Ronan MacNamara in Hoylake
After yesterday’s bunker bamboozlement, the R&A instructed green keeping crews to build up bunker edges for round two of the Open Championship after players felt they were too penal on Thursday.
But boy wasn’t it fun while it lasted?
The bunkers were billed as the defence of Royal Liverpool pre-championship but the R&A could not have foreseen the carnage they caused on day one even if they deflected away from the criticism the par-3 17th had been receiving earlier in the week.
For the spectators, the players revetted nightmares were pure golfing theatre as oohs and ahs and waaaaaays echoed around Hoylake. It’s always fun to see the pros suffer.
There are no water hazards in Hoylake but scattered around the flat terrain are sandy traps that will leave you crestfallen.
It could only ever be the Open Championship where the best players in the world are forced to play back ways, just ten yards from the pin, or go from bunker to bunker or worse still, just nudge the ball a few inches away from the steep faces.
Jon Rahm saunters down the 12th fairway only to find that his ball has tricked into one of the fairway pot bunkers and is up against the face in the back of the bunker. He nudges a lob wedge three yards in front of him – shame he was playing back ways. Yet this draws a round of applause from the spectators who have seen many face the same fate as Rahm already.
Tony Finau is in the front right trap in two shots on the par-5 5th and he belly wedges his ball sideways just to gain a flatter stance for his fourth. Rather than try and hack sideways into the rough or into one of the run off areas, he feels this is best practice to save his par. He fails, and it’s a momentum sapping six.
Fans in the UK and Ireland are always labelled as the most knowledgeable golf fans but it’s still a surreal experience to hear a round of applause for a bunker shot played backwards, or even sidewards.
The par-5 18th coughed up everything from an eagle to a quintuple bogey ten. The unfortunate double digit was struck by Taichi Kho who was in the green side bunker in two shots. Unfortunately for the Hong Kong golfer he went to bed on Thursday night with the wooden spoon. Justin Thomas also went from bunker to bunker, eventually taking a nine to sign for an 82 which left him next to last. A sorry sight as he resembled a mid to high handicapper hacking around in a monthly medal just dying to get into the clubhouse.
This is billed as a day one diary but given the extra layer of sand added to the bunkers it would be lazy to not review the situation.
On first viewing, the decision to add more and to the bunkers to prevent balls from rolling up too close to the revetted faces seemed slightly on the panicky side, but what it led to on Friday morning was bunker magic.
Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy were side by side in the front left trap on the par-5 fifth and what they produced was exhibition golf. The extra layer of sand made a difference as both players were able to clip over the lip and carry all the way to the pin for superb birdies. Even Rose could afford to hit the lip, a luxury that nobody benefited from on Thursday.
The bunkers remain penal but you can escape.
Onto something that was incredibly unsavoury from Jon Rahm’s caddie Adam Hayes.
A loud cry of ‘FORE’ echoes down the 12th and while everyone ducks for cover a large crack is heard as Rahm’s ball rebounds off somebody’s laptop, or a path of some kind. Unfortunately it was somebody’s forehead. A frightening moment and the Marshalls weren’t exactly on the button when calling for medical assistance.
The Spaniard signed a glove and in fairness offered a heartfelt apology with the gathering crowd laughing at his humour as to why the stricken gentleman didn’t head the ball back into the fairway rather than the fairway bunker.
What happened next was an absolute disgrace. The unfortunate spectator had been stunned into silence as he lay in the wispy grass, eyes open yet motionless. While being treated the tone-deaf Hayes turns and tells the medic to ‘be quiet’.
Trust a scouser to come up trumps though, ‘it’s a bit f***ing hard to be quiet when he’s being treated and blood gushing out of his head isn’t it mate?’
It’s all happening.