Ready For St. Andrews

An old hand like Nick Price knows you have to be prepared for anything at the Old Course
July 11, 2005

Hand warmers in July? "I'm packing 'em. At the Open you never know," says Nick Price, the 1994 champion. Price, 48, grew up knocking balls around Warren Hills Golf Club in Rhodesia--now Zimbabwe--where the greens fee was a dime. At 12 he squeezed into the club's lounge to watch Tony Jacklin win the '69 Open. Nine years later Price was playing in his first Open as a pro. "I missed the cut at St. Andrews but stuck around to watch Jack Nicklaus win," Price says. "As he left the last green, he walked right past me, and I saw a tear in his eye. I'm thinking, man, Jack Nicklaus is crying. This must be huge."

Parka-Land Course

'Tis a wily lad kens his Scottish. "When a Scotsman says it's a 'wee bit breezy,'" says Price, "that means a 30-mph wind. A 'stiff breeze' is more like 40. And if he says it might be 'chilly in the mornin',' bring your parka and ski gloves."

How He Can Win

"If the wind doesn't blow, the Old Course is defenseless, and one of the big guys--Ernie, Tiger, Phil, Vijay or Goosen--will get close to 20 under," Price says. "But if it does blow, the winning score goes to about eight under, and I can get into that picture. I'll need to have my best putting week. I want the weather warm--I can't stand the cold anymore--with the right kind of wind. Less than 25 mph, because at 25 you start losing control of the ball. So let's say 15 to 20 mph. That brings the pure ball strikers to the fore. Fifteen to 20 mph for most of the four days, and from two or three directions.

"That's not too much to ask of the Open, is it? A bit of Scottish weather."

Don't Call Him

SHORTY

You probably think of Price as a plinker off the tee. O.K., he averages a mere 282 yards, good for 123rd on the PGA Tour. But no pro sees himself as a weakling. If you must talk length, call Nick what he calls himself: "a medium-length hitter."

PGA Tour Driving Distance Leaders ... and Followers

Rank                        Yards

1.Scott Hend             318.4

2. Tiger Woods         308.8

3. Brett Wetterich      308.6

4. Hank Kuehne         306.4

-------------------------------

123. Nick Price         282.1

153. Chris DiMarco   277.9

188. Fred Funk         268.6

191. Corey Pavin      255.4

HOW TO Get Out of a Pot Bunker

STEP 1: Don't get into one. "In the 2000 Open," Price says, "Tiger played four rounds at St. Andrews without going into a single bunker--one of the great feats of all time."

STEP 2: If Step 1 fails, make sure you get out in one shot, even if you have to hit sideways or back toward the tee. Use a club with plenty of loft--sand wedge, in almost every case--and aim well above the lip. "Most golfers, particularly amateurs, should treat a pot bunker as a lateral hazard. Picture a red line around it. Going in there costs you a stroke. Don't let it cost you three or four."

Scream Cuisine

Haggis (HAG-iss): A Scottish delicacy; the minced heart, lungs and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions and oatmeal, boiled in the animal's stomach. "Yes, I've eaten it," Price says. "Haggis can be tasty. It's a strong taste and ... not one I'll be running out to order."

The Three Toughest Holes

No. 17 (Road Hole): Pros hit tee shots over the corner of the Old Course Hotel. The smart approach is front right, away from the notorious Road Bunker. "If I hit a good drive, I'll play it as a par-4," says Price. "If not, I'll go short right and chip up."

BTW: The hotel's windows are bulletproof glass.

No. 4 (Ginger Beer): The fairway is a valley, and a wayward approach can leave a 150-foot putt. "No pro uses the fairway. The play is out to the left, then back to the green."

BTW: Ginger beer was sold 150 years ago from a cart manned by David (Auld Daw) Anderson, a caddie whose son Jamie won three Opens.

No. 13 (Hole o' Cross In): A sinister par-4 with seven fairway bunkers. "This one is all about the wind. In 2000 Tiger hit five-iron off the tee, then four-iron. Downwind you'd hit a three-iron and a nine-iron."

BTW: In a "wall of wind" one day, Price was proud to reach the green with a driver and a three-wood.

Slow Traffic

Ahead

OPEN ROOKIES BEWARE

Play grinds to a halt at the 4th tee. You may zoom through the first three holes, then wait 15 minutes at the 4th tee and spend an hour on holes 4 and 5. "Just when you've gotten loose, you hit the brakes," Price says. But delays are inevitable on a course with adjoining fairways and seven double greens. A player on the back nine hooks his approach and a front-nine group waits for him to putt out of the way. "An Open round can take 51/2 hours," says Price. "That's right up there with pro-am time. It can drive first-timers crazy."

NICK'S PICKS

Ernie Els: "If I had to pick a winner, I'd put my cash on Ernie. He has played the Old Course a lot and played it well in varying conditions."

Phil Mickelson: "Depending, of course, on his driving."

Luke Donald: "Luke has a wonderful chance. He drives the ball well, has a fine iron game and a strong short game."

John Daly: "Long and pretty straight, and he putts like a wizard."

NICK'S NIX

"Lengthening courses--especially the way they've done it at Augusta-- gives the longer guys more margin for error."

Favorite Links

1. Muirfield: "One of the world's best courses," says Price, "and it suits my game."

2. Turnberry: "A classic--even before I won there."

3. Royal Troon: "A wonderful course, though there's even less to do in Troon than in St. Andrews."

4. Royal Lytham and St. Annes: "A joy to play."

5. Hillside Golf Club: "It's in Southport, near Liverpool. One of the best that's not on the Open rota."

6. Portmarnock: "Another great one. Nip over to Ireland and play it."

What's in the Bag?

Three-wood
13-degree Sonartec

Hybrid
17-degree Sonartec MD

Irons
Bridgestone Tour 3-PW

Driver
10-degree Ping G-2

Putter
Scotty Cameron prototype

Wedges
55-degree and 60-degree Cleveland 588

Six new Bridgestone gloves

Tees from one to three inches in length ("The longer ones for most holes, the short ones for irons or fairway woods.")

Sandpaper ("For sanding grips--never during a round, of course.")

Chemical hand-warmers ("If it gets cold enough, I'll tuck one inside my glove.")

One-rand coin from South Africa, for marking his ball (he focuses on the 1 to help him one-putt)

"I put lead tape on all my irons to adjust the swingweight to D-4."

Leatherman miniknife and spare spikes

Pouch for wallet, watch and keys

Spike wrench

Ball-mark repair tools

OTHER STUFF IN THERE

•Raincoat, rainpants, rainhat ("My bag is totally different for the British Open--it's a little like going to sea.")
•Two dry towels
•Protein bars
•Precept balls stamped NICK, with the number 0 ("Just to be distinctive. I used double zeroes until the company vetoed the idea.")
•A rubbing stone, several plastic ball markers and other doodads fans have given him for luck ("You have to keep them. If they're for luck and you throw them away, what would happen to your luck?")

COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by DARREN CARROLL COLOR PHOTOTOM KILLIPS/TROY RECORD/AP COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by DARREN CARROLL COLOR PHOTOBOB MARTIN (ROAD HOLE)At 17, drive over the hotel's sign COLOR PHOTOTONY ROBERTS/CORBIS (MUIRFIELD)The 13th hole at magnificent Muirfield COLOR PHOTOFOODPIX/GETTY IMAGES (HAGGIS) Haggis: as good as it looks COLOR PHOTOALAN SCHEIN/CORBIS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)