It's the Nostalgia Open by now. It's two rounds for the ages by players who will not be remembered as just any old Tom and Jack of golf. It's the British Open that gets replayed more by the watchers than by the doers.

Tom Watson has a tape of that 1977 Open, the one in which he broke the four-round record by an astonishing eight strokes, but he said he almost never looks at it.

"I burned mine," said Jack Nicklaus, who also obliterated the tournament record, who shot 65-66 the last two rounds but lost to Watson by a stroke.

Now, as he walked onto the 15th green during a Tuesday practice round over Turnberry, Watson felt compelled to glance toward a spot he'd helped make famous.

"It wasn't 60 feet," he said of the putt from off the green that turned a difficult par into a birdie 2 whereby he caught Nicklaus. "More like 45. It gets longer the more I talk about it."

Watson would only call that victory "one of my favorites" at a news conference, linking it with another late charge past Nicklaus, in the '82 U.S. Open.

As Nicklaus and Watson have changed in nine years, so has the course whose fame they enhanced by giving it a good spanking. Turnberry has let its hair grow outrageously long -- and also shrunk its trunk. Some of the players barely able to scrape the ball more than a few yards from knee-high rough the last few days have been asking, sort of: does Ping also make a scythe? Also, it's a push this week about which is tighter, a Scotsman with his purse or the Turnberry fairways.

Blame Watson and Nicklaus.

"I'm surprised there are fairways at all, after the last time here," Nicklaus said. "Actually, there are places in the rough that you can find your ball. But not many."

"The course is quite a lot different from '77 ," Watson said. "In addition to no rough, the only bit of green back then was some heavy stuff to the right of No. 3. And it the tournament is so much more commercial now."

He glanced toward tent after tent built by golf hucksters. "Literally a new city," he said.

Ten years Watson's senior, Nicklaus has won more recently than Watson. Much more recently, and a major -- the Masters -- at that. Now Watson is reminded of a victory drought, one that has lasted since November of 1984, and that perhaps his "era" has passed.

"I miss winning a lot," he admits.

Watson often has gotten well in Scotland. Four of his five British Open victories have been on Scottish courses. Along with beating Nicklaus that memorable day, he shook that "choke" tag here at Turnberry.

His vivid memories of Scotland and its golfing lore include an impromptu hole, in coat and tie, after he won the 1980 championship at Muirfield.

On the way to dinner, he noticed a small gathering walking back onto the course and learned Ben Crenshaw was about to play a couple of holes with ancient clubs and a gutta-percha ball.

Crenshaw played the 10th hole alone, with Watson as a spectator. Watson was coaxed into swinging, too, on the final hole, the 18th, and when they arrived at the green the scene was joyous to all but one man. The secretary of Muirfield, a by-the-book authoritarian named Paddy Hanmer, was furious. Summoned from dinner, he thought his precious course was being ravaged.

"He said to Crenshaw: 'Meet me at 6:45 a.m.,' " Watson recalled. "And Ben was there for a tongue-lashing . I'd gone to dinner by the time he Hanmer got there. All I'd had up to that time was champagne and scotch."

Some Watson watchers feel his game has not been the same since going awry on the 71st hole of the '84 tournament Seve Ballesteros won at St. Andrews. Of all things, Watson seemed to have misplaced his once flawless putting stroke.

"I've not won," he said, "because I haven't played well. No deep psychology. I simply haven't played well enough. Lately, it's been on the final round.

"I can't go back to '77 this week, but it'll help the cause. No question the memories will help on certain shots. And how to deal with the wind. I'll use everything in a positive way."

He has rearranged his schedule on the regular PGA Tour to include more unfamiliar courses, so the newness will get him more excited before the opening round.

Is he as hungry as ever for a major? "Yes," he said. "A simple yes."

Watson is hopeful he and the putter are at least cordial now, saying: "I'm thinking about making putts instead of just stroking the ball. The ball is starting to go where I'm aiming it."

Not thrilled that Turnberry is so unforgiving off the tee and around the greens, Watson nonetheless calls it "an honest course."

"Because it calls for shotmaking," he added, "and doesn't favor one kind of player. I love bump-and-run golf, where you hit the ball 40 yards short and try to run it three or four feet from the hole.

"I'm not quite as high as I was at this time in '77, but not too far from it."

At the current odds of 9 to 1, Watson said he would bet on himself.

"I'd never bet on something like 5-to-1 or 6-to-1," he said. "That's too much against the field. But 9-to-1 is a fair bet."

Is he taking any of the action?

"I'll never tell."