- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2008

SOUTHPORT, England | Take this as either a consolation prize or more torment. Greg Norman has an offer to return to the Masters, which invites the top four players and ties from the British Open.

“Time out,” Norman said Sunday, motioning with his hands. “I’ve got a lot of water to go over the dam to get to that.”

Norman last played the Masters in 2002 when he received a special foreign exemption and tied for 36th, and there is no guarantee he will show up in April. Despite his remarkable performance at Royal Birkdale, the 53-year-old Norman said it did not inspire him to start playing more golf.

He will be at Royal Troon next week for the Senior British Open, then the Broadmoor in Colorado for the U.S. Senior Open, and he has no plans anywhere else the rest of the year.

The coveted invitations might mean more to Ian Poulter, who finished second, and Henrik Stenson, who tied for third, although both are high enough in the top 50 that they might have gotten in anyway.

Chris Wood, the 20-year-old amateur from England, bogeyed the final hole, and that cost him. A par would have given him a tie for third and a ticket to the Masters.

The top 15 are guaranteed a trip to Turnberry for the British Open, so at least Wood won’t have to go through qualifying.

The British Open exempts the top 15, although that didn’t affect too many players. David Howell of England, whose 67 was the best score of the final round, was exempt this year from winning the BMW PGA Championship in 2005. That exemption expires this year.

Choi still waiting

For the second straight year, K.J. Choi played in the final group on a weekend at the British Open.

That first major title will have to wait.

Choi was the 36-hole leader at the British Open, and the South Korean was still right in the thick of things going to Sunday’s final round two strokes off the lead.

But Choi had a miserable time on the greens, missing numerous short putts and closing with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the final hole for a closing-round 79 that dropped him all the way to 16th place.

“I had no feel for my putting,” Choi said, blaming his woes on the blustery conditions. “I learned a lot this week. I’m not disappointed.”

A year ago at Carnoustie, he also played in the final group on Saturday but faded to a tie for eighth. Choi is the winningest Asian player in PGA Tour history, and he’s not giving up on capturing one of golf’s biggest events.

“I feel I’m getting close to winning a major,” Choi said. “I’m not really that far away.”

No sweater

With a cool breeze gusting off the Irish Sea, most players went with a couple of layers of clothing - or at least a long-sleeve shirt.

Not Padraig Harrington.

The Open champion teed off in a navy sweater, but he shed it on the way to the second hole. Harrington played the rest of the round in short sleeves - even when the wind really started howling.

“I did think it was cold today, but I was comfortable swinging in a shirt, and I did not want to change any feeling that I had,” he said. “I definitely did need to put a sweater on. It was cold at times, but you never change anything when it’s working OK. I was going to stick with what I had. It was going nicely.”

Stricker rides to ninth

Steve Stricker made the most out of narrowly making the cut.

Stricker, who was 11th in the Ryder Cup standings, went 71-73 on the weekend and tied for seventh. That was worth 387 points and moved him up to No. 9. The top nine after the PGA Championship in two weeks qualify for the team because Tiger Woods is not playing.

Jim Furyk earned 719 points for his tie for fifth, moving him closer to clinching a spot at No. 5.



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