his breakthrough in last year's US Open.

Americans will try to claim their fourth major title in a row, which would give them possession of all four major crowns for the first time since Phil Mickelson won the 2004 Masters.

Jim McArthur, chairman of the R and A championship commitee, said officials will try to enforce stringent pace of play rules at the Open, although skeptics will believe penalties are coming only when they see them imposed on golfers.

Officials want each threesome in the first two rounds finished in four hours and 30 minutes and weekend pairs to play the course in three hours, 45 minutes.

"We have obviously got to take into account the weather conditions and other mitigating circumstances, but we would have no hesitation if we felt the players were over time to take the appropriate action," McArthur said.

"We are intent on doing what we can to improve the pace of play in golf."

The tournament begins for every player with a wicked par-3 first hole that demands precision off the tee.

"Psychologically it is different because you have to be on your game right away," Woods said. "You can't just hit a ball in the fairway any distance you want. You have to hit the ball a precise number."