Famous Foursome Might Be Back
Despite all the acknowledgments from the fans, the photo op on Swilken Bridge and his own preseason pronouncement that this would be his last British Open, Jack Nicklaus, who shot rounds of 77 and 73 to miss the cut by six, wasn't ready to let go last Friday. "You never say never," said Nicklaus, 60, when asked if he would play in next year's Open at Royal Lytham. "Why would I say, 'I'm not going to ever be there again,' when I might start to play well and decide to go?"
Gary Player, 64, and Lee Trevino, 60, also left open the possibility that they would play in future championships. "I'd come back to Lytham with pleasure," said Player, who shot 77-79 and donned the same pair of black and white pants he had worn in 1960 to protest apartheid. To return he will need a special invitation from the R&A, because next year he will be 65, beyond the age limit for automatic exemptions for former champions. He will probably be invited because he won at Royal Lytham in 1974 and because the R&A made a similar exception for Arnold Palmer, who was 65 when he was invited to bid adieu to the Open at St. Andrews in 1995. As a three-time Open winner—as well as the oldest player to make the cut (at age 59, in 1995)—Player expects the same treatment.
Trevino was, as usual, the most enigmatic. After shooting 80-77, he was asked if he had made his last trip over the Swilken Burn. "I've been over a lot of bridges," he replied. "Ill never let you know if that's it. I truthfully don't know." Trevino loved every minute of his week at St. Andrews, chatting with the fans and using his 70-year-old Scottish caddie, Willie Aitchison, as his foil. "The last time I hit him with a practice ball," Trevino said, "I was driving it so straight, I hit him two more times before he got up." All kidding aside, Trevino said, "This course is the one that does it to me. I know I'll come back in 2005 and probably after that as well. Maybe they'll just throw me in one of those pot bunkers and put a little sand over me."
Nicklaus, who had hip replacement surgery last January, has made the cut in only one of three majors this year and also failed to contend in the Senior majors. Still, he loves being in the arena. "A lot of great things have happened to me," said Nicklaus. "It just so happens, though, that there aren't many things better than playing in a golf tournament."
That same spirit was best embodied at the Old Course by 88-year-old Sam Snead, the '46 winner at St. Andrews. After his drive at 18 during the four-hole exhibition for former champions on Wednesday, Snead got out of his cart and did a jig on the Swilken Burn Bridge. In 2005 he'll be 93 and may fill out a famous foursome at St. Andrews.
Why the Fuss?
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter," Groucho Marx wrote a rival humorist. "Some day I intend on reading it." His words came to mind two weeks ago in Scotland when the European tour's tournament committee met to decide whether Mark James should be stripped of his Ryder Cup vice captaincy for things he wrote in Into the Bear Pit (Virgin, $27.00), a captain's memoir of the 1999 matches at Brookline, Mass. Excerpts published in the Daily Mail portrayed English star Nick Faldo and former Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin as self-centered malcontents (this is controversial?) and caused Faldo and a handful of Continental pros to question whether James should be allowed to carry on in the position to which he was appointed by Sam Torrance. On July 11 the committee—of which James is, conveniently, chairman-voted 10-0 to keep him.
Anyone who reads the book will wonder what the Euros are fussing about First, most of the prose is funny, a fandango of facetiousness. Second, it's not about Faldo or Jacklin; ifs about us—or rather, the U.S. Like a modern-day de Tocqueville, James dissects American culture and finds things to admire (the Boston Pops, the Four Seasons, the friendliness of the natives) and things to deplore (the Boston Pops' conductor, undercooked lamb, early bedtimes). But mostly to deplore.
"Fashion trends in America always seem to be four or five years behind ours," he writes when discussing the U.S. team's appearance at the opening dinner. In one inspired passage, James brings down two foes with one shot: "If [Faldo] seeks his own company and wants to keep his head down without saying hello to anybody, then that is his business and I have absolutely no problem with it, but I do think a player like that fits in better on the U.S. Tour."