The Real Carnoustie Awaits British Open Field

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Colin Montgomerie is among the few who know the real Carnoustie.
He once walked off the course after an 81 at the Scottish Open with his curly hair twisted in a half-dozen directions, lamenting how he had to hit driver, driver and 1-iron simply to reach the par-5 sixth hole. And his mood did not lighten when a clueless reporter asked him, 'Monty, was the wind a factor?'
This was one year after Montgomerie shot 64, still the lowest score ever at Carnoustie.
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie expects Carnoustie to show its true colors this time around. (Getty Images)
'This golf course is a sleeping giant,' Gary Player said Wednesday, reminiscing about his British Open title at Carnoustie in 1968. 'It's a giant when the wind blows, when conditions are difficult. And when it isn't, when it's only a calm day, it's not all that tough. The thing that makes this golf course is that wee breeze. Just a two-club wind here changes everything.'
That's the nature of most links courses. But Carnoustie is a mystery in other ways.
For most, the only memories of these mean ol' links are from 1999, when the rough was so high and the fairways so narrow that more than 100 scores were 80 or higher during the week. Sergio Garcia cried in his mother's arms after he shot 89-83 in his first major as a professional. The winning score of 290 was the highest at a British Open in more than 50 years.
The tabloids referred to it as Car-Nasty.
Eight years later, there might be reason to call the course Car-Nicely.
'This year, it's a different course,' Garcia said Wednesday. 'The rain is not helping, that's for sure. If we don't get some wind coming, the scores are going to be very low. It's going to be easy to get to the fairway. We're going to be able to stop it quite easily on the greens.'
No one is sure what to expect when the 136th British Open begins Thursday, with Tiger Woods trying to become the first player in 51 years to win the silver claret jug three straight times.
The fairways are wider. The rough is minimal, not enough to cover shoes in some spots.
The weather is the biggest wild card.
Monday began with heavy rain that fell sideways because of 30 mph gusts, and ended with brilliant blue skies. Tuesday began with glorious sunshine, only to have the course pelted with showers in the evening.
Constant rain in the United Kingdom over the last two months has made the crusty turf feel more like carpet in a five-star hotel. It's a complete turnaround from Royal Liverpool last year, which was so brown and baked that Woods only bothered to hit driver once in 72 holes.
The only consensus is that Carnoustie itself should be a fair test. Maybe the Royal & Ancient learned its lesson from last time.
Padraig Harrington believes the 24-year gap between Opens, from 1975 to 1999, left the R&A uncertain how much the game had changed. That might explain fairways that were only 12 yards wide and framed by knee-high grass.
'They obviously erred on the side of, 'Let's make it as tough as Carnoustie is meant to be.' This time around, they have the experience of '99 to know the golf course,' Harrington said.
But before anyone thinks this is a cupcake, Harrington issued a warning.
'You can come out here and play this course with no rough and it would still be a very difficult test,' he said.
Woods tied for seventh in 1999, four shots behind a playoff that included winner Paul Lawrie, Justin Leonard and Jean Van de Velde, the infamous Frenchman who threw away a three-shot lead with a triple bogey on the final hole.
Woods only hit balls on the practice range and putting green on Wednesday, a recent trend for him in the majors. He, too, has seen the many faces of Carnoustie, having playing the Scottish Open as a 19-year-old amateur in 1995.
So when it was suggested that Carnoustie might be a cupcake this time around, it was all he could do to contain a smirk.
'I've never heard anyone say Carnoustie is easy,' Woods said. 'Even the times I played the Scottish Open here, it was more benign than this, and the scores really weren't that low. There are so many holes where you're forced to hit long irons into the green. If you miss the ball in any of pot bunkers off the tee, you have to go sideways -- if you can.'
Part of the mystery will start to unravel Thursday.
There is not much wind in the forecast, but that means nothing. Ernie Els is staying across the Firth of Tay in St. Andrews this week, and he woke up the other day to see the flags limp on the Old Course. By the time in got to Carnoustie, the flags were whipping in the wind.
The Big Easy considers this the toughest links, a place where every shot gets tested. But as he spoke fondly of the length (7,421 yards) and the limitless bunkers, someone asked him where Carnoustie ranked for enjoyment.
'Enjoyment in a major? You enjoy a major afterward,' Els said. 'From Thursday to Sunday, it's hard work. And it's going to be the same here this week. It's going to be a very tough test. Whether you enjoy that or not depends on where you finish.'
Either way, it should be a chance to show the real Carnoustie.
Montgomerie has been playing this links course since he was a lad, and he believes this week will allow people to see Carnoustie as it was meant to be played, even though it can be drastically different from day to day, if not hour to hour.
'Carnoustie now will lose its tag of whatever it was quoted as by you guys,' he told reporters Wednesday. 'I think that it will be seen as what it is -- one of the toughest and best links courses that we have in the world. Anyone that scores 70 around here has to be commended any day, any conditions.'
What about a 64? Montgomerie paused and smiled.
'Sixty-four was bloody good,' he said.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 136th Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

    Getty Images

    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”