Wednesday, July 15
Q&A: Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo Previews British Open at Turnberry
The practice green at Turnberry.
Editor’s note: This special interview with lead golf analyst Frank Nobilo was made available to ARMCHAIR GOLF courtesy of the Golf Channel.
Q: What are some of your memories from the 1994 Open Championship at Turnberry and your T-11 finish?
FRANK NOBILO: I had played there in 1986 (my first Open) so it was nice to go back to a venue and have a decent idea of what was required to do well. Conditions were better than in ‘86, and the golf course didn't appear as intimidating. I opened up with rounds of 69-67 to be well placed, just three back from Watson but went backwards with a round of 72 on Saturday when everybody shot mid to high 60s. A closing 68 redeemed my week a little but not enough to back door a top 10.
Q: How different will the course setup be this week compared to ’86 and ’94?
FRANK NOBILO: I don’t think the setup will be much different from ‘86 or ’94, but the course will play radically different. The average tee shot goes about 20 yards further than ‘94 and there is less dispersion. So, unless they have cold, wet, windy weather—which is unlikely given the recent heat wave—the course will certainly not present the same test as it did in the past. The weather was much colder and the wind blew most of the week in ’86. Barring Norman’s 63, the scores were relatively high all week. In ‘94 the conditions were relatively benign and the ball tended to roll out more. I don’t remember the rough being as difficult. Consequently, the scores were much better. This year, with such a dry summer and the massive technological advances coming in the late ‘90s, it certainly will have lost some teeth.
Q: What are the keys to success in playing at Turnberry this week?
FRANK NOBILO: Turnberry is one of the most exposed Open venues. There are lots of holes with no protection on the tee shots, and fairways that slope away from the dogleg. The biggest problem for the players will be dealing with stiff cross breezes on holes that often bend or slope in an opposite direction.
Q: What do you think will be the key holes next week in determining the Open Champion?
FRANK NOBILO: The first six holes are key, especially if the wind blows. You never play two consecutive holes in a similar direction until you play 5 and 6. Consequently, it is very easy to get over par in a hurry and have your back against the wall. Nine is never easy, especially with a left-to-right wind. The fairway slopes to the right while the hole bends to the left. You also have to somehow close your round off on those last four holes. A 3-4-4-4 finish will go a long way each day.
Q: Who are the front runners and who might be dark horses this week?
FRANK NOBILO: No surprise, even though Tiger has never set foot on Turnberry prior to this Open, he is the odds-on favorite. I think his challengers will be a little younger than previous years. Sean O’Hair, who has recovered from his forearm issue that made him withdraw from the Memorial Tournament, is ready to break through. Anthony Kim, who did well last year in his first Open in bad conditions, is now healthy. The best European hopes look to be Paul Casey, who hopefully has settled into the fact that he belongs amongst the best players in the game today, and Stenson, in case you have forgotten how well he played at The Players and snuck in the back door at Bethpage. I still have to add Garcia to this bunch. His ability to move the ball around in windy conditions makes him hard to overlook. I know you have to make the putts, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to many if he were to break through. A lot of eyes on Harrington going for three in a row, but more realistically he is trying to recover some form to get his game back on track. For an oldie but a goody, remember Goosen. He has quietly gotten his game back.
Q: Is Tiger Woods back to his pre-surgery form, and how do you think Turnberry suits his game?
FRANK NOBILO: According to Woods, he has struggled with the knee for several years, so to compare his form of the first six months of the year to his previous two or three seasons is difficult. There are some areas of his game that are better than pre-surgery. The pace of his swing is far smoother and the transition from backswing to downswing generally much quieter. I still don’t think he is 100 percent as his gait is still not normal and it looks like he still has tightness in his hip, probably from favoring the leg. But if anything, he looks more determined now than ever. It is hard to say he has been inconsistent as he has not finished out of the top 10 in a stroke play event since his return. But he has not played any two tournaments with the same type of golf. Now that is scary.
Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and the ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.