‘THE R&A LIKE A BIT OF RISK AND REWARD AND WANT TO THROW UP A FEW SURPRISES’
Mark Batten, Past Captain and Chairman of the Championship Committee, gives us the inside track on The R&A’S plans for forward tees and where The Open will be won or lost... Prodigious length will not always help you. You can be up greenside and easily take three or four to get down, especially from the rough. I’m told Jack Nicklaus didn’t like the course because he thought the bounces were unfair. If it’s firm, you can’t land your ball on the green and expect it to hold. I remember coming in 2011 and on the 17th many players were hitting pitching wedges and watching it ping off the green towards the back. Whereas a member would nudge it up, using the swales. It’s a course which certainly calls for a lot of imagination. In 2003, Ben Curtis came beforehand and he was the only player to speak to the pro at the time and ask him how to play the course. A lot of the greens are well protected so you can’t bomb it all over the place. Bryson could try and drive the 5th like John Daly did, and the 12th is another where he could blast it, but if he misses the green then there’s plenty of trouble. A lot of the bunkers are reasonably deep and whenever you miss the fairway, the hosel can easily snag in the fescue and make it pretty difficult to get out. I sense The R&A like a bit of risk and reward and want to throw up a few surprises. They seem quite attracted to using a front tee on 11, which is about 60 yards further forward. I think they rather like the idea of almost replicating the Postage Stamp where the angle to the pin means the landing area is very small. It’s a course which calls for a lot of courage and imagination. There’s lots of places, even on the fairway, where the ball will be two or three inches below or above you. You’ve got to plot your way around and even if you think you’re doing well, you can’t let up or relax. No two holes go in exactly the same direction and the wind often moves around so you never ever feel comfortable. It’s sometimes said that the last five or six holes have quite a sting. I think most players will be happy playing them in level par.