The Big Five Are Ready to Roll
Call it the Tiger Woods Effect: Five players who are battling for the world's No. 1 ranking—Woods, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Colin Montgomerie and Tom Lehman—are at the top of their games heading into this week's British Open.
Last week, the No. 1-ranked Woods, coming off a victory in the Western Open, relaxed in Orlando before joining some Ryder Cup hopefuls for a practice round at Valderrama, in Sotogrande, Spain, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the other four players had good showings at the Loch Lomond World Invitational, a two-year-old European tour event at the Loch Lomond Golf Club outside Glasgow.
Lehman, the defending British Open champ, won by five shots, shooting a 19-under-par 265 (65-66-67-67), while Els was second, Norman tied for fourth, and Montgomerie finished 11th. "All five of us might miss the cut at Troon," says Lehman, "but it's got to be good for golf if the best players are playing their best going into a major."
The other four say Montgomerie, who's never won a Grand Slam event, is the favorite at Troon because he grew up there and because he's had close calls in so many majors. "Monty is way overdue," says Lehman. "He's my pick—if I take myself out of consideration."
Norman, who broke a 16-month drought by winning last month in Memphis, seems relaxed and ready. Commuting from his rented house on the Ayrshire coast to Loch Lomond by helicopter, he had time to play some holes at Turnberry, where he won the '86 British Open, and Troon, the site of his devastating playoff loss to Mark Calcavecchia in 1989.
The Shark, however, doesn't put much stock in last week's results. "It was nice to see, but Troon will be a different animal," Norman says. " Loch Lomond has fairways three times as wide as those at Troon. Troon's greens are flatter and slower, and the last nine is probably the longest in an Open."
A Real Bender For the Old Claret Jug
The silver claret jug that goes to the winner of the British Open has had an exciting year while in the possession of Tom Lehman. A few months ago the trophy was involved in a mysterious fender bender at the Lehmans' house in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lehman found the damaged jug on the floor when he came home from a tournament. "It was behind the couch, down where the kids play," he says. "I looked closely and saw that it was bent about 25 degrees, listing to the starboard side." Lehman panicked. "That trophy is 125 years old," he told his wife, Melissa. "I have to give it back."
No problem. Lehman had it repaired. But a few weeks ago the revered trophy had a brush with the law. After a charity event in Minneapolis at which he had the jug on display, Lehman gave it to Alissa Herron for safekeeping. Herron, the sister of Tour player Tim Herron and an employee at Lehman's management company, went barhopping with friends and took the trophy along. A bartender recognized it, feared it had been stolen and phoned the police.