Woods made 18 birdies and drew praise from Michael Bonallack, the secretary of the R&A, who is not given to overstatement. "This year he showed a much more complete game," Bonallack said. "He's added a new dimension. He's as good at his age as Jack [Nicklaus] was, and that's the highest praise I can give to anyone."
All of which only added to the growing speculation that Woods will soon turn pro. The 20-year-old NCAA champion has to look no further than last year's British Open phenom, 6'8" Gordon Sherry of Scotland, to see the merits in remaining an amateur.
Sherry stole the show at St. Andrews, outplaying Norman and Tom Watson, with whom he was paired in the first two rounds, and finishing only nine shots back of John Daly. "I think we've seen the arrival of golf's next superstar," Norman proclaimed. One year later that superstar was nowhere to be found. Since turning pro in March, Sherry has withdrawn from the Italian Open with swollen glands, missed the cut in the European tour's Benson and Hedges International after a second-round 80, finished last in the Irish Open with a closing 83 and pulled out of the Scottish Open because of a neck injury. Sherry failed to qualify for Royal Lytham.
British Senior Open champion Brian Barnes said the recent flare-up of violence in Belfast gave him second thoughts about returning to Portrush in Northern Ireland this week to defend his title, but that his wife, Hilary, urged him to go. Although no sporting event in that country has ever been disrupted by terrorism, Barnes, a Scot, was concerned that he might be pressing his luck.
"In my youth I made a stupid decision to play in the 1971 Irish Open at Woodbrook in Dublin," Barnes said. "I was the only idiot to go out of a group who were sent letters by the IRA stating that if we went we would be shot. I made the decision to go, and it was a foolhardy one."
Tired of jockeying for position behind the gallery ropes? Next year at seven Tour events, starting at the Nissan Open in Los Angeles and including the Tour Championship, you won't have to if you are among the select 1,000 allowed inside the ropes as part of GolfWatch, a new hospitality plan conceived by Jack Vickers, the founder of the Tour's Sprint International.
Vickers thought of the idea one day while stuck in traffic: Why not provide a special lane, like the diamond lanes used by buses, for a limited number of fans at golf tournaments? In addition to a special, unobstructed path inside the ropes, patrons will also be provided with exclusive viewing areas beside each green, hospitality oases and an on-course concierge, plus other extras. The service, aimed primarily at corporate clients, won't come cheap. GolfWatch plans to charge $1,500 a head.
The Short Game