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Carnoustie Is The Real Winner


First-round leader Rodney Pampling is out, appropriately enough after shooting an 86. Fortunately for him, his wife Angela is a trained psychologist.

David Duval is in -- barely ... not that he deserved to be. After holding down the No. 1 ranking in the world for 14 weeks, Duval finished bogey, bogey, double-bogey, bogey Friday at wind-swept Carnoustie Golf Club, and landed on the cut-line at 154. So did two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, who needed a clutch par on the final hole.

"You can't judge your game on this golf course," said Duval, who shot 79-75. "Good shots end up in the hay, bad shots end up on the green, you just don't know what's going to happen. I think my game's okay, but I really couldn't tell you."

Defending champion Mark O'Meara (73) and five-time champ Tom Watson (73) are down the road, but at least they finally broke 80. In fact, Watson blitzed the back nine for a 3-under 32, capped by a birdie at the 18th hole. That's more than you can say for former winners Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player and Bob Charles, who never found the 70's.

Then there was the sad saga of rookie Sergio Garcia, who will surely have better Opens. El Niño ("The Kid") performed like the 19-year-old he is, following up Thursday's agonizing 89 with an equally distressing 83. Maybe it had an adverse effect on playing partner Vijay Singh, considered a front-runner coming in. Singh was singed by Carnoustie, crawling off after shooting 77-84, the latter easily his worst round in 11 British Opens.

A host of other Americans, including Mark Calcavecchia, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Billy Mayfair and Steve Stricker made early exits. So did three-time champ Nick Faldo, Carlos Franco, and Aussies Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.

What does it mean? Mostly, that the course was almost unplayable and will continue to get tougher unless rain softens the fairways and greens. At least the above mentioned players showed up, which is more than you can say for Fred Couples, John Daly, Scott Hoch, Tom Kite and Curtis Strange.

Sure, it's a lot of cash to shell out for a week of torture. But as the saying goes, "You can't win if you don't enter."

The good news for the R&A is that Greg Norman and Tiger Woods are within striking distance of the lead. With all due respect, Jean Van de Velde and Angel Cabrera are fine players, but not exactly the kind of names tournament officials envisioned on the Claret Jug.

Ask Nick Price, and he would probably say it serves them right.

"If I was a spectator I would ask for my money back," he said. "They have gone over the top this time."

And Price made the cut.

Poor Colin Montgomerie. Just when he seemed on the verge of major breakthrough, the pride of Scotland self-destructed with a 76. At 8-over, you would think he's still in contention, especially at Carnoustie. Not according to Monty.

"I'm out of the tournament now," he said.

Faldo is another of Carnoustie's casualties.
Montgomerie either thinks he's out of the tournament or he's playing possum. (AP)

Not according to Brian Watts (remember him?). A year ago at Royal Birkdale he became a household name by losing to O'Meara in a playoff. After spending most of his time in Japan, the American-born Watts has become a PGA Tour regular and is back in the hunt again.

"I wouldn't say he's out of it," said Watts, who's at 5-over 147. "If he plays as he's capable of tomorrow and gets within three or four shots of the lead going into the final round he's got a great shot at it."

Earlier in the week, The Sun suggested Mntgomerie's biggest obstacle is his mind. It ran a story with the headline, "If Monty had Langer's Brain he'd have won 6 Majors by Now." Honest.

The story quoted noted instructor Bob Torrance (Sam's father) as saying, "If Monty had been blessed with a brain like (Bernhard) Langer's, he would have won majors year's ago."

"But he lets people get to him far too often. A player of his class shouldn't allow himself to be affected by what anyone says. Monty has to learn to handle outside influences and pressure and shut them out of his mind."

Faldo is another of Carnoustie's casualties.
Faldo is another of Carnoustie's casualties. (AP)

He's probably right.

One thing is certain: Woods doesn't seem bothered by anything, even a half-dressed woman, who as it turns out was arrested Thursday and charged with "breach of the peace" for running onto the 18th green to hug and kiss Woods.

He's been polite, patient and totally at peace with himself. More importantly, his worst score thus far is a bogey.

"That was our goal all week," said swing coach Butch Harmon, who not surprisingly, predicts Woods will win his second major title on Sunday.

It seems only appropriate. He's one of the few who hasn't whined about the course.

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