LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — The disappointment for Paul Casey was not a 41 on the back nine Thursday that took him from the first page of the leaderboard at the British Open to his ninth consecutive round over par. It was not getting a chance to emulate Seve Ballesteros.
Casey, trying to rebuild his confidence after recovering from a shoulder injury, was at 2-under par for the opening round when he hit his tee shot so far right on the 15th hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that it went into an area of concession stands and corporate tents marked out-of-bounds.
That part of the course was used in 1979 as an overflow parking lot which Ballesteros made famous. The Spaniard drove into that spot from the 16th tee in the final round, received a free drop from near a car and made birdie on his way to winning.
"I just think Seve would have loved to have been given the opportunity to play from the tented village," Casey said.
OPEN DEBUT: Ben Crane's loss was Michael Thompson's gain.
Crane and Thompson were at the John Deere Classic on Sunday, a charter waiting to take them to the British Open as alternates. Crane, with a history of back trouble, would have needed two players to withdraw to get in. He went back to Oregon to join his family and monitor the situation, while the 27-year-old Thompson and his wife came over to England.
Robert Karlsson withdrew Wednesday afternoon in surprising fashion, saying his game wasn't ready for a major. By then, it was too late for Crane to get to England early enough to be in position. Thursday morning, British Senior Open champion Russ Cochran withdrew with a sore back.
Thompson, a runner-up in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, took his spot. He played 27 holes at Royal Lytham over two days of practice, so he knew what to expect. He was hanging in there at 1 over through 13 holes until a bogey on the 13th and a double bogey on the 14th. He finished at 74.
A BIRDIE THAT COUNTED: Brandt Snedeker had to settle for a birdie on the 16th, but at least it counted.
In a practice round Wednesday afternoon, trying to figure out the line if conditions favored hitting a driver on the 336-yard hole, Snedeker made a hole-in-one for an albatross. Hardly anyone was around to see it, and unlike the hole-in-one that Alvaro Quiros made on the par-4 seventh at Olympic Club in a U.S. Open practice round, there wasn't a camera fixed behind the green to catch it on tape.
"Complete waste of a great shot because it does me no good in a practice round," Snedeker said.
CAMERAS: The group of Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose didn't see too many mobile phones in the gallery.
At least for the first few holes. Before long, spectators ignored the signs that no pictures were allowed.
Even so, it wasn't near the distraction it was at Hoylake in 2006 when players were backing off shots.