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Golf gossip to address on the road to Muirfield
by Melanie Hauser

Just a few things to think about as we make our way to Muirfield for the 131st British Open Championship and, quite possibly, the third leg to Tiger Woods' Grand Slam:

? Tiger and his buddy Mark O'Meara are off on their annual excellent pre-British Open Irish adventure. A little golf. A little salmon fishing. An opening of O'Meara's new course at Carton House. Nice way to play your way into a major championship. Anyone else jealous?

? Nick Faldo, the last man to win the Open at Muirfield -- in fact the man who has won the last two there -- played a practice round Monday on a course the three-time British Open champ deemed a bit too green for a links layout. "I just had to do it, to come here, to remind myself of the course and of the subtleties of links golf," said Faldo, whose wins there came in 1987 and 1992. "... It's not very 'linksey' at the moment but who knows, a few days of sun and wind would soon fix that."

? Ernie Els, who tied for fifth at Muirfield in 1992, was another player who stopped by to take a look Monday. "It looks narrow and daunting for you out there but it is so well designed and the layout is so good that you can run the ball into every hole -- the way links golf is meant to be played," he said.

? Juli Inkster's win reminded us of an old Nike T-shirt tucked away in the drawer: We want to run with the big boys ... but they can't keep up. Sorry, couldn't resist. But there was a lesson in that comeback at Prairie Dunes. Inkster didn't sit back. She went after the course and stopped Annika S?renstam in the process. The big boys haven't found a way to do that yet with Tiger Woods, but, hey, none of them -- save Nick Faldo -- have six majors on their resume. That just might have had something to do with it.

? How good is Inkster? She's got seven major titles and has won two of them since turning 40. She's also the only American player to win the Open since 1994. Yikes. Actually, she's as tough as her Solheim Cup partner Dottie Pepper, just not as outspoken.

? Speaking of Pepper, her continuing shoulder pains could pose a big problem for the U.S. Solheim Cup Team. She and Inkster are the leaders and it could be tough without her.

? Why aren't more Americans playing abroad? Brad Faxon gave his thoughts to some writers in the UK: "Firstly, there's so much money to play for on the PGA TOUR and the competition is so tough, a lot of guys are concerned that if they leave their own TOUR for a couple of weeks it can set them back a bit. But I also think the mind-set of a lot of today's players is different. I would call it 'snobby.' They don't appreciate the history and the traditions of the game. I don't think that's just a problem which is peculiar to golf. It's the way of the world today."

? The best answer we've seen to the current "sex sells" attitude of LPGA players like Laura Diaz? Helen Alfredsson's comments in Golf For Women: "Taking your clothes off is a desperate act. For me, sexy has nothing to do with taking your clothes off. Why is Fred Couples so sexy? We don't ask him to take his clothes off. It has to do with charisma and the way you carry yourself." Or better yet, being cool is being comfortable being yourself.

? If the SENIOR PGA TOUR officials saw no problem with Walter Morgan's cut at that putt, we have to defer to them. Day in and day out, they are the best. But every time we see that replay, it looks more and more like a yip at the ball. Bottom line: tournament's over, case closed.

? You hate to see incidents like the one involving fans and Davis Love III at the Advil Western Open, but ... the more golf moves to a mainstream sport, the larger the non-golf audience. No, they shouldn't treat the game as if it were a football or basketball game but they do. We only see a couple of solutions. One, stop serving alcohol at events. Two, have enough officers on hand to either toss out the offending fans or put them in time out. They are, after all, acting like children.

? And last, but not least, we have to mention the USGA's latest hazard -- snakes in the grass. We've heard of toughening up a course, but really ... at least they weren't the water moccasins that are lurking all over Central Texas courses after last week's floods.

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