British Open 2014: The 3 most important holes and how they will test the world's best

British Open 2014: The 3 most important holes and how they will test the world’s best

The par-4 12th seems inviting in the golden light -- until the rough swallows your dreams of a Claret jug.
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Royal Liverpool golf Club, or Hoylake, teems with history. Memories of 11 previous Open Championships haunt the fairways of this 145-year-old course in northwest England. Past champions here include Hagen, Jones and Woods, who in 2006 displayed all the skills and strategies that links golf demands. Virtually abandoning driver, Tiger moved his ball around the course like a grandmaster moves his chess pieces. He had to. Hoylake tests one's brain more than brawn — not to mention one's ability to gauge the gales. (After one wind-whipped round at Royal Liverpool, Nick Faldo said, "We were aiming at adjoining fairways.") With Tiger from 2006 as our guide, here are three holes certain to test the best.

Royal Liverpool 12th hole

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No. 12 feels a whole lot longer than its official 448 yards.

12th: 448 YARDS PAR 4 "DEE"

Ranked as the toughest hole during the 2006 Open and the 33rd most difficult hole on the PGA Tour that year, this dogleg left heads into the heart of Hoylake's most attractive stretch amid the sand dunes edging the Dee Estuary. Three bunkers patrol the outside elbow, tempting players to blast away down the left side in order to shorten the journey. But a new patch of "broken ground" (chopped-up rough) on the left side could dissuade shortcut-takers. An elevated green demands an aerial approach, which brings the wind more into play, and the green's back-to-front slope creates a target so demanding there is no need for bunkers to guard it. A brutal up and down awaits those who carry the approach too far, especially if the hole is cut middle or back. By far the worst second shot is one yanked to the left, where it might find a deep ravine cut into the sandhills.






HIS GAME PLAN: Woods never deviated from his strategy. Take the second round. From the tee he hit a long iron short of the fairway bunkers. From there, he said in 2006, "I had 190 yards and hit a nice little 4-iron up on the green." Eventually, he two-putted for a stress-free par. In explaining his disciplined approach of laying back on many holes, Woods said, "It all depends what I feel the golf course gives me. If I feel like I can fly those bunkers, then I will. And if I feel like I can't, I'll lay short of them and go ahead and just hit my 3-, 4- and 5-irons into the green and move on."

To avoid the three bunkers on the outside of the dogleg, players will try to cut the corner and hug the left side of the fairway. But a new "broken ground" area to the left will punish way-ward hooks.

Royal Liverpool 14th Hole

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This shot of "Hilbre" shows the back of the green. Approach shots a fraction to the right will roll into a deep hollow.

14th: 456 YARDS PAR 4 "HILBRE"

Named for an island in the river estuary that sits roughly a mile off the coast, Hilbre can seem as difficult to hit in regulation as the island itself. Ranked as the 39th toughest hole on the PGA Tour in 2006, the 14th doglegs sharply to the left. A pair of bunkers to the left of the landing zone practically wink at the golfer, asking to be carried in order to leave a shorter second shot from an optimal angle. Roll into those insidious traps, however, and there's little hope of advancing the ball. Still, it's best to hug the left side, because the elevated green breaks away sharply on the right, leading to a deep hollow. Adding menace here is a sizable sandhill to the left of the green that squeezes the opening to the putting surface even further.






HIS GAME PLAN: In round two, playing into a slight breeze, Woods hit a 2-iron off the tee in order to avoid running his shot into the fairway bunkers. He was left with 194 yards to the front, 212 to the hole. He was so far back that his view of the flagstick was obscured by fairway mounds. "I was trying to lay the ball on the front edge and let it chase on," Woods said. Chase it did. His drawing 4-iron bounced several times, then clanked the metal flagstick and toppled in for eagle. "We didn't know if it went in. I asked one of the TV guys and they said it was in. It's a hole where you're just trying to make a 4 and get out of there. A 2 was a huge bonus."

The second shot can play straight into the wind, enticing players to go big off the tee and carry these two bunkers on the inside of the dogleg. Hitting into them will likely lead to bogey or worse.

Royal Liverpool 18th hole

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Players can reach this par 5 in two, but the bunkering makes eagle a long shot.

18th: 560 YARDS PAR 5 "DUN"

This risk-reward closer is ripe for drama. While not considered the toughest hole at Royal Liverpool, it is among the most dangerous. Along the right side of the fairway awaits a low-profile bank of turf that serves as the out-of-bounds divider between the playable area and the range. Just one problem: The danger-laden right side is the ideal place from which to approach, given the shape and slope of the green. Long hitters can reach this downwind hole in two using a middle iron, though the firm fairway and out of bounds right punishes even slight mis-hits. That fate befell Adam Scott in 2006, when his approach shot faded just far enough offline to slip out of bounds, resulting in a double-bogey 7 and knocking him out of contention.

HIS GAME PLAN: His skill — paired with some good timing in watching the telly — helped Tiger make an eagle 3 in his opening round. After hitting a 2-iron off the tee that day, his 4-iron second shot stopped 20 feet from the pin. "I don't know who it was," Woods said, "but someone made that putt this morning. I was watching it on the telecast. It doesn't break at the end — it holds its line. I played it on the right edge. I hit it, and it held its line. Normally I would have given that hole away if I hadn't seen that putt earlier."






Players will try to position themselves on the right side of the fairway for the optimal approach angle. Too far right off the tee, though, and they'll go 0B, like Adam Scott did in 2006.