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Woods ready to light up Turnberry

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Iain Carter | 13:48 UK time, Monday, 13 July 2009

It is hard to know which was the rarer sight, Tiger Woods' pearly whites or the driver in his hands. It was a largely unsmiling, poker-faced world number one who was plotting his way during his Turnberry dawn patrol.

Just a handful of spectators were following, but his personal bodyguards and the police were in attendance, as Woods began his early morning recce. It was his second round at the South Ayrshire course having teed off when he arrived on Sunday.

It was head down, hands in pockets, straight-faced stuff. Time to work, but not necessarily grind - this was all about getting a feel for the course.

The driver was used sparingly. On the par 5 seventh (it's really a par 4 ¼ unless the wind switches dramatically) Woods tugged his drive left and Stevie was left with a search on his hands.

We didn't see the big stick again until the last two holes. Until then it was a mixture of long irons and low "stinger" three woods which found fairway after fairway. It was impressive stuff as were the iron approaches that didn't lack for distance control or accuracy.

The drives off the 17th and 18th tees were into the wind and Woods needed a three wood to get home on the par-five penultimate hole. His tee-shot at the last looked as though he'd choked down the shaft and it was judged to perfection as he hit to the corner.

So plenty of reasons to be cheerful for the three-time champion but there was precious little engagement between Woods and his early-bird army of spectators.

For one intrepid couple there was the promise of an autograph at the end of his round and there was a muttered "thank you" to the small boy who quite rightly gave Woods a "good shot" for the delightfully drawn three-wood off the eighth tee.

On the greens it was all about feel. He largely putted using just his right hand hitting to likely pin positions.

Tiger Woods practising at Turnberry

Most significantly Woods looks like he is right where he wants to be with his game ahead of his first Open in two years. So much so, swing coach Hank Haney is at home in America. Job done.

Woods, who tees off with Lee Westwood on Thursday, told the Golf Channel afterwards that the course is tougher than a lot of people are making out and that will certainly be the case if the wind blows.

The fairways are tight but definitely fair and the first cut of rough shouldn't be of too much concern to the players this week. But any further off line and there's big trouble.

This is where the rough is thick and claggy and the spectator ropes are set back far enough for it to become a factor on several holes, particularly to the right of the approach to the 17th.

George Brown and his greens staff should be congratulated on the state of the course which is outstanding. It is a truly gorgeous setting and the immaculate conditioning is entirely in keeping with the spectacular views afforded by the South Ayrshire hills, the famous lighthouse, Ailsa Craig and Arran.

But, of course, for the players it's now about conditioning their game, trusting their swing to be able to go out and just play golf, hitting the shots they need at the appropriate time.

That's the aim for defending champion Padraig Harrington, who had his full entourage around him on the range. Bob Torrance had travelled south from Largs while mind-man Bob Rotella was also in attendance.

I'm told his short game was as sharp as a tack as he won the Irish PGA on Saturday, but Harrington has yet to find much consistency in his long game. It needs to happen quickly for there to be any chance of a hat-trick of titles.

One witness at the European Club said: "Avoiding a sixth missed cut in a row is a more realistic target in the short-term - then he can think about challenging."

By contrast Martin Kaymer was here fresh from his back-to-back wins and so brimful of confidence. And spare ribs.

The German didn't alter his eating habits out of superstition at Loch Lomond and one wonders whether Ayrshire supplies of ribs will be seriously depleted this week.

Interestingly the Scottish and French Open winner chose to play his opening practice round at Turnberry with Sir Nick Faldo, with whom he struck a good relationship as a non-playing invitee to the European Ryder Cup team at Valhalla.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were out early along with Woods and this was their big practice round before jumping on a helicopter back to their homes in Northern Ireland.

The idea is to have a day away from the Open circus before returning to apply the finishing touches to their preparations.

As for the likely winner, I feel the weather is the crucial factor. If wind and rain sweep in the Championship may be blown wide Open.

But if conditions remain as benign as they are now, I believe it will take something very special to stop Woods from claiming his fourth Open. That would certainly bring a smile to his face and fully justify his early morning alarm calls.

Five Live will be live from Turnberry throughout The Open and you can follow my Open updates on Twitter.


  • Comment number 1.

    I can't wait to get upto Turnberry, Im travelling from Wakefield on Thursday and its the first time Im going to see TW in full flow, I went to royal liverpool practice day and he did a no show and obviously last year at birkdale he was absent, so am very much looking forward to seeing the great man this year on what looks like a spectacular setting for the Open. I can't see past Tiger for the victory if he gets a good draw with the weather, his driving has been excellent for his last three tournaments, hence he won two. Westwood is playing soom good stuff and will be inspired by his pairing with Tiger and finally Kaymer how bout three in a row?.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nice post Iain - obviously, i agree that the weather will play a critical role in how the weekend will unfold. Looking at the BBC forecast for Thursday and Friday, it's looking 'ok', however it's Saturday and Sunday conditions that really count. Tiger to win, but i don't think Kaymer and Padraig will be far behind............

  • Comment number 3.

    I`m an Ayrshire exile living in Chicago but have played the Ailsa course many times. If the wind blows then the last seven holes will be very, very tough. On the par 3 15th I have hit driver, even from the front tees !!
    Walking up the 18th with the hotel sitting on the hill behind the green makes you feel like a champion, even if you are struggling to break 100.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sympathies for Westwood having drawn the short straw of being paired with Woods. That means extra pressure on Westwood when he stands over a four and half footer as the crowds rush off to the next tee. Has any one paired with Woods in the first two rounds ever won the Open?

    There will be much exaggeration this week about what a wonderful coures Turnberry is. Yet put it where, say Royal Lytham is, and it would hardly register at all. Much of its appeal lies in its scenery. Few Open courses - apart from the anachronistic Old Course - are weaker than Turnberry. In short, it has no proper par fives (it will be interesting to see how the revamped 17th plays); it opens with two very weak and bland holes; the holes round the monument, from 12 onwards, are very monotonous. Its one really great hole is the 16th. 9 is a mess, and should - as Peter Allis has often said - have been turned into a par 3 years ago, with 10 becoming one of the great seaside par 5s. 10 though should be much better with the new tee. 18 is - again apart from the Old Course - the weakest finishing hole on the Open roster, a real let down, even in its revamped state. But the scenery is gorgeous and everyone will have a splendid week, even if it rains. But oh for a proper links course like Muirfield, the greatest of all Open venues. Not long til 2013!

  • Comment number 5.

    Number 4, i agree with your assessment of Turnberry, very overrated.

    Kingsbarns is a golf course with wonderful views from virtually every hole, far more than Turnberry.

    Re who will win this week.

    If calm, Tiger seems a good bet, if not and I think forecast may be a bit dodgy at the beginning, then impossible to predict - Curtis 2003, Hamilton 2004, (US Open - Campbell, Cabrera and Glover in recent years) - other than Monty having a good huff !

  • Comment number 6.

    Why does it always seem like Rory McIlroy is paired with Anthony Kim? U.S. Open and now here. Battle of the belt buckles. McIlroy is my bet to win this. Followed him at Bethpage Black on the Sunday and he was phenomenal.

  • Comment number 7.

    No 4 - a great course is made up of more than just great golf holes. If you built a course with 18 great holes in the middle of Iowa then it would be a great course but lack that magical element.
    Playing while looking out to Ailsa Craig or walking into town on the Old Course 18th have that special feeling that makes a great golf experience. We will see images this week from Turnberry that Muirfield can`t match and that`s just as important to promote this great game and boost the tourist industry when we need it the most

  • Comment number 8.

    I hope the wind gets up. Then we'll see what the best golfers in the world are made of.

  • Comment number 9.

    At least the BBC are going to be providing decent TV coverage this week. The coverage at Loch Lomond wasn't a patch on a SKY production. No HD, no super slow motion of the shots, breaks in the broadcast and the commentary was appalling.

    Couldn't the BBC find a commentator in touch with the modern game and not someone who's more interested in commenting on the local landscape, with a backdrop of sycophantic laughter. It seems the only innovation is the newly titled 'on the course with Ken' - who thought that up?

  • Comment number 10.

    I would have to agree with the comments from spindrift27. I know the commentary team try to make it more interesting commentary for the viewing public, but Peter Allis doesn't have a clue what hes talking about and I think the BBC know that and its part of the reason they put him on. Also the bbc should provide HD viewing we pay enough for the tv licence. I would like to say though that Ken Brown out of them all does know what hes talking about and hes good entertainment with his ken on the course.

  • Comment number 11.

    Have to agree with upthebarns regarding Kingsbarne...Kingsbarne is more ruggedy- looking but Turnberry is majestic, particularly on a sunny day.

  • Comment number 12.

    How antiquated is the BBC??? 1980's technology in 2009...I have read that much of the world is complaining regarding the "feed" rights to the BBC for the Open...Asia, Australia, the states because BBC doesn't have HD for the "feed". Maybe they will show it in black & white!

  • Comment number 13.

    that's completely ridic if it's true the open will not be shown in hd...

  • Comment number 14.

    No 10: Peter Alliss doesn't know what he's talking about? At least spell his name correctly, then think about the experience he's got, the tournaments he's won, the innumerable tournaments he's commentated on and ask yourself, 'do I really mean it?'. At least he's not a sycophantic 'Tiger lover', if he sees rubbish play, snail like speed on the course etc, he'll have a go and rightly so.

    As for Turnberry being a poor course: all any course is is an area of grass with a small hole at one end. The essence of a course is it's surroundings and how hard it is to negotiate. I think we'll find the answer over the next few days. After all, previous Opens haven't been too bad.

  • Comment number 15.

    I just watched a BBC video clip now where the bbc journalist was asking Tiger Woods how much inspiration he gets from Roger Federer. That was a most absurd, disrespectful question to ask from such a champion as Tiger. I mean, we all know what a great tennis player Roger is, and his place in Sports hall of fame is assured. But, last time i checked, Tiger had already made his mark and won a few majors long before Roger emerged on the scene. What was Tiger's inspiration then. Is it now, when Tiger Woods has become an established dominant player in golf, that he will need inspiration from Roger Federer??

  • Comment number 16.

    Peter Alliss last won a tournament 10 years before the majority of people on earth were born and he never won a major. This week we'll be treated to commentary on ice creams, a lovely labrador and lots of irrelevant mentions of his mates from various old school golf clubs. The BBC should take note from Strictly Come Dancing and replace him with Alesha Dixon.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am looking forward to the Open, I trust the BBC will focus on all players in the TV coverage and not fill my screen with Woods all the time. We have some alltime greats, Faldo, Norman , Watson etc playing, much more intersting than Woods.


  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Iain, got a link to your blog through Twitter and really glad I followed it- Enjoyed getting an insight into all the work that Tiger puts in while preparing for a Major Championship. Harrington spoke about Woods' ability to adjust so well to whatever course he is playing on any given week- His attention to detail and meticulousness as mentioned in your blog just shows us he has his "game face" on. Can't wait for the Open to start and will be following your blog and telling others to do the same. Have a great week!

  • Comment number 19.

    Iain - I really think the TV interviews in front of a bunch of lockers with R&A is a rubbish idea.

    The Open Golf championship is not an Americanised film set.

    Why not put a yellow fisherman's hat on each golfer and have a lighthouse behind them - that would be more relevant.

    Come on BBC you guys you can do better than that.

  • Comment number 20.

    Well someone must have switched the light off. He played like a 10 handicapper and to be honest the coverage the BBC gave him was outrageous, far too much in my opinion there just is not enough fair coverage of all 156 golf competitors when Tiger Woods comes to play.

    Personally I'm glad he missed the cut, perhaps now we can have 2 days of golf coverage without the commentary from Aliss and Co who swoon at his every stroke. A major without Tiger Woods maybe unthinkable but its happened, get over it and move on, there are plenty of other great golfers out there - support them.


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