As if the wind whipping off the Irish Sea and the 196 bunkers at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was not enough, Tiger Woods got another reminder Tuesday that a new challenge awaits at the British Open.
Royal & Ancient Golf Club secretary Peter Dawson called Woods' agent and said: We need you to return the claret jug.
How long it leaves Woods' possession is uncertain. His 12th-place finish at the U.S. Open, followed by two PGA Tour events outside the top 10, has left some people wondering what kind of game he will bring when the tournament begins Thursday.
Not to worry, Woods said.
"It was something very small in my swing, which unfortunately led to other breakdowns within the swing. Once I fixed that, everything has seemed to come back, and I'm starting to hit the ball the way I know I can."
AND THE ODDS SAY : Woods is rated 9-4 to win the Open, his longest odds this year for a tournament victory. Still, he's a clear favorite.
David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are rated second favorites at 20-1 by bookmaker William Hill. U.S. Open and Scottish Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa is at 25-1.
NORMAN OPTIMISTIC: Back at the British Open after missing last year's tournament because of hip surgery, Greg Norman is a 100-1 shot despite having won the title twice.
He hasn't won a tournament for three years and tends to choose his events these days, but still thinks he's capable of another British Open triumph.
"I still enjoy playing and challenging myself," he said. "I wouldn't be out here if I didn't think I had another one in me."