Sport Golf

Sunday 18 March 2018

Tiger Woods slams British Open course after his first practice round

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

TIGER Woods labelled sections of the British Open course at Lytham rough "almost unplayable" after his first practice round on Sunday and declared that he had never seen rough "so thick and dense".

With rain and wind forecast for the rest of the week, the 141st Open seems destined to be high scoring at the very best .

The former world No 1 spent more than five hours plotting a way round this tight links course.

And as soon as he saw the condition of the knee-high cabbage lining the fairways he decided on his game plan: short grass only.

“Oh my God,” said Woods, when asked about the penalty for errant driving. “It’s just that you can’t get out of it.

"The bottom six inches is so lush. The wispy stuff, we’ve always faced that at every Open.

"But that bottom six inches; in some places it’s almost unplayable.”

His comments were echoed by defending champion Darren Clarke after his practice round this morning.

"There are a few patches out there where it's just absolutely brutal," said the Ulsterman. "The grass is a little bit thicker than what you normally find on a links golf course. It's really, really tough.

"If you start spraying the ball around this week, you might as well go home.

"Obviously you start missing the fairways there you're really going to struggle so it's a big challenge. There's a really huge premium on accuracy this week. There's no chance coming out of this rough at all.

"There could be some lost balls in there, even with spotters and everything."

Championship organisers the R&A blamed unprecedented weather conditions for hampering preparations over the last few months and claim they have canvassed opinion from several professionals who are satisfied with the course.

"The feedback we have had from a large enough body of players to be satisfied that they represent the field is that it is fair and well set up," R&A communications director Malcolm Booth.

If conditions prevail, the memory of Carnoustie, 1999, will inevitably be evoked. On that occasion players were forced to chop out sideways when they were just a few feet off the snake-like fairways.

When Woods arrived for his 8.50am tee-off time - having landed at Blackpool airport at 7.30am - the whisper was that Stuart Appleby had lost two balls in the rough when only 20 feet off the fairway. Within a few minutes Woods could understand why.

“I’ve never seen rough this high. Or thick, or dense,” he told one American journalist during his round.

The course was lit up by sunshine yesterday, but still the gusts made the 7,086-yard layout a formidable challenge.

“I did a lot of work out here today because come the next few days you probably won’t be able to get in any,” said Tiger Woods, who played on his own, accompanied by members of his management team and his caddie, Joe LaCava.

“You have to make a decision on the tee what you’re going to do.

"With certain winds you can clear them [the bunkers] and other winds you can’t.”

There are 206 bunkers at Lytham and obviously the imperative is to avoid the sand.

Yet Woods revealed that the rain-soaked - and in some case rain-filled - traps could be more penal than usual.

“Probably the biggest difference [since 2001] are the bunker conditions,” said Woods, who finished 25th the last time The Open was here 11 years ago.

“A lot of them had standing water in them so it will be interesting to see how much more water they can take.”

Woods was hardly alone in his assessment. “It is brutal in places,” said Paul Casey. Meanwhile, Keegan Bradley, the USPGA champion, didn’t dare venture off the fairway.

“I tried not to hit any out of the rough today but I will the rest of the week,” said Bradley.

“It’s very spotty. One foot to the left, you are hitting in to the green; another foot and you are chipping out to the fairway.

"It’s a flip of the coin whether you’re going to get a good lie or not. Hopefully, I have some luck stored up.”

In fairness to the Royal & Ancient and the Lytham greenstaff, the sustained rain in England’s ‘summer’ has meant that juicy rough and saturated bunkers are inevitable.

Otherwise, the condition of the course is impeccable. After two days of sunshine, the greens have already firmed up.

“We weren’t even finding ball marks on them,” said Bradley. “The forecast is for a lot of rain but it seems like it only takes a day and it dries out.”

That puts a greater premium on the tee-shots. “You simply have to drive it well here,” said Bradley.

Despite all the obstacles presenting themselves between Woods and a 15th major, he claimed to have enjoyed his first day at what he calls “my favourite major”.

The galleries were sizeable without being distracting and the sunlight was a welcome surprise after all the downpours.

“It was nice out there,” said Woods. “But it’ll be interesting to see when the rain arrives if [the wind] will be coming from a different direction.” Interesting could be the very least of it.

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