Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
Don’t be short, don’t be left, don’t be right, and whatever you do, don’t be long. Otherwise the 136-yard par-3 17th at Royal Liverpool Golf Club is a simple hole.
The Open’s Cavern Club.
Wednesday, the final practice day ahead of the 151st Open Championship where after today there are no second chances. This is not an open book test, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The toughest examination this week will surely come at the 17th.
Hoylake is a relatively flat terrain compared to other links courses on the Open rota. There are no towering dunes and undulations. Hit the fairway and you are guaranteed a flat stance, which is what makes 17 even more eye catching.
Standing at the very back of the tee box looking ahead through the narrow gap of this amphitheatre the R&A have adopted a stadium style for the penultimate hole. It’s the scousers nod to the 12th at Augusta, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass and the Postage Stamp.
On Wednesday the players were hitting into the easier of the possible winds with the breeze blowing into and off the left, taking long out of play. The miss (if there is one) is left, certainly the less penal of the four with a gaping wide bunker/waste area waiting to gobble up any ball that doesn’t climb onto the top of the table top green. A devilishly deep bunker right of the green leaves you a few yards below the surface of the green, while going long brings the Irish Sea into play.
One thing this marmite hole will bring? Drama. On Wednesday the crowd bellow out ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ and the odd ‘woaaaahhhh’ as any short balls trickle down into the front bunker before a chorus of ‘waaaayyy’ echoes around the grandstand that surrounds the 17th tee as the balls of Seamus Power and Jordan Smith come up shy. Credit to the players who often egged the crowd on at their own expense – such jovial scenes won’t be seen once the first group makes their way on Thursday morning.
136 yards yet players – like our most recent major champion Wyndham Clark – are playing 25-feet away from the pin as they hug the left side of the green for protection. Some players warped by fear as they drag balls left of the green and settle into the bunker and who could blame them? Only for a slight ridge back right of the green, it looks as if golf balls that go long disappear into the end of the world – the abyss.
Up steps the all star group of Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland late in the afternoon as they emerge from the tunnel under the grandstand to a carnival atmosphere. Fever pitch on practice day four as the crowd eagerly anticipates some great shots and some disasters.
Way left goes Hatton, much to the amusement of the spectators who expect perhaps some retaliation from the Englishman – nothing doing, although the week is young. Up steps local boy Fleetwood who hits a shot not seen throughout the day. A draw off the right hand bunker into the left to right breeze which lands four feet adjacent to the hole.
Shot of the day and a rapturous round of applause.
Cries of ‘no pressure Rory’ come from up high but the defending course champion turns his shot over slightly and clings onto the left edge of the green. Four of those every day would be ideal.
Hovland steps up to the plate and hits a quality shot of his own to 8-feet but it’s Fleetwood who takes the bragging rights.
Drama to the nines, and that’s with the easiest wind. With high winds forecast over the weekend, if the wind switches direction on 17, it will bring the abyss over the green into play and you might just find the odd ProV1 or TP5 skipping across the Irish Sea on your ferry home.
17 has been the talk of the town this week and has drawn… mixed reaction.
Interesting. I’ll leave it at that.
Martin Slumbers (CEO Of The R&A)
We took 35 minutes to get to the 17th. (Laughter.) About as long as you would probably take to play it.
We’ve been talking with the club on and off about that for about four years. One of the, not feedback, but one of the sentiments that was felt after ’14, ’06 and ’14, was that the course could do with more drama.
It’s a great golf course. I mean, I absolutely love it. It’s one of my top two or three favourite golf courses on the pool.
Can we create some more drama. It was actually the club came to us and said, do you know, with a lot of talk being around flipping around what was 15 up on to the dunes, and we came and looked at it, and we thought, yeah, that could really add some drama.
I am a believer that the best par-3s in the world are short. The 12th at Augusta, 17th at TPC, 8th at Royal Troon. This gave us an opportunity to change that hole to create drama.
It’s hard, but if you want to go and do your research go and compare it to the size of green at TPC, Postage Stamp, 12th at Augusta. It’s a bigger green, the 12th at Augusta, which I think everyone in this room would probably put in the top three par-3s in the world, and it has a lot of jeopardy in there.
I think it fits well. What it also does, it enabled us to reconfigure the final bit around there. So we got four holes. The final four holes will be 610 par-5, 480 par-4, 136 par-3, 620 par-5. A lot of things could happen on that, and I think that drama will unfold come Sunday.
It’s unusual. Yeah, I don’t like I don’t mind the whole the positioning on the golf course will be my only negative comment towards it i i the rest of the golf course to me is very fair and very in front of you and then that whole kind of doesn’t quite fit in, and then being the 17th all like it’s all I could decide the Open.
You could hit a half decent shot and you could walk away with a five or six there quickly enough so that’d be my only thing but I look it’s it’s not going to be changed by tomorrow or certainly not by Sunday.
I remember the old hall was fine I suppose but I think you’re obviously looking for that kind of stadium kind of thing. They might have overdone it a little bit, we’ll see. I tried to hit a little flighty nine iron and just landed in the front (bunker).
Left bunker happier for the miss. Right bunker goes way down
You could hit a reasonable shot, get a little gust, and end up in a bad spot.
17 – clearly a massive change. It’ll be very interesting when you get into the t’ment. It might turn into an easy hole if the green gets soft. I played here four weeks ago and the green was firm. If it stays soft it mightn’t be a brute but if there are 25 mph winds on Sunday and the green is firmed up, it could be exceptionally difficult. 17 could be a pivotal hole.
Put it like this, I know it sounds strange, and it’s not quite true….I prefer to play 17 one shot behind than one ahead. It’s a hole you could easily make up two shots on. You could make birdie to a bogey or even worse. In real life, I’d prefer to be one ahead but I’m just saying that. It’s a better hole for the chaser than for the leader.
I was talking to a few of the guys earlier today. There is not really a high-percentage play. You just have to hit a really good shot, and if you don’t, I would say missing it left of the green is a little bit better than right.
That bunker is pretty treacherous on the right. But as far as that hole goes I’m just going to try and hit a really good shot, and that’s pretty much all you can do
I see what they tried to do. The old 15, par-3, was the complete opposite of the hole. You have a short downhill hole most likely downwind with basically all the edges sloping towards the centre of the green. I thought it was a good hole. You could make a birdie, and if you miss the green, a bogey was lurking.
This time they made a really difficult turtle shell par-3. If you hit a good shot, put it on the green, you have a clear look at birdie. If you miss the green, you have a clear look at bogey. It’s hard to say anything is fair or unfair because it’s so short.
I would say if it is it’s fair, because it’s unfair to everybody. Like it’s golf, and it’s life. Simple as that.
We all have to play the same holes. If you hit a good shot, you’ll definitely most likely have a birdie chance. If not, you’ll deal with it. I get you’re going for that on a championship Sunday. You have a one-shot lead, that hole can be pivotal.
I think it’s an interesting hole. Depends on the wind. If you get a cross wind there, it could be pretty interesting. I’m a big believer in the short par-3s, make it difficult, exactly like that. I’m not a huge fan of 260, 250. It kind of takes — I don’t want to say the excitement out of it, but it’s kind of boring. You already know it’s a 3-iron and everybody is hitting to the same spot, where I think all the best par-3s in the world that have ever been designed are 165 yards or shorter.
12th at Augusta, Sawgrass. I mean, Postage Stamp. There’s a bunch of them, and you can walk away with 5 just as easy as you could it. I like it.
Yeah, that’s probably the right word, drama. Yeah, it’s a tough hole. We played it yesterday and it was straight into the wind, 30 or 40 miles an hour, and it was not a tee shot that you want to have.
I think I hit 7-iron in there yesterday. I don’t know if we’re going to hit 7-iron again, but yeah, there’s not much room for error up there, and I think it’ll be a really exciting finish to an Open Championship for sure. I think it’s a great hole.