SANDWICH, England – With strong wind set to cause havoc at the British Open, organizers said Wednesday that some tees may have to be brought forward at Royal St. George’s to make the course playable.
Gusts of up to 30 mph are forecast for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday. Depending on wind direction, it will make some fairways unreachable off the tee for many players.
Royal and Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson picked out the par-5 seventh and the par-311th, which is 243 yards from tee to green, as two of several holes that could be modified.
“We do have some wind issues out there,” Dawson said. “We made the players aware at the start of the week that some tees may be moved up and they were invited to practice off forward tees if they wished. I think players should be able to reach the fairway and reach the par 3s, frankly.”
Otherwise, the course was described by R&A championship committee chairman Jim McArthur as “in terrific condition” and by Dawson as “right up there with the best.”
“We believe that Royal St. George’s is a true Open Championship test,” McArthur said. “It’s very much based on strategic play rather than muscle power.”
Conditions should be easier than in the 2003 tournament at Sandwich, when players were critical that the rough, which gobbled up errant drives, was too thick.
As a result of the dry spring in southeast England, Dawson said organizers had been concerned there would be nearly no rough at all. Recent rainfall has calmed their fears.
“We’ve always said we take what nature gives us, but fortunately we’ve had some rain … which has been sufficient to rejuvenate the golf course and the amount of rough we have out there is pretty close to what we would like,” Dawson said. “It’s not as thick as it might have been but it’s good playing conditions. We’re happy with it.”
American Ben Curtis was the only player to finish under par in 2003, and Dawson said he doesn’t expect particularly great scoring this time.
“This course, I think, needs more knowing than most because there are more slightly blind shots here, the kicks off the fairway … you need to know them,” he said. “Like all the links courses, it’s very wind-dependent how it plays.
“I don’t think we’re going to get particularly low scoring here this week, especially with the wind up. The course is tough.”
Dawson said, based on advanced ticket sales and indications on practice days, he anticipates bigger crowds than in 2003, when about 185,000 spectators came through the gates.