An alternative guide to the 2018 Open

Golf News

In this week's Notebook Mark Townsend provides an all-you-need-to-know guide to the 147th Open and the toughest course on the non-existent rota, Carnoustie

When is the British Open?

Let me stop you right there. As an old boss used to say to anyone who would listen ‘The British Open is a snooker tournament, never refer to this as that’.

The Open Championship, or The Open as it is now branded, will begin on Thursday and finish on Sunday night. If it does go to extra holes then there will be four of them.

Where is Carnoustie?

To give you a rough idea where in the world we are this week – as the crow flies St Andrews is 12 miles from Carnoustie. Or 25 miles if you’re going by car.

If you know where Dundee is then keep going to this small town in Angus. At the last count Carnoustie had a population of around 12,000.

What is links golf?

Links golf is either the purest form of the game and the way that the game should be played, preferably played in twoballs and you’ll go round in two and a half hours.

Or, when you’re not playing well, the most unfair and brutal way to tackle any sport.

When defining links golf people start talking about arable land and such like but, to keep things simple, the land is sandy and rolling and, at the moment, brown and fiery.

As well as being great for the soul it is also handy to crow about reaching 450-yard par 4s with a ‘drive and a flick’ given how much run you can get.

What happened last time at Carnoustie?

The Open Andres Romero never won. Somehow the Argentinean managed 10 birdies before a bizarre double-bogey via a bridge at the 17th, which was followed by a five at the last.

Had Padraig Harrington made a five at the last then he might have won in normal time. As it was Sergio Garcia, who led from day one, bogeyed the last to play-off with Harrington and the Irishman took him down.

The pair then fell out for a decade with the Spaniard accused of being a sore loser. Supposedly they made up at Rory’s wedding last year.

What is Hogan’s Alley?

Bantam Ben managed to find this now sacred piece of turf between a hoard of bunkers and the out of bounds on all four days of his 1953 victory, the only time he played in the Championship.

For you and I it is a small strip that you won’t go near given your fear of white stakes unless you double-cross yourself and can’t help yourself in collecting your ball.

Head right away from the bunkers and slowly get yourself more and more out of position before also coming undone by the sloping green.

Hogan's Alley

What is the Barry Burn?

Ask anyone outside the UK and they might never have heard of this meandering river but, other than Rae’s Creek, this might be the most infamous bit of water on a golf course.

This is mainly thanks to Jean Van de Velde, his bare ankles and Peter Alliss’ commentary in 1999 and the fable grew larger when Harrington couldn’t stay away eight years later.

Unless you are Tiger Woods it shouldn’t come into play until the 10th but it’s the last two holes where the Barry Burn, otherwise known as Pitairlie Burn, comes into its own.

And with it being bouncy it should see plenty of traffic. 

How many players in the field?

At the start of it all 156 brave hombres will tee it up in the hope of becoming the Champion Golfer of the Year. We’ll get going at 6.35am with the last hopefuls kicking their heels until 16.16.

After two days this will be cut to 70 and ties.

Carnoustie rough

Why is it referred to as ‘Carnasty’?

Here are a few stats to digest from 1999: The winning score was +6, the cut was +12, there were 102 rounds in the 80s and two in the 90s and the scoring average, over the 444 rounds played, was 78.31.

The fairways were too narrow and a mild, wet spring had seen the rough spiral to three feet in places. And then there was rain and light winds to top things off.

“I wish I hadn’t come,” said Phil Mickelson who missed the cut by one.

One player who didn’t get caught up in discussing the course set-up was Paul Lawrie.

Who is Jean Van de Velde?

He is the man who has been asked the same question for the past 19 years: What the hell happened?

You could sit there for days and conjure up hundreds of ways to make six and still win The Open. Had he not hit the worst angle of the grandstand he might have made four.

Forgotten in lots of this is his putt to make the play-off, maybe the strangest 20 minutes of golf ever played.

Who has won at Carnoustie?

Only seven men. We only came here for the first time in 1931 when Tommy Armour won with a winning score of +8. Since then Henry Cotton, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lawrie and Harrington have emerged as champions in this corner of Angus.

The last three have gone to extra holes.

Do we all now hit 2-irons?

After watching all the action and the Protracers it is logical enough to come away thinking that you need to put a 2-iron in the bag – get that stinger out there to 280 and never miss a fairway again.

Or maybe crank your strong hybrid down 1.5-degrees?

Here’s a little reminder: You know your 4-iron? The one you can’t hit? Well that is easier than a 2-iron. These guys are the business, the cream of the crop. You and I are not.

Where are we off to next?

Where have you been? It’s Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, back on the non-existent rota for the first time since 1951. The last winner here was Max Faulkner or, to give him his full name, Herbert Gustavus Max Faulkner.

How many FedEx Cup points does the Open champion receive?

Nobody cares.

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