Royal Liverpool Fast Firm Brown and Crusty

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- With a blast of hot wind at his back, Stuart Appleby sent a 6-iron towering into the blue sky over Royal Liverpool and toward the 14th green, squinting in search of a puff of smoke on the ground that would indicate his shot came back to earth.
 
'Follow the bouncing ball,' Appleby said under his breath.
 
Then, turning to his Australian coach and his New Jersey caddie more out of amazement than frustration, he said, 'That ball could wind up 6 feet right of the flag and you'd never know it until you got there.'
 
Fire Warning
Fans watch as a scoreboard warns about the threat of brush fires.
'You can only be sure it's not next to the pitch mark,' coach Steve Bann said.
 
'That's because there is no pitch mark,' replied Joe Damiano, the caddie.
 
No one was quite sure what to expect when they arrived at the 135th British Open, which starts Thursday, because it has not been at Royal Liverpool in 39 years. More puzzling than the links, however, are the fastest, firmest and crustiest conditions anyone can remember in years.
 
This is the brown British Open.
 
A heat wave in Britain -- the temperature reached 91 degrees on Wednesday -- has caused the rough to die, leaving wispy strands of native grasses and fairways that are a mixture of yellow and brown. Yellow is the color of the grass, brown is where the grass has died.
 
Phil Mickelson usually takes off the day before a major to escape the commotion and play a casual round at a nearby course. He didn't see the point of that this time because 'I can't find a course as firm as this.'
 
Someone suggested going to nearby John Lennon Airport, which didn't sound like a bad idea except for one thing:
 
'I'm pretty sure they won't cut any holes in the runway,' Mickelson said.
 
The conditions are so crusty that the Royal & Ancient has asked players to be careful with their cigarettes (John Daly) and cigars (Darren Clarke). The Hoylake fire station is only two minutes away, but just to be safe, two fire engines are now stationed on the course.
 
The only smiles belong to R&A members in their white shirts and striped ties.
 
'You've heard quite often from the R&A that we like hard, fast links conditions,' chief executive Peter Dawson said.
 
'Well, I think this year we've got it in spades. The course is pretty fiery out there, just as we would want it.'
 
A cold front expected overnight is supposed to slightly cool the conditions, perhaps giving the lonely man in the coffee stand some business. There might be some rain, although Dawson says it won't be enough to fundamentally change the nature of the course.
 
Hot, fast and brown.
 
Defending champion Tiger Woods has put a 2-iron back in his bag for the first time in eight months, using it on nearly every par 4 to get the ball running along the fairways, away from the pot bunkers.
 
He took the day off, showing up in the late afternoon to putt. Woods arrived over the weekend, so he already has played four practice rounds to get acquainted with Royal Liverpool.
 
It isn't St. Andrews, where he has twice won the claret jug. It's not like other links courses on the rotation, with all the holes relatively plain in shape, and greens that are small and flat. The course doesn't appear to have massive trouble that will lead to big numbers, and some believe if there isn't much wind, Woods' record 19 under at St. Andrews in 2000 could be in jeopardy.
 
All they have to do is figure out how far to hit the ball, and how far it will run.
 
David Duval gave an impromptu clinic from the first fairway. He was 119 yards from the front of the green. He estimated the ball would bounce about 10 yards, and he had a slight breeze at his back. He took sand wedge, played the shot as if it were 100 yards, and wound up 18 feet past the hole.
 
That was his tee shot. The first one went toward the right rough, and as he started to wander a few yards into the small wheat field, he saw a marshal standing over his ball. It had run through the rough, across the next fairway and was on a dirt path, almost off the property.
 
'It ran that far?' Duval said.
 
The course is plenty long at 7,258 yards, but it feels more like a pitch-and-putt. Chad Campbell typically hits his 3-iron 230 yards. During his final practice round, he hit a 3-iron that went 330 yards.
 
The key is to stay away from the bunkers, because they are so tiny that shots inevitably will land close to the sodden walls and leave no option but to hit a sand wedge out, effectively a one-shot penalty.
 
It's great to be able to hit the ball for miles because it rolls so far. The trick is figuring out how far it will go to set up chances at birdie.
 
'It takes experience. It takes guesswork. And it takes a bit of luck,' Appleby said. 'You know where to land it. But do you know whether that's the right spot to land it? You're having to make five or six calculations before you hit the shot.'
 
Perhaps the trickiest part of all is figuring out how fast the fairways run, and how slow the greens are.
 
'My guess is the fairways and the fringe around the greens are running about 20 on the Stimpmeter,' Appleby said. 'And the greens are somewhere between 8 and 10.'
 
Ernie Els won a junior tournament here when he was a gangly 18-year-old. A few players competed in British Amateurs that have been held at Hoylake, including David Howell, one of a half-dozen British players who hope bring home a major for the first time in seven years.
 
Howell has done corporate outings at Hoylake, so he probably knows this links course as well as anyone.
 
But he doesn't recall seeing it like this.
 
With a freshening wind in his face on the par-5 18th, he hit driver and a 3-wood to the green. When he played a week ago Sunday, he hit 3-wood off the tee and had a 9-iron to the green.
 
'You can hit 3-irons 290 yards, which is just hard to get your head around,' Howell said. 'I guess as the week goes on, you learn each day. It becomes easier to remember that's what is going to happen.
 
'It's going to be a tricky test,' he said. 'We're going to have an interesting week.'
 
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.