Two-time champion Greg Norman pulled out of the British Open on Wednesday because of the death of a close friend in the United States.
“I’m extremely disappointed to miss the British Open for the second consecutive year,” Norman said in a statement. “But I’ve always maintained there’s nothing more important than family and friends.”
Norman declined to identify the friend and asked for “privacy during this difficult time.”
The Australian sat out last year’s British Open because of hip surgery. He skipped this year’s U.S. Open because he needed to qualify for the tournament but ran into a scheduling conflict.
Norman, 46, was at the Royal Lytham course early Wednesday and was to play a practice round with New Zealand’s Michael Campbell before withdrawing.
Japanese Toshimitsu Izawa also pulled out Wednesday because of illness.
Norman, who lives in Florida, joins a list of Americans who have pulled out that includes Paul Azinger, Hal Sutton, Lee Janzen, Kirk Triplett and Notah Begay.
Sergio Garcia had a bad day at the British Open on Wednesday--and the world’s best players haven’t even teed off.
Garcia was fined for criticism of the course at last week’s Scottish Open, and his business manager was hit by a golf cart in front of the Royal Lytham clubhouse.
Carlos Rodriguez suffered a broken left ankle and was taken to a hospital for surgery.
Later, Garcia learned he would be fined by the PGA European Tour for criticizing the rain-dampened greens at the Loch Lomond course during the Scottish Open.
Garcia called the rebuilt greens at Loch Lomond and European courses generally unsatisfactory compared with in those in the United States.
“Sergio Garcia has been fined for comments that the tour finds unacceptable in relation to the excellent facilities at Loch Lomond for the Scottish Open,” said David Garland, director of operations for the European Tour.
Twice a runner-up and a fourth-place finisher, Jesper Parnevik is something of the British Open’s version of tennis star Goran Ivanisevic.
Like the Croatian tennis star, who won at Wimbledon two weeks ago after losing three times in the final, the Swede hopes for a similar result this year.
Parnevik was the victim of a stunning last round by Nick Price at Turnberry in 1994 and Justin Leonard’s 65 at Troon in ’97. In ’98, he couldn’t overhaul Mark O’Meara and tied for fourth.
“I think the one at Troon was the one that hurt most, because I really thought I was going to win that one,” he said. “But Justin came out and shot that great 65. That’s the way it is.
“Same thing with Nick Price. He had that great finish at Turnberry. And I played very well at Birkdale, as well, but Mark O’Meara was the guy to win the trophy there. That was his year.
“I’m playing better than I have in a long time, so I’m looking forward to having a good week.”
As a young star who hopes to keep up with Tiger Woods, Australia’s Adam Scott had to chase after the British Open champion in practice.
Scheduled to start at 6 a.m. local time, Scott arrived at Royal Lytham to find the clubhouse locked.
“I had to wait to get my clubs out of the locker room,” said Scott, who turned 21 on Monday and is considered one of the stars of the future. “The clubhouse wasn’t open, Tiger had already played the first hole and then I caught up to him.
“I knew he was always going to go out early. That’s the way he plays. That’s fine, because we don’t play a lot of tournaments together. So we got a chance to play here and I could see what he was doing out there and how he is preparing.”
Gary Player signed a long-term endorsement contract with Callaway Golf and will use its controversial ERC II driver during the British Open.
Player, 65, and fellow golf legend Arnold Palmer have now endorsed the club, which is banned by the U.S. Golf Assn. because it says the club’s thin titanium face produces a spring-like action that increases the distance of drives. Palmer also has a contract with Callaway.
Scotland’s Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which sets the rules for most of the golfing world, doesn’t ban the club, enabling players to use it in European events such as the British Open.
“I very much hope that the day will come when I can use this great driver in tournaments in the U.S.,” Player said in a statement released by Callaway. “Hopefully, that day will come, when the USGA will recognize that the R&A; have it right and the two ruling bodies will agree on this issue.”
The only heckling Colin Montgomerie heard Wednesday was from himself.
Then again, this is the British Open, where the Scot gets nothing but enthusiastic support and delivers nothing but dismal performances.
Montgomerie has missed the cut five times in 11 appearances, and only once has he finished in the top 10.
He only recently ended a 13-month victory drought and more bad news came Monday--he fell out of the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in seven years.
And yet, he was full of charm and self-deprecating humor on the eve of the British Open, not willing to wait on the British press to point out his failures.
“Come on, negatives,” he pleaded.
He then offered them himself.
“OK, I’m outside the top 10 in the world,” he said. “Great. It was one hell of an effort to go in there from May 1994 to this time. That is the longest survivor. My Open record is pretty poor, which is being polite. So that’s it, really. Can we go on now?”
One reporter pointed out that Montgomerie recently watched videotape of the 1997 U.S. Open, where he finished second to Ernie Els, and that helped him get his game back in shape to end his slump.
Are there any tapes of the British Open he keeps?
“Yes, they have a show of bloopers,” he said. “I think I appear on them.”