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14 Jul 2005 10:31
A determined Jack Nicklaus began his farewell march in spectacular fashion at the British Open on Thursday when he birdied the opening hole.
Nicklaus (65), paired with five-time Open winner Tom Watson and England’s Luke Donald, received a massive welcome from the huge gallery.
Watson, a five-time winner of the Open, matched Nicklaus’s birdie at the first as the leader board began to look like a list of “golden oldies”.
Former Open winner Mark Calcavecchia, who was in the first group off at 6.30am, and Scotland’s Sandy Lyle were also quickly into red figures.
The 45-year-old Calcavecchia, who took his single Open title at Troon in 1989 when he beat Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a play-off, got the perfect start when he birdied the opening hole.
Although the American gave it back at the second, he birdied the fifth to go back under par.
Lyle also birdied the fifth to go into red figures.
As Nicklaus began his final Major, pre-tournament favourite Tiger Woods was on the practice putting green, teeing off 30 minutes after the Golden Bear.
With the conditions near ideal, slightly overcast and only a hint of a breeze, the Old Course was going to be at Woods’s mercy.
The Open winner in 2000 when he managed a stunning 19-under par to finish eight shots clear of his nearest rival, the 29-year-old world number one is hoping for a repeat performance.
“Last time, I was conservative. This year, I might be more aggressive.
I know I am swinging well coming into the event.
“The greens are at a speed you can be aggressive. It will be interesting to see how tough the pins will be, over the knobs or on the corners. That would be the only defence if the wind does not blow, otherwise the guys will shoot some numbers,” added Woods.
Woods is hoping his lucky talisman—Nicklaus—will again be kind to him.
When Nicklaus said farewell to the United States Open in 2000, Woods won; the same at St Andrews in 2000. The same thing happened at the US PGA championship and this year at the Masters.
“It’s been good every time he’s retired,” joked Woods. “I wish he’d keep retiring. I won at Valhalla and at Pebble Beach and then here, and then Augusta this year. It’s been very good so far.”—Sapa-AFP
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