Power prepared for St Andrews chess match as he chases Open dream

Bernie McGuire
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Seamus Power (Photo By Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

There’ll be those teeing up at this week’s Open Championship believing they can overpower the Old Course and lift the Claret Jug.

However, not Séamus Power with the affable West Waterford star predicting an altogether more intricate test for a would-be champion at the Home of Golf this week.

Power arrived on Monday and managed to squeeze 17 holes in at St Andrews before the course closed on him following a late arrival to the iconic host venue.

And after teeing up solo amongst the early starters on Tuesday morning in a pair of his finest shorts, Power was asked to describe the conundrum posed to players this week by the famous layout at St Andrews, in particular with reference to Tiger Woods’ famous chess match with the Old Course in 2000 where he managed to avoid every bunker on his way to a remarkable eight-shot win.

“It is [a chess mate],” Power agreed. “You try to be precise.

“On some holes, the balls on the fairways are running so far. Holes like 4 and 7. Normally you can pick a strategy where you can take one of them (bunkers) out of play.

“At four, when you carry the mounds it is more likely to run into the cross bunker. At seven, it’s very hard to keep it short of the two bunkers.

“We’ll have a strategy and think about it. It’ll definitely be a chess match in places. Now and then you want to be aggressive but the bunkers there are very penal.

“In practice rounds you seem to find the middle of bunkers but in the tournament you find spots and you’re coming out backwards.

“Tiger missed all the bunkers? That’s going to be the goal. It’s going to be fun trying to figure that out!”

There’s been plenty of talk in the prelude to his week’s championship around how the Old Course and its classic design will stand up to a new breed of golfer. And while a number of par-4s are driveable, and the two par-5’s are most certainly within reach in two, Power is convinced that whatever about a player’s long game this week, it’s the putting that will see an eventual champion prevail with the Claret Jug on Sunday.

“I think putting is always going to be huge here,” Power said.

“If you’ve confidence in your putting you can hit it to 50 feet and two putt from there. If you start struggling with putting, you can get into trouble.

“Using your head is massive. It’s not the tightest off the tee but it’s a massive advantage to driving it well. [Then] if you can get it around without a three-putt, whoever leads the field in the fewest three-putts will make up ground.”

Although this is Power’s Open debut, he’ll be feeling right at home at St Andrews given the amount of friends and family who have made the trip over, with a few staying in the campsite in town while a number of others are in the house with the 35-year old.

Power hopes to play a few holes with Shane Lowry before Thursday’s opening round but if the winds are to blow as forecast, he might opt to focus on short game instead as he prepares for a fourth Major start.

And Power is a major player these days having made the cut on all three previous occasions – T27 Augusta, T9 U.S. PGA and T12 U.S. Open –  and ahead of Thursday’s off, last year’s Barbasol champion was asked if he could see himself holding the Claret Jug come Sunday.

“Absolutely,” Power said without hesitation. “As a player growing up in Britain and Ireland, it’s something you dream of. That’s the plan and the goal. Obviously, to go and win the 150th Open at St Andrews would be something for the ages.”

Power plays with Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith at 8.03am on Thursday.

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