Tour Confidential: Will the bombers rule a fast and firm British Open?

July 16, 2018

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1. The conditions of Carnoustie have become one of the early storylines of the British Open, as it’s among the many Scottish courses affected by an usually warm summer. “Carnoustie is baked out but greens are pure,” tweeted Brandt Snedeker, who isn’t in the top 100 in driving distance, yet hit a 427-yard drive during a practice round. “Never seen an Open this firm.” Does this mean bombers will have a huge advantage, or does it mean they’ll have less of an edge since, due to space, they might not be able to hit the big stick everywhere?

Sean Zak, assistant editor (@sean_zak): It means the ball is going to run, run, run for everyone. Players will have to be dialed in to where they’re landing approach shots, and whoever putts best when they get there will win. In other words, this is a different type of golf, and the best golfer will win, regardless of how far they drive it.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Firm conditions bring many more players into the mix. Trajectory and shape become paramount. Makes for good golf.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor (@Jeff_Ritter): It puts more emphasis on control as many guys dial it back with fairway woods and irons. And yes, if bombers are hitting long irons off the tee that brings the short hitters into play. They should call this edition the British Wide Open. Hang on, going to write that one down.

Josh Sens, contributing writer (@JoshSens): Sorry, Jeff. I just registered the phrase with the patent office so you’ll have to pay me to use it from now on. Word of firm, sun-baked conditions puts me in mind of Tiger at Liverpool in 2006, where he hit driver once all week. As others have said, this will be about course management more than power. Good fun.

Joe Passov, travel and courses editor (@joepassov): Winds look average for the week and coming from the “normal” direction for this time of year, so the baked fairways will definitely not favor the big hitters. Simply too many nasty bunkers for the ball to chase into and that’s the one place you can’t go. Conservative plays and course management will rule this week.

2. This week will mark Tiger Woods’s 12th official start of the season, his most in four years. Is his game Carnoustie ready? What’s the key for Tiger this week, and do you expect him to compete?

Zak: Stinger, fairway. Stinger, fairway. Stinger, fairway. He’s a ridiculous ball-striker and if he putts like an average guy, he’ll be in the mix. Just keep those damn tee balls near the ground.

Bamberger: Zak speaketh for me.

Ritter: Tiger can definitely contend, but can he hole putts under major championship pressure? It remains an unknown in this latest comeback.

Sens: Compete? Yes. Contend. No.

Passov: Tiger knows how to play the kind of golf called for this week better than anyone — just witness, as Mr. Sens referenced, his play at Hoylake in 2006. Virtually all the trouble at Carnoustie is getting to the greens, not on them. I think Tiger will enjoy success on these greens and will contend.

Dustin Johnson British Open
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson can hit it a mile, but how much of an edge will that give him at a fast links like Carnoustie?
Getty Images

3. This is the eighth time an Open has headed to Carnoustie, which Woods said is “probably the most difficult one we play in the whole rotation.” What’s the key to winning there?

Zak: This might not be THE key to winning, but it’s certainly A KEY to winning: the final four holes. So much can go wrong there. Make your pars and move onward happy. Avoid double bogey there all week, and you’ve gained strokes on the field methinks.

Bamberger: You have to accept setbacks, bad bounces, unexpected weather. That’s true at all Open courses, but the harder the course the more true these truisms become.

Ritter: Agree on all counts. And obviously this year with it running fast and furious, controlled trajectories will also be a greater emphasis.

Sens: All true. And if the weather is fickle, getting the favorable side of the draw won’t hurt either. That said, look at the list of some of the past winners at Carnoustie — Armour, Cotton, Hogan, Watson, Player, Harrington. There’s always the chance of another Lawrie over Van de Velde, I suppose, but I’m not expecting any flukes.

Passov: Keep it out of the bunkers. And yes, keep it out of the Barry Burn that drowned Van de Velde’s chances and a host of others as well. Sounds easy enough if the wind is predictable and reasonably benign, as forecast, but with fiery fairways, even the best intentions can go awry.

4. And your winner (and winning score) is…

Zak: Branden Grace wins one for South Africa at 12 under.

Bamberger: Brandt Snedeker. Four under.

Ritter: Jon Rahm gets Europe on the board and further boosts the Ryder Cup intrigue, 10 under.

Sens: Dustin Justin. Eight under.

Passov: Tommy Fleetwood, final-round 63, for an 11-under total, 273.

MORE: Tiger preps for Carnoustie  |  Tiger breaks silence on money match

5. Laura Davies cruised in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, finishing 16 under and beating runner-up Juli Inkster (four under) by 10. Only two other players finished under par, and everyone outside of the top 20 was 12 over or worse. The average score for the week was 79. Davies’s domination and the parity of scores begs the question, does the USGA have a problem on its hands when it comes to this tournament? Are there only a handful of players who can actually win it?

Zak: Um, hell no. The problem with this tournament was that it was broadcast for a total of four hours this week. There is absolutely no problem with the generic truth that they hosted a national championship about 40 years after they first should have. They should be applauded, regardless of what Davies or the rest of the field shot.

Bamberger: In years to come, there will be more truly elite talent at 50 and older. Give it time. It’s one of the best developments in years.

Ritter: Davies was in a class by herself this week, but Bamberger is right: this is a long game. There’s plenty to build on. Can’t wait to see it again next year.

Sens: No argument with the above, but wondering, given how few players were in the realistic running: would it make sense to open the event to golfers 40 and over? Or 45? Make the event more competitive in the short run, draw more eyeballs and adjust the age limit if it makes sense as the years go by.

Passov: The inaugural Senior Women’s Open reminded me a lot of the inaugural Senior Men’s Open, in 1980, which was limited to players 55 and over. Roberto DeVicenzo won with one over, but there weren’t a lot of folks who played well or came close — partly because many of them had played little competitive golf in years, especially on the caliber of test that Winged Foot (East) presented. Give this new event some time and you’ll see much more competition and competitive scores.

6. Brittany Lincicome will become the fifth woman to play in a PGA Tour event when she tees off in the Barbasol Championship next week (opposite of the British Open), which she received a sponsor’s exemption. Annika has done it. So has Wie and a few others. Are you a fan of the ladies playing with the gents?

Zak: Love it. It doesn’t happen much, so it’s not only nice for novelty sake, but it’s also admirable. Both to her for playing and for the event for inviting her. Know I’m not alone with this opinion, but I hope she plays very well.

Bamberger: As long as it’s not a stunt, it’s great for the game. It’s a sponsor’s exemption. They have the right and I think they’ve used it well.

Ritter: I think it’s fantastic, and the optics will be even better if she’s able to beat some of the guys and hang in there. I have a hunch she will, but either way, give her credit for taking on the challenge.

Sens: Beats some of the guys? Hope she beats them all.

Passov: And for the opposing view…I’m a big Brittany Lincicome fan — great personality, proven winner, hits it long. Still, this strikes me as a stunt of desperation. This has already been done, and done in the right way, if there is such a thing. Annika was completely dominating the LPGA Tour when she played at Colonial. Brittany does not. Suzy Whaley earned her place in the field through qualifying, and Michelle Wie was the ultimate sideshow at the time, given her astonishing talent and length at an age where she wasn’t even eligible for a driver’s license. Better you should invite five or 10 women into the field, rather than just this one.