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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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.