Road Hole at St Andrews gets tougher

By Doug FergusonJuly 13, 2010, 12:06 am

Open ChampionshipST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Scott Verplank walked off the 16th green on the Old Course and headed for the next tee when his caddie made a startling observation.

“Hey, look,” Scott Tway said. “We’re teeing off out of bounds.”

Sure enough, the right side of the 16th green is lined by white stakes to indicate out of bounds. The new tee for the British Open, 40 yards beyond where it used to be, is located behind those stakes. That stretches the par 4 to 495 yards.

As if the Road Hole at St. Andrews wasn’t peculiar enough.

Thomas Aiken
Thomas Aiken plays from the Road Hole bunker Monday. (Getty Images)
The Royal & Ancient is up to speed when it comes to the modernization of championship golf, and chief executive Peter Dawson figured it was time to lengthen one of the most famous holes in the game. It was intended to challenge players toward the end of the round, yet more and more players were getting by with an iron off the tee and a short iron to the green.

Now, the driver is required on days except when the wind is at the back. And the hole appears to be as tough as ever.

Quirky, too.

“I’ve never had to hit over a building before,” Dustin Johnson said Tuesday during his practice round.

Players cannot see the green from the tee – they can’t see most of the fairway, for that matter – because the proper line is blocked by the Old Course Hotel. The ideal tee shot is over the hotel’s lettering written on the side of a maintenance shed.

The confident players pick a letter – typically the “o” in hotel, although any “o” usually will suffice.

“Actually, in practice rounds I always go along the limit, so I hit it down along the hotel to see how far right I can go,” Padraig Harrington said. “It’s one of those things, you want to know how far you can go right. And it’s not that far.”

Keeping it in the fairway is the chore.

Whereas the fairway used to go in the direction of the tee, the angle now is so severe that it goes sharply to the right in the direction of the second shot. To play a tee shot away from the hotel, which looks safe, will put the ball in thick, rough and make it virtually impossible to reach the green.

And then there’s the green.

To the left is the Road Hole bunker, which is about 6 feet deep and has a sodden wall up toward the green. Beyond the putting surface is a paved road, which is in play and how the hole got its name.

Birdies are rare. Bogeys are acceptable.

“I don’t mind making a 5 on the 17th,” Masters champion Phil Mickelson said.

Geoff Ogilvy tends to lean on the advice of five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson who said he would aim for the front right portion of the green all four days, no matter where the flag was.

“He used to say if made two 4s and 2 5s, you haven’t lost anything to the field,” Ogilvy said. “I don’t think that’s changed.”

The R&A expects controversy, or at the very least complaints. That’s typical of any change, especially one that lengthens the hole. So far, the change has been accepted.

“I think it’s a really good improvement,” Lee Westwood said.

That’s not to say it has been approved.

“I don’t mind the length of the hole,” Ogilvy said. “I just wish they didn’t have to do it.”

Ogilvy’s biggest beef is the punishment on a 495-yard hole by missing the fairway to the left. The rough doesn’t look any different from the rest of the Old Course, with its wispy strands of shin-high native grass. It’s what is underneath that is so troubling. The grass is green and dense, and it makes it difficult to find a stray tee shot, much less hit it.

“The don’t like the left rough,” Ogilvy said. “Not that it’s rough, but that it’s in the state it’s in. It’s the only patch of dark, green rough on the course. I don’t think it’s like that anywhere else.”

And he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.

The one hope for the players – if you can call it that – is a notice from the R&A that the previous tee might be used if the wind is too strong into the face. Then, it might be tough to even reach the fairway.

Otherwise, complaints have been minimal, perhaps because the line off the tee has not changed much. It’s still about picking the right letter and hitting the right shot.

“I went for the ‘d’ in ‘Old,’ Johnson said, and he hammered it into the middle of the fairway.

Eric Chun, a junior at Northwestern playing his first Open, hit a draw over the corner of the maintenance shed and wound up in deep rough. Verplank, not a power player by any stretch, showed him the way with a gentle draw over the “o” in hotel.

“Anywhere over ‘old’ is a good line, and not much further than ‘l’ in ‘hotel,”’ Westwood said.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson simply wanted to put the challenge back into the Old Course, and it’s not the first time. It was stretched 164 yards for the 2005 British Open, and so many tees were rearranged for championship golf that players hit off parts of five courses at St. Andrews.

Yet it was the out-of-bounds stakes in front of the 17th tee that drew so much attention.

“You could hit a shot on 16 and be out of bounds,” Ogilvy said. “And then play your next tee shot from there.”

The Road Hole has not played a big part in deciding the last two British Opens at St. Andrews, mainly because Tiger Woods won by eight and five shots, respectively.

That might not be the case this time.

“You’ve really got to stand up there and hit your drive, and hit it well,” Harrington said. “The way I look at it, you always want to make sure that the guy that wins the Open Championship is tested at some stage coming down the stretch. There’s nobody who’s going to get through 17 without thinking about it for four days.”

 

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.