Royal Liverpool will host the Open on Thursday for the third time in 20 years. And the biggest determinant of course play and who wins may be the only factor beyond the control of Britain’s governing body of golf, The R&A: the weather.
When Tiger Woods won here in 2006, the course was hard, baked and temperatures near 100 degrees. Woods had a strong driver in his bag on nearly every tee box, choosing irons on most holes to control ball flight and play rolls on firm fairways.
Eight years later, Rory McIlroy played the same course dating back to 1869, but in completely different conditions. It was wet and green. The temperature was in the 70s, and after the end of the third round, a severe rainstorm blew.
Both players scored low (18-under for Woods and 17-under for McIlroy) and were two strokes ahead of their closest rivals, but the R&A likes the variability these days.
“It wasn’t easy,” McIlroy said in a post-round interview at the time. “I had some guys rushing at me, so I had to stay focused and get the job done.”
The R&A announced earlier this week that it is developing a series of weather forecast plans to test golfers. Where the tees and pins are placed is determined less by the length of the hole or the slope of the green on the scorecard than by conditions such as wind, rain and heat that the governing body cannot plan in advance. cold.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that the weather has a lot to do with it,” said Grant Moir, executive director of governance at The R&A, which oversees the construction of the British Open course. “A few months ago there was a drought and the course was very dry and burned down.
“However, we have had a fair amount of rain in the last few weeks and the course has turned green. ‘s British Open. “We just accept it.
This is what the British Open means. Given the possibility of changing conditions, any preparation a player may make may be in vain.
Padraig Harrington The two-time British Open champion has been preparing for tough and solid conditions, but said he knew things could change by the first round.
“It’s not the course that matters so much what you do to know the course beforehand,” he said. “In practice we’ll only play the nine twice. You know what you’re doing. At Royal Liverpool you can be aggressive, but the key is decision making in the wind.”
The British Open setup is regularly compared to the US Open. This year’s contest, held at the Los Angeles Country Club, received lower scores than the U.S. governing body, the United States Golf Association, normally allows. Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele hit 62 on Day 1, setting two new championship records.
Critics criticized the winning score as too easy at 10-under. But Harrington came to defend the course. It wasn’t the wide fairways that made the scoring conditions favorable. it was green.
“I never had greens that good at the U.S. Open,” he said. “Never got crisp. Usually the ball doesn’t stop on the green on Sunday at that major. I haven’t three-putted all week.”
Los Angeles Country Club member Stewart Hagestad, a former U.S. Open qualifier and two-time U.S. Middle-Amateur champion, said before the tournament that conditions in Los Angeles were too good for the majors. Told. “It’s the weather that makes or breaks a major win,” he said.
Despite the mixed weather forecast at Royal Liverpool this week, Moir said he will be fine. “We want to provide the right challenge,” he said. “We have to be aware of predictions, adapt from there, and take advantage of the best information we have.”
It wasn’t always like that. One of his turning points for the R&A was the 1999 Open in Carnoustie, Scotland. The Open earned the nickname ‘Carnasty’ due to the severity of the course. That week was memorable and brutal.
Jean van de Velde France took the lead after 71 holes. The championship seemed to be in his hands with one hole to go. He was three strokes ahead of both players when he hit an errant drive on the final hole.
Things got worse, and it ended up being a nightmare that looked more like an amateur than an elite player. His balls hit the rough, ponds, bunkers and even the stands. He ended up with a triple bogey, which put him in a tie for the title and sent him to the three-man playoffs.
In the four-hole match, Juan de Velde lost to Paul Lawrie (Scotland). The winning score was 6 overs.
However, the criticism was much more serious than just Van de Velde’s performance. The rough was so high and the fairways so hard that play was brutally challenging and incredibly slow.
Harrington, who finished 29th in 15 overs that year, said the open-course set-up hadn’t been so obsessed with winning scores since then.
“In 1999, the R&A brutalized the players and did everything they could to make things tough,” he said. “Then the R&A said they have a great golf course.
Mr. Moir did not dispute that assessment. “He learned a lot from Carnoustie in 1999,” he said. “The biggest change is that the R&A has more control over the set-up. This was 24 years ago, but it wasn’t as noticeable back then. It was a different time.”
The biggest change to Royal Liverpool since its last opening is the creation of a new par 3 and slotting it. as the 17th hole. That’s the 15th hole he used to play downhill to the surface. The shot is now reversed, so the player must hit a short shot up the hill onto a tabletop green that is fully exposed to the elements.
“If there’s even a little bit of wind, it’s going to affect that hole,” Moir said. “There’s greenery exposed over the dunes, with the beach in the background, where any wind will culminate.”
This is also an example of how the prevailing wind direction on a given day determines pin locations. Throughout the four days, The R&A plans to select locations where players will not only be able to ride where the wind blows, but also ride through the wind to hit their shots.
“The two Modern Opens here are great examples of the impact weather can have,” said Moir. “But what this course does is give you chances to score. There’s also chances to make even bigger numbers.”