Dreams die at Coffin bunker

TROON • The Coffin bunker alongside the par-three eighth hole (the famous Postage Stamp) at Royal Troon is so esteemed it even has its own Twitter account (@TroonCoffinTrap).

These past few days, the account has been a comic vehicle to taunt, tease and toast the golfers who have had the misfortune to step through the bunker's sly grounds.

When Bubba Watson found himself buried there on Thursday, he dared the bunker, turning his back to the green to escape from a four-foot depth. With one swing, his ball was free of the bunker, but it ended up in the deep rough behind the green.

More calamity ensued.

Watson had stepped onto the eighth tee leading the event. Then he recorded a triple-bogey six.

On Twitter, the Coffin bunker snickered: "Bubba now 3 back." After his round, Watson smiled when asked about the sandy hardship. But he knew the score - in more ways than one.

"I've been in that bunker all week," the world No. 5 said. "Every time I play that hole, it's killing me."

It is entirely fitting that one sand trap, small enough to be compared to a coffin, could command so much attention at Royal Troon, because the bunkers are the runaway star features of a golf course with few other unusually distinctive elements.

There are 98 bunkers, an average of more than five per hole. One of them, if not several of them, would most likely have factored into the outcome in the tense, closing moments of the final round.

"They're just not typical bunkers in so many ways," world No. 4 Rory McIlroy said.

"There is a lot of sand in the bunker. So when the ball just trickles in, it doesn't go into the middle.

"When you get to your ball, you see that you're left with a lie next to a bunker lip or against the wall."

The walls of Royal Troon's bunkers are almost engineering marvels. Some appear to be at 90-degree angles to the sand floor.

Various histories of the golf course have related that the small pot bunkers were built by workers with shovels who heaped the unearthed dirt towards the front of the cavity they were creating - meaning the point between the newly dug bunker and the green.

Over time, the excavated dirt was shaped into steep, intimidating face walls that have bedevilled golfers ever since.

In Friday's second round, 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis was in three bunkers on the third hole.

It took him three swings to get out of a bunker left of the fairway, where his tee shot came to rest. He ended up in a bunker left of the green with his fifth shot and needed two shots to escape that hollow of sand. The second of those swings sent his ball into another bunker.

Improving his bunker performance as he went, Curtis took only one swipe to finally reach the third green. Two putts later, he had posted a 10 on the hole.

Afterwards, he said he wanted to "jump in the ocean".

Somebody should probably remind him: There's sand at the bottom of that, too.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Dreams die at Coffin bunker'. Print Edition | Subscribe