EASY?2 IS THE OLD COURSE IN DANGER OF BECOMING TOO
If you consider the basic numbers, something needs to be done to protect the Old Lady’s dignity. The winning scores from the last six Opens at St Andrews add up to 88 under par. Royal St George’s, by comparison, comes to -36 and Royal Birkdale to -35.
Ahead of the 2005 Open, Tiger Woods talked of the course playing “pretty easy” for the long hitters, having just driven to the edge of the green on the 352-yard 9th, then to the fringe on the 380-yard 10th. “This course is tailor-made for anyone who hits long,” he said. If the wind doesn’t blow, it can play pretty easy.”
And so it proved five years later when, in benign conditions, Rory Mcilroy opened with a 63. “The Old Lady had no clothes on today,” remarked Tom Watson. The next day, though, she wore a heavy raincoat and Mcilroy shot an 80.
Such extremes only ever seem to happen north of the border, which might explain why only three players (Paul Broadhurst in 1990, Rory in 2010 and Marc Leishman in 2015) have gone round the Old Course in fewer than 65 strokes in an Open. Clearly, players are not going to be capable of eroding records if the wind blows hard. But if the weather is kind and conditions are soft, there is genuine concern that the course could be overpowered by the game’s biggest hitters. And for good reason.
“Bryson will stand up there and think six or seven holes on the course are driveable,” warns Colin Montgomerie. “The par-5 5th will be a joke, with a flick of a wedge for his second shot. As for the par-4 18th, remember all the excitement back in the day when Jack Nicklaus became the first man to drive the green? They were hitting it with three woods back when I finished second to Tiger in 2005, and this year they will be hitting it with irons…”