Open Course Shrouded in Mystery

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship The Beatles had just released 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' Jack Nicklaus was making his first title defense in the British Open. Nine of the top 10 players now in the world rankings had not even been born.
It has been so long since the British Open was held at Royal Liverpool that some players didn't even know it existed, a startling fact driven home to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson during a conversation this spring with a top player he declined to identify.
'He inquired whether Royal Liverpool was a new course in the rotation,' Dawson said with a chuckle.
New? Not quite.
The British Open first came to this links course in Hoylake in 1897, making it the second English course to host golf's oldest championship. Bobby Jones won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 1930 on his way to the Grand Slam.
So why all the mystery?
Royal Liverpool has not hosted the British Open since 1967, when Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina came over to see old friends and 'I won ze bloody thing,' holding off Nicklaus with a bold 3-wood over a portion of the practice range that set up a clinching birdie on the 16th hole.
The British Open returns to Royal Liverpool for the 11th time, ending a 39-year absence that is the longest among any course still in the rotation.
'I haven't been there, haven't seen any photos of it,' Tiger Woods said. 'All I know is it's in Liverpool.'
Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen not only hasn't been to Royal Liverpool, he doesn't know anyone who has.
'Nobody has really seen it,' Goosen said. 'All of the guys playing these days are very young or were not even born yet when we last played there, so it will be nice to go to a course that everybody sort of starts from scratch.'
Phil Mickelson got his first look at Hoylake a week after his collapse at the U.S. Open. Mickelson has been cramming for majors over the last few years, taking eight hours for each practice round to study every nuance, figuring out whether he needs two drivers or four wedges.
'I think it was really important that I went over,' Mickelson said. 'I thought I knew what types of shots were going to be expected at Hoylake. They're totally different. I thought I was going to be hitting certain shots, and I'm not going to go into detail because I'm going to let everybody else figure it out.'
For a course hardly anyone knows, its reputation already is taking a beating.
The R&A has stretched the course by 263 yards, refurbished the sod walls in the bunkers, built new tee boxes and reshaped the greens. Even so, it will play as a par 72 at 7,258 yards, six yards shorter than Winged Foot, which was a par 70 at the U.S. Open.
There are a few oddities for a British Open.
The course has been reconfigured to accommodate better routing and a more dynamic finish, so the par-5 16th hole for members will be the closing hole for this British Open, making it the only par 5 for the 18th hole on the rotation.
And while it doesn't have as many gorse bushes as Royal Troon, waist-high grass like Carnoustie, moon-like mounding similar to Royal St. George's or the double greens found at St. Andrews, Hoylake has one of the worst penalties in golf -- out-of-bounds on 10 of the holes.
That led Ron Whitten, the architecture editor at Golf Digest, to refer to the course as 'Royal O.B.'
Conditions were soft and mildly breezy 39 years ago, and it showed in the scores. De Vicenzo won at 10-under 278, and a dozen players finished the tournament under par. Barring any wind, Nicklaus is among those who fear record scoring.
Nicklaus was at Hoylake two months ago, and what struck him was the bunkers that were positioned about 270 yards away from the tee, which can be easily carried in today's power game. He also noticed ample fairways that were being prepared.
'At the same time, the greens are very generous in size and should be receptive to shots,' Nicklaus said. 'So once you combine all these facts, unless the wind kicks up and the weather helps defend the golf course, the recipe exists for low scoring.'
Dawson, however, is not the least bit worried.
The reason it took nearly 40 years to return to Royal Liverpool was a matter of logistics. The British Open, like other majors, has become big business. Along with a course, there has to be room for corporate tents, ample grandstands, a sizable driving range and decent roads to get some 35,000 fans to the tournament.
The tented village will be partly on the practice range, while the players will be shuttled across the street to a municipal golf course that will be turned into a range. A new road has been built.
As for the golf, the biggest change will be numbering of the holes. Dawson felt the 18th hole was too weak, and there was not enough room for a large grandstand. The first two holes will be Nos. 17 and 18, and the British Open will end with a par 5 (No. 16).
That could lead to a dynamic conclusion. No other course on the Open rotation ends with a par 5, and this one features out-of-bounds down the right side of the hole.
But will Royal Liverpool be a stern test?
'It's just as strong as all the other venues,' Dawson said. 'If we've got trepidation about Hoylake, we would have trepidation about all of them.'
The list of champions at Hoylake is not as impressive as other venues, with the except of Jones and Walter Hagen. Hoylake delivered the first European winner of the Open (Arnaud Massy of France in 1907), the only Irishman (Fred Daly in 1947) and De Vicenzo, the only player from South America to have won a major.
One of the few players acquainted with Hoylake is Padraig Harrington, who played the British Amateur in 1995. For those who have criticized it as being too weak to host the Open, his only advice is to wait until the claret jug is on the line.
'A links golf course only really shows its true character when it's played in tournaments,' Harrington said. 'You'll only be able to tell after we've played the Open there what sort of course it is, and how much of a test.'
And only then will anyone know whether it has to wait another 39 years to return.
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”