Gushers on golf's sacred turf?

The news may be enough to make Jack Nicklaus snap his 6-iron. An oil company has been given the go-ahead to explore the hallowed links to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The golfing nightmare that the 19th roughnecks on his way up the 12th fairway came a step nearer when the government included the course in a license area for drilling to Premier Consolidated Oilfields.

The news brought constemation to the occupants of the deep leather chairs in the clubhouse. But the 226-year-old club, the high temple from which the rules of gold are handed down, is not in immediate danger, according to the oil company's finance director, a nongolfer. "We're not about to take the 20th hole , or even the 19th. It's just not a part of the license area we're interested in," the director said.

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