Top men take a licking as 'Postage Stamp' continues to make its mark
The short 123-yard 8th hole at Royal Troon, known as the 'Postage Stamp', is not on the list of the top ten most difficult holes in Open Championship records, but it has the potential to wreck a golfer's card, as two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson found out to his cost yesterday.
Left-hander Watson romped through the early holes of the wind-assisted front nine, reeling off a string of birdies.
Life was good. The game was good. Everything was good.
At 11.28am, the huge electronic scoreboard adjacent to the 8th green informed the galleries that two players led the tournament -- Justin Thomas, who had played 14 holes, and Bubba Watson, through seven, each of them on five-under par.
At 11.34am, Watson's name dropped off the leaderboard, and then some. Out of nowhere, he dropped three shots.
It was like a plane disappearing off the radar, and the reason was the feared 'Coffin Bunker', situated on the left of the narrow green at the 'Postage Stamp' where the American's ball was buried off his tee-shot.
In a sense, Watson was lucky he plays left-handed.
The spot where his ball landed would be unplayable for a right-handed player. He ignored the flagstick, turning his back to it because there was no way he could play that shot.
Watson aimed for the back of the green, hoping the ball would somehow stay on the putting surface. No such luck. It came out and rolled down into rough.
Then he and his caddie reckoned the ball would fly out of there, so Watson played a cutesy little pitch out of the cabbage. Too soft, as it transpired, and the ball rolled back into the heavy stuff again.
Another pitch, this time with more vigour, but still 20 feet short. Two putts later, that's a six, and thank you and goodnight. Another victim chalked up to the 'Postage Stamp'. Watson's momentum was halted and he eventually had to settle for 70, one-under par.
"I hit one bad shot all day and I hit it in the wrong spot. But I love the golf hole. Like I said, if that swing would have been on another hole, I probably could have saved par or at least a bogey. It just happened to be the one bad swing I had all day was on that hole, and it cost me dearly," he added.
At least he walked off without visible signs of upset at his misfortune.
Danny Willett, the Masters champion, playing in the group ahead of Watson and Rory McIlroy, berated himself - expletive deleted - for only taking a par after giving himself a birdie chance from eight feet.
Jason Day, playing with Willett, pulled his tee shot at the 8th into a horrible lie on the bank above the 'Coffin Bunker'.
His ball landed on the green and ran off it on the other side into the rough, but a pitch and putt restricted the damage to a bogey four.
"I had wedge in my hand and I hit it, and kind of turned it over just a little bit, and it kind of surprised me it went that far. It just went a long way.
"It's a tough hole anyways if you miss the green, and I wanted to miss it in between the two bunkers on the left side.
"Once I did that it was a pretty simple up-and-down," said Day.
On the day, the 8th produced 33 birdies, 91 pars, 25 bogeys, and seven double-bogeys or worse. It played to a stroke average of 3.064.
Rory McIlroy, who was one of those who got a two on the 'Postage Stamp', is a fan of the hole.
"It's great. I think the best par-threes in the world are all under 150 yards.
"No matter if it took me six shots to get out of the bunker the other day and I made nine, it's a great golf hole. I think there should definitely be more holes like that in golf," he said.