Not so 'Car-nasty' but still tough test for golfers

CARNOUSTIE • The cream of the world's golfers can expect a fiery Carnoustie this week but the Scottish links course is unlikely to live up to its "Car-nasty" nickname of old.

Rather than the tangled knee-high rough that caused carnage on the leaderboard and reduced Spain's Sergio Garcia to tears in 1999 when he hacked his way to a first-round 89, lightning-fast fairways will be the order of the day.

Sandy Reid, Carnoustie's links superintendent, thinks the winning score could be in double digits below par but says the course will not be defenceless, even if the fickle Scottish weather remains friendly as it has been in the two months leading up to the 147th Open.

"The course is going to play really fiery," Reid said. "The course is really dried out because we've had only half the usual amount of rain over the past three months.

"Players will need to be able to control the way the ball runs. They will really need to try to work out where it will stop rather than where it will carry. They will really have to think their way around."

Tiger Woods, a 14-time Major champion, has remarked that the fairways are playing faster than the greens during practice rounds.

"There aren't a lot of opportunities to hit driver just because the ball is going to be rolling out 80 yards," he said. "It's just hard to keep the ball in play and, even when you're hitting four-or five-irons, they're running 50 to 60 yards."

Dry and calm conditions are expected throughout and, with the greens being relatively flat, it would suggest a low-scoring Open.

Reid added that the bunkers will stop players taking liberties.

"Carnoustie is one of the best-bunkered courses you will find," he said. "The good ball strikers will be the ones that will flourish but because it will be playing shorter this year maybe that will help others.

"The greens are fairly gentle but, if you are a little off your game, Carnoustie punishes you."

Americans Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson head a group of long hitters ready to take a grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy.

Koepka said on Tuesday that he might hit his driver eight or nine times a round, a strategy he thinks will allow him to fly his tee shots over the many penal bunkers.

"Coming here, I knew it was very warm summer, not much rain but I still thought you play this course with a lot of irons off the tee, lay back to the bunkers," the US Open champion said.

Johnson said: "If you hit it in the bunkers, it's a penalty shot. I haven't seen one yet that I've hit in that I could actually hit it on the green out of the bunker.

"So a lot of times, yeah, I'm going to hit driver."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Not so 'Car-nasty' but still tough test for golfers'. Print Edition | Subscribe