Little Eye dominated the run-up to The Open. Steve Carroll spent time straining to get a good view at Hoylake’s new hole
There are 120 people in the queue. I’ve counted all of them. Next to me, a guy is pointing at the line and laughing. I don’t find the wait for the greenside grandstand at 17 quite as hilarious.
‘It’ll be about 15 minutes,’ says another woman. But her optimism is betrayed because she’s sitting down. I decide she’s just trying to convince herself.
It’s no better on the far side of the green. A mound of grass feels it should be the perfect spectator point for those with a penchant for standing. It probably was three hours earlier.
Now it’s just a heaving mass of bodies. I’m pining for the days of social distancing.
I know a shot is on its way only when I see a spotter crane his binoculars into the sky. I know it has found its target only when I hear the thud on the green.
Finding the right view at Little Eye is a challenge. But Hoylake’s newest hole – on its Open debut – has not put the punters off. The paying public love it.
You’ll find plenty of members who will tell you otherwise. And there’s been a line of players as long as the wait for a greenside seat furrowing their brows and moping about their prospects.
Pete Cowen apparently even said it could ruin someone’s career. But if the build-up has been a bit amateur dramatics, the dawn of Open golf on this tiny par-3 has been pure theatre.
At its craziest, it’s pantomime. Patrick Reed’s ball grips the very edge of the green and slides back down the big slope off the front and into the bunked. Accompanied by oohs from the crowd all the way.
At its most destructive, it’s terrifying. Lucas Herbert led the tournament when he arrived at the hole. A treble later, he was humbled and tumbled down the leaderboard.
What can happen on the 17th hole.
Lucas Herbert held a share of the lead on the tee.
He walked off the green with a triple-bogey. pic.twitter.com/8mte7POa5p
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2023
Alex Fitzpatrick would later match that ‘feat’. But there also remains the chance to do something spectacular. By lunchtime, there are five birdies from the first 10 games – and two in one group (well done Henrik Stenson and Andrew Putnam).
You can’t gauge the impact of a hole from just 30 players, or even from the 1st day’s play. It will need the Wirral winds and Saturday’s weather apocalypse before we really understand what architect Martin Ebert has created and whether to cheer or jeer.
What I do know, though, is that the waits will only get longer. The crowds will only get bigger. The Open’s giving us what we want. It’s a Colosseum and we want some players thrown to the lions.
Rory comes by in a few hours. God help him, and God help us all.
What do you think of Little Eye, Hoylake’s 17th hole? Let me know your thoughts with a tweet.
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