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Tue 17 Aug 2010 12:00 AM

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The Road to disaster

Perhaps the most famous par-4 in the world, the already tough 17th hole at St Andrews has been lengthened and will definitely play a pivotal role in determining the eventual champion, says Joy Chakravarty.

The Road to disaster
The Road to disaster

Perhaps the most famous par-4 in the world, the already tough 17th hole at St Andrews has been lengthened and will definitely play a pivotal role in determining the eventual champion, says Joy Chakravarty.

The Road to becoming the Open Championship just got tougher.

St Andrews’ Road Hole, easily the most famous par-4 hole in the world, will play to 495 yards during the 2010 Open Championship. As if the poor pros did not have enough on their plates already with the existing design, organizers Royal & Ancient have pushed the tee back by another 40 yards on the 17th hole.

The most difficult hole in the 2000 and 2005 Open will now measure a whopping 495 yards. In 2000, it played to a stroke average of 4.71, and was slightly easier in 2005 with a stroke average of 4.63.

The tee shot on the long hole is a blind drive over an extension of the famous Old Course Hotel. To hit it just above the shed is the best possible line. A good drive will still leave a lengthy approach shot to a shallow green. Anything short of the green will end up in the infamous Road Hole Bunker, which has ruined so many dreams in the past, and anything long will end up against the wall.

If you are on the left side of the fairway after your drive, as most golfers prefer hitting there instead of flirting with the out of bounds area on the right, attacking the flag is not the best of options. From as far out as 160-190 yards, the intelligent shot from the rough would be to hit it left of the Road Hole Bunker, towards the 18th tee and try to make your up and down from there for a par. The Road Hole has had a history of spectacular crashes.

The Road Hole Bunker is also often referred to as the ‘Sands of Nakajima’, after the Japanese golfer Tommy Nakajima, who took five shots to get out of it after being in contention on the final day of
the 1978 Open.
After making a spectacular putt from the ‘Valley of Sin’ on the 18th to force a playoff in the 1995 Open, Italian Constantino Rocca needed three shots to emerge from the bunker and John Daly could have won the title with another double bogey. That’s what Daly had made on the 17th on the final two rounds of regulation play before making a par in the playoff.

In 2000, David Duval tried a brave attempt to catch Tiger Woods, then leading by two shots, by going for the flag from the bunker, and needed four shots to get out.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said: “The 17th was played at the same yardage in 1900 as it was in 2005 and this fuelled our belief that the formidable challenge of this iconic hole should be returned for the Open Championship.

“Over the years, we have seen the threat from the road behind the green, and to a lesser extent the Road Bunker, diminished as players have been hitting shorter irons for their approach shots, allowing them to avoid these hazards more easily.

“This change will ensure that the hole plays as it was originally intended.”

R&A’s move is sure to divide opinions, but they found an early backer in two-time champion Padraig Harrington.

The Irishman said: “That is exactly what they should do.

“When I stood there on the proposed tee (during the Dunhill Links Championship last year) I actually can’t tell you what language I used, but it was intimidating and that’s what the 17th is meant to be.

“That would be my thinking – make it a bigger hole, but give it a little bit more room.”

The lengthening of the 17th is the only major change from five years ago, the course measuring 7,305 yards compared to 7,279.

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