Well-stocked Buick Open field has its tank full of potential winners


GRAND BLANC, Mich. -- On your mark, ready, go: Who can win the Buick Open?

Answer: Anybody.

With the kind of field they've rounded up this year for the $1 million payday, the tournament should be called the Wide Open.

Top to bottom, it likely is the best cast ever gathered at Warwick Hills. Consider: 75 players -- almost half the 156-player field -- have at least one PGA Tour victory.

Picking Saturday's Lotto numbers is easier than picking Sunday's survivor from this blue-ribbon assemblage.

Eight of the last nine Buick champs -- including Lanny Wadkins, Wayne Levi, Ben Crenshaw and Chip Beck -- will be among those starting the 72-hole chase tomorrow.

Seven others have been runners-up here, including Doug Tewell (who did it twice); U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart; Wayne Grady, who will defend his PGA title next week; Tom Kite; and Billy Andrade.

To these stalwarts who historically play the course well, the field is spiced with Mark Calcavecchia, Larry Mize, Jodie Mudd, Scott Simpson, Tim Simpson, Mark O'Meara and a few tough campaigners such as Ray Floyd, Gil Morgan, Andy North and Mark McCumber.

Into this throng steps Nick Faldo of Great Britain and Australian Greg Norman; both are playing here for the first time.

Faldo was rained out of practice Monday, but played 18 holes yesterday afternoon. Norman slipped out last evening for a few holes with Floyd.

"I played nicely -- I didn't lose any balls," joked Faldo, trying to junk jet lag and play his way sharply into the PGA.

While the two-time Masters and British Open champion prefers a tougher course, he liked what he saw on Warwick Hills.

"It's a straightforward course," said Faldo, playing in his sixth U.S. tournament this season. "There aren't many holes where you can get in trouble. You can blast away all day.

"The fairways are generous, the greens are very good -- it's set up for scoring, and this is always a low-scoring tournament."

Faldo said he and Norman still could be factors despite their lack of familiarity with the course.

"If it's a putting competition the others would have an advantage," he said. "They tend to put the pins in the same positions so they might get putts they've had before over the years.

"But if you're playing good and putting good, it doesn't matter if you've played here before or not."

Faldo says he is playing well, but not putting very well.

"Maybe this is what I need -- to get on some good greens like these and make some putts," he said.

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