PGA Tour Confidential: Has Royal St. George's been worthy of an Open?

PGA Tour Confidential: Has Royal St. George’s been worthy of an Open?

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

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The course was called quirky and unworthy coming in. What do we think of it so far?

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Hey, what’s wrong with quirky? Royal St. George’s will never capture the golf calendar market, but it provides a true links challenge.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Looks like most other Open courses to me. The only difference is it’s not very well defined and you can’t really get your bearings on it because the holes go all over the place. The only flaws have been in the setup. A lot of guys couldn’t reach the fairway on the par-4 fourth hole today, or reach the green in two, into the wind. Some of them had the same problem on eight.

David Dusek, deputy editor, There doesn’t seem to be a signature hole on Royal St. George’s, or an especially memorable view except for the nuclear plant in the distance. That said, it’s a perfect example of a links course, has certainly provided plenty of challenges, and the players have all said they like it more this year than they did in 2003. I can see why the R&A wanted to come back.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I love it. It demands a lot of the players but also gives them a chance to showcase their shotmaking. And it played fair in both 75-degree weather and a near-hurricane.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The awesome leader board says it all about RSG. What a terrific mix of generations and playing styles.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, This is the first Open I’ve been to, so I don’t have much to compare it to in person. That said, it hasn’t seemed tricked up or unfair to me, and like Alan said it’s handled a variety of conditions. You can see the ocean. You can feel the wind. The bunkers are nasty. Just what I imagined a British Open course would be like.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I haven’t heard any players complain about the course being unfair, like they did in ’03, and the reviews from the practice rounds haven’t changed — the guys said the subtle changes have made a huge difference. It’s fun watching them navigate the mounds and slopes while also trying to cope with the conditions. It also seems like the course has rewarded good shots and punished poor course management. I saw Ricky Barnes bomb a drive on the 12th yesterday, but he ended up in the pot bunker in the middle of the fairway. His fault for misjudging the wind. Only happens in links golf.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: RSG is a true links golf. It’s outstanding in every way. The only thing that’s better in southern England is the course next door, Royal Cinque Ports.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I thought it was a blast to play it the one time I got the chance. I’m in Bamberger’s camp now and consider it greatly underrated. It’s not terribly photogenic, but the fact that the routing is all over the place — no two consecutive holes play in the same direction — is actually part of its genius. Would love it if the par-5 14th hole, the one with O.B. all the way up the right side, was the finishing hole. Now that would be a sweet finish, with both eagle and double in play. Two thumbs up!

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I like what I see on high-def. No, there’s not a signature hole, but I’m OK with that. Gotta love the galleries braving the elements. And their rousing applause for shots that stop 30 to 40 feet from the hole says it all about links golf. Can’t wait to see how this plays out. So many great story lines.