British Open Confidential: One hole to play at the Old Course at St. Andrews

British Open Confidential: One hole to play at the Old Course at St. Andrews

The daunting view from the new tee box at the par-4 17th.
David Cannon/Getty Images

Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the British Open in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Okay, R&A member walks up to you Wednesday afternoon and says you can go out and play one hole on the Old Course under tournament conditions. Which hole do you pick and why?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: 18. It’s a majestic setting, with the town and massive grandstands. Plus it’s the world’s widest fairway!

David Dusek, deputy editor, For me, the 17th is a no-brainer. Honestly, how often do you get to hit a tee shot over a hotel? The challenge of playing — under tournament conditions — one of the toughest holes in championship golf is too irresistible to pass up. Having stood today behind the new tee box, regardless of what the pros are saying this week, I can tell you that it’s visually intimidating. If you can get the ball into the fairway, the fun has just begun because the Road Hole bunker is impossible to ignore. When I made par on that hole in 2006 it was one of the most satisfying of my golf career.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: 17. How cool would it be to bang a drive off a 5-star hotel wall and have it bounce back to the fairway, hammer a rescue club approach that nips the green and trickles back into the Sands of Nakajima (aka the Road Hole bunker), thin a bunker shot long against the Road Hole wall, ricochet a backwards shot off the wall so it caroms onto the green and drain a 13-foot putt for a five. Would be the most glorious bogey in history. I hope to get the chance someday …

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The 490-yard par-4 17th, the Road Hole, because to hit it over the corner of a railway shed into the fairway and to come to a green with a treacherous bunker and a road built behind it would be one great shot glass of a golf experience. A close second would be a two-putt on any of the Old Course’s 11 greens (seven double greens) that average 13,600 square feet.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Have never played the OC, unfortunately, but have always wanted to try the tee shot at 17 — blind, over the barn, with a little cut — would very satisfying to pull off that one shot.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: No way would I want to play 17 in tournament conditions, from that back tee. WAY too hard into the wind, as it played this afternoon. I’ll take the pretty par-3 11th, looking out at the sea instead of a breadbox hotel with shatter-proof windows.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The 17th and 18th are no-brainers, so I’ll take the first hole, provided I get the traditional introduction from Ivor Robson.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Like others, I would take the home hole, at the golf’s home, too. Once, years ago, I made a putt for par in the gloaming there, a half-dozen tourists hanging on the fence, clapping, for an inward 39. Maybe they could sense my fulfillment. Now multiply that by infinity. The best photo in all of golf is Seve at 18, Sunday at the Open, 1984. You know why.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m sticking a peg into the hard soil on 17, teeing the ball up just an eyelash higher than normal, and hitting my stock baby cut over the “O” in Old Course, which would leave me about 175 out. I’m between clubs. The full-blooded seven or the soft six? I grab the six and smooth it pin high, 15 feet right of the flag. I size up the putt. It’s a double breaker. I’ve seen it in past Opens. Guys have been missing it low side forever, but not me. The putt dives into the hole. Two fingers rise to clutch the brim of my cap. My alarm rousts me from a deep sleep.