Clouds open for British Open


GULLANE, Scotland -- J. A. Prideaux has spent most of this summer wondering whether it was ever going to rain.

This is not typically a concern in Scotland, but the Muirfield secretary had reason to worry. With each unseasonably warm and sunny day, Muirfield grew drier and browner. Imagine moving the 1992 British Open to Arizona from bonnie Scotland.

"It was the fairways that I was most concerned with," Prideaux said last week. "We had seven weeks of no rain. That would do the fairways no good whatsoever."

In other parts of the world, a working set of sprinklers would solve the problem. But not at Muirfield, where they hand-water the greens and leave the rest to the squalls that blow in off the Firth of Forth.

Fear not. There was a lengthy dousing on Wednesday morning. Some of the fairways may still be a tad brown by the time the Open begins on Thursday, but the potential for disaster is past.

If the arid conditions persist, it could be more of a test than usual. In 1980, Isao Aoki turned calm, dry weather into a third-round 63, still a course record. But the potential drawback of a dry course is a hardening of the already precariously narrow fairways, where many of Muirfield's 147 bunkers lurk.

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