Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Global golfers warm up for British Open


Once it was discovered that Masters champion Mike Weir and US Open champion Jim Furyk were born on the same day, the search began for the logical -- or astrological -- candidate to win the British Open.

It turns out that Andrew Coltart of Scotland also was born on May 12, 1970.

Better yet, he sounds a lot like Sean Connery, who played British agent James Bond in Goldfinger. Early in that movie, 007 won a gold bar by beating the nefarious Goldfinger in a match played at none other than Royal St. George's.

Now all Coltart has to do is qualify for the British Open.

OK, it's a stretch.

Still, it illustrates that more players than ever seem capable of winning a major.

Weir and Furyk joined the list this year, the first time since 1992 that players who had never won a major captured the first two.

Not long ago, Tiger Woods had the major market cornered by winning four in a row and seven out of 11, a streak that ended with his US Open victory last year at Bethpage.

Woods shot down speculation about a slump by winning the Western Open for his fourth victory of the season, and he again is an overwhelming favorite to win the British Open.

"It's certainly a shot of confidence, there's no doubt about it," he said. "The things I've been working on are starting to come together. Hopefully, they'll come together more so at the British Open."

Still, Woods goes to the eccentric links of Royal St. George's without a major trophy at his home in Florida for the first time in four years.

Some attribute the parity to technology, the hottest issue in golf this year.

No one is more bothered about it than Woods, who was the point man in urging the PGA Tour to test drivers that might have too much pop. Woods has talked about an unidentified player who he believes is using a hot driver.

The fact is, everyone is hitting it longer.

"The moderate hitters can drive it 285 yards," two-time British Open champion Greg Norman said. "The long hitter in my day was 285. It's getting harder and harder to win majors because more players are grouped together. You don't have the separation."

Woods, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh used to have an enormous advantage, especially on the par 5s, since they were in that elite group of players who could hit the ball a mile and have a decent idea where it was going.

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