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‘It’s not major championship golf’: Legends divided over record-breaking Open talk

With the weather forecast at the 150th Open looking favourable for the players, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo have weighed in on the debate
 

The Open returns to St Andrews this week for its 150th edition, and plenty of conversation surrounding the iconic event has centred around how easy the Old Course will be scoring.

The legendary venue will be playing a little north of 7,300 yards, which is relatively tame for today’s major standards – Augusta increased to 7,510 yards for the 2022 Masters – and conditions are expected to be significantly favourable for players given the lack of wind and rain forecast.

Couple these factors with the drastic distance increases witnessed in the game since 2015 – the last time The Open was held at the Home of Golf – suddenly you’ve got a recipe for low, potentially record-breaking scores.

It’s an exciting scenario for golf fans, but many greats of the game are not best pleased. Gary Player is one legend who has not hidden his distaste at golfers ripping up St Andrews. When Ross Fisher broke the Old Course record with a 61 at the 2017 Dunhill Links, the Black Knight immediately expressed his apprehension ahead of the 2022 Open Championship.

“It destroys me,” Player said. “A guy like Bryson DeChambeau could drive the first green. He could drive seven to eight greens in the tournament, on the most famous course on the planet. They’re going to annihilate the golf course.”

Such claims triggered the big-hitting American to defend the modern game, arguing low scores are what “the fans want”.

DeChambeau replied: “We may shoot 20-under. But what does that matter? We’re athletes, and we’re going to continue to get stronger and bigger and faster and more consistent. If the fans want to see low scores, give them low scores. If they want even par, put the pins on a side slope.”

Ahead of The Open, the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam have then echoed the negative chorus spearheaded by Player. The Welshman told NCG this year’s crop “could make a real mockery” of the Old Course, with Faldo worrying that “poor old St Andrews” could get “ridiculous” if conditions are right.

Montgomerie, a runner-up here in 2005, also expressed his fears for the iconic venue with low scoring on the cards.

“I’m worried about St Andrews,” he said. “If it’s a calm, flat morning, somebody could go very, very low. And I don’t want that. Yes, it’s a good round of golf, don’t get me wrong, but is that really major championship golf?”

Elsewhere, other greats have remained unconcerned by the possibility of record scoring at St Andrews. Accepting of the times, Jack Nicklaus summed it up best when speaking ahead of the 150th Open this week.

“So what?” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. They’re shooting low now compared to what they shot 100 years ago. Times change and golfers get better, equipment gets better, conditions get better. It’s St Andrews and it is what it is. It will produce a good champion. It always has.”

Rich Beem agrees with the 18-time major winner, telling NCG that a plethora of birdies may actually make St Andrews a “harder” test for players.

“Is it horrible to watch these guys go out there – the best players in the world – and make birdies?” Beem said. “Sometimes it’s harder to be at a venue where you have to make birdies, where you have to take advantage of certain holes, because if you’re not out there making birdies, you feel like you have to start pressing a bit, and that’s where mistakes can be made.  

“When you know you have to go out there and shoot 65 to keep up with everybody else, that’s not easy.”

And shoot 65 they may well have to as, in recent years, The Open has not been shy to such low scoring. Indeed, in the last four editions the winning score has been at least 14-under.

But while records are potentially on the cards in 2022, working in the R&A’s favour – and those worried about a potential blitzing of the historic venue – is the severe lack of rain which has left the Old Course bare and brown.

Whichever way scoring play outs, and whether you’re opposed to low numbers or not, the potential for masses of birdies and record-breaking feats only adds to the frisson and excitement which beholds an iconic 150th Open Championship.

Rich Beem was talking to NCG as an ambassador of Boyle Sports.


Visit our dedicated Open website for more from golf’s oldest major


The R&A has announced details of how you can get tickets for the historic 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2023. Click here to find out more.

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George Cooper

George Cooper

A golf fanatic his entire life, George Cooper is NCG's man for all goings-on at the top level of the game, whether it's the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA or LIV Golf. He also looks after NCG's Twitter and Facebook accounts. George is a member of Woburn, but is not friends with Ian Poulter.

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