OPEN GOLF: Why birdies are so hard to come by

With little wind and soft greens, why isn't the scoring better at the Open?

Here are four good reasons why the scoring should be sensational at Royal Lytham & St Annes this week:


Short course

The course is little over 7,000 yards (in fact it is being played at just under 7,000 yards). This is very short for a Major championship.


Strong field

The field is world class. All the best players in the world bar none are in Lancashire this week.


Calm conditions

There has been little or no wind so far. As in, barely gusting to 10mph. That’s a zephyr in seaside terms.


Soft greens

The greens are receptive. We are seeing shots jumping back, let alone stopping when they land. As an experienced American writer said yesterday, is this Doral or Lytham we are playing at this week?

Balls are spinning back – is this Doral or Lytham we are playing at?
So why is it that the average score over the first two days was 72?


The stingy par

It’s the oldest trick in the book and one employed by all the governing bodies of the Majors apart from, commendably, the Men of Masters who have left Augusta as a par 72. This year, the R&A have declared the 6th should be played as long 4 instead of a 5 and that means come the end of the week the scores in relation to par are immediately four worse.


The rough is up

In places, there is some very lush stuff.


The 206 bunkers

Stand on virtually any tee and all you can see is the greedy black mouths of bunkers. It is intimidating. Plus, the ones around the greens are exceptionally deep and sometimes escape in the right direction is impossible.


The players are scared

We have seen much tentative play this week due to factors 2 and 3 (see above). Several have commented how hard they find it to commit to their tee shots. It’s funny how the bunkers play with their mind much more than, say, water hazards do.


Conservative play from the tee

Tiger Woods, for example, has been hitting only two drivers per day thus far. We are seeing lots and lots of fairway woods, hybrids and irons from the tee. That reflects the way the course was designed. There are lots of doglegs and many more bunkers. You have the chance to aim for a wide part of fairway and accept a longer shot in. That’s what many players are deciding to do – Woods and Brandt Snedeker among them.

The result is long and mid irons into greens. It’s hard to get it close from 200 yards.


The course is playing long

With all the rain, there is little or no run. Hence it is difficult to get a short iron in your hand.


Danger near the pins

The R&A have tucked the pins away in front corners and at the very back of the greens, given the calm conditions. The penalty for going at a flag and missing is often an unplayable or at least awkward bunker shot. The players are calculating that it simply isn’t worth the risk and so are aiming at the heart of the greens and accepting par.


Playing for position

No one wants to put themselves out of contention on the first day. Perhaps we will see more chances being taken over the weekend as caution is thrown to the wind.

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