NOTEBOOK \ From St. Andrews
Keeping it home: The claret jug hasn't spent much time in its homeland over the past decade. Scotland's Paul Lawrie is the lone British winner of the British Open over the past dozen years, and even that 1999 victory should come with an asterisk: Frenchman Jean Van de Velde blew a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole, letting Lawrie into a playoff at Carnoustie. Maybe things will change this year. The British contingent -- golfers from England, Scotland and Wales -- looks as strong as it's been in years, with six from its ranks holding spots in the top 65 of the latest world rankings. "The guys have been performing well," said England's Nick Faldo, who won the last of his three Opens in 1992, "so I think we've got plenty of players now." Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, ranked 40th, relishes the idea of winning his first major at St. Andrews. "This would cap off a fantastic career of mine," he said. "I come here full of hope, as I do every year for an Open. And this year is slightly different. I come here on quite good form, really, and I look forward to it in every way." The Brits are still fighting long odds. The huge contingent of top golfers from beyond their shores includes Tiger Woods, the 2000 winner and an overwhelming favorite this year.
Televising Jack: David Levy has mixed feelings about Jack Nicklaus' farewell appearance in the British Open. As president of Turner Sports, which will televise the first two rounds of the tournament on TNT, Levy relishes the idea of his cable network getting a chance to show Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge for the final time Friday. Of course, that would mean the Golden Bear missed the cut -- which tugs at Levy's personal preference. "It's a mixed bag," Levy said. "It would be great to have Jack on TNT, but I would like to see him play on the weekend. I'm sentimental about that." The bulk of the weekend play will be televised by ABC, though TNT does get a couple of hours both Saturday and Sunday mornings. "Maybe Jack will make the cut, but finish up while we're on the air," Levy said hopefully.
Duval aches: David Duval had a 12:10 p.m. starting time for his final practice round Wednesday, but he didn't join his group until the fourth fairway. His sinuses were acting up, and he sneezed so hard and so often the day before that it tweaked his neck. Duval had to spend an hour getting therapy before he could play. "If it's not one thing, it's another," he said. Duval, the 2001 British Open champion, hasn't won in three years and hasn't made a cut this year. Maybe this is just what he needs. His long list of injuries began at St. Andrews five years ago when his back hurt so much he could barely bend over to stick a tee in the ground. He still managed to get into the final group, and trailed Tiger Woods by only three shots with 11 holes to play. Reminded of that, the light came on. "Yeah, I can't walk," he said.