Tiger Woods stood connected the archetypal tee astatine the 2003 Open Championship already an eight-time large winner.
Royal St George's didn't care. It stared down the top subordinate successful modern play and ate his ball.
Woods sent his tee changeable conscionable to the close and though it was seen by spectators heading into the rough, it could not beryllium found. It was the archetypal clip arsenic a pro that he'd mislaid a ball.
"It was a small disconcerting," Woods said astatine the time.
He enactment his adjacent tee changeable into the aforesaid unsmooth and walked disconnected the archetypal spread with a triple-bogey seven. Given that helium trailed the victor by conscionable 2 shots aft 72 holes, you could instrumentality the simplistic presumption that helium mislaid the tourney connected the archetypal tee.
Such is St George's, a malicious, maligned beast of a links people successful the deceptively benign locale of Sandwich, Kent; conscionable up from the Strait of Dover, successful the windy, rainy south-east of England.
"It's truly not a large Open course," play icon Gary Player, a three-time Open champion, erstwhile said of the layout. "Should it enactment connected the Open rota? No, I don't deliberation so."
The disapproval has endured. Four-time large victor Brooks Koepka arrived for this weekend's Open Championship with chemoreceptor upturned.
"It's not my favourite venue that we person played," the American said. "I deliberation Portrush and St Andrews are decidedly the favourites.
"Quite a fewer unsighted tee shots, benignant of hitting to nothing. Fairways are rather undulating. I don't know, it's not my favourite of the rotation, enactment it that way."
About fractional of holes four, 7 and 8 are not disposable from the tee. The 4th spread features a unsighted tee changeable implicit a 40-foot (12m) high, 25-foot (7.6m) wide bunker nicknamed 'Himalaya'; believed to beryllium the biggest bunker successful each of title golf.
Though astatine Royal St George's, it doesn't needfully substance if you tin seen wherever you're hitting the ball. Given that the fairways person much undulations than the adjacent ocean, the shot tin extremity up anyplace connected adjacent a decent shot. A tee changeable successful the mediate of the fairway tin inactive mean a 2nd changeable from dense rough.
"St George's is simply a people you ne'er truly understand," Tom Watson, a five-time Open champion, erstwhile said.
"There are astatine slightest a twelve places determination wherever you deed the shot and you won't cognize until you're 50 yards from it whether it's gone into a bunker, it's successful the unsmooth or, glory be, it's connected the green."
Open champion of 2014, Rory McIlroy, offered the faint praise that: "It's amended than it was. It utilized to beryllium a pinball machine."
Yet English seasoned Lee Westwood reckons that the hand-wringing is some misplaced and counter-productive.
"I'd fertile it my No.1 [course of the Open rota] this week," Westwood said.
"You've got to emotion it and get connected with it. There's nary constituent successful coming to a people and saying, 'I don't similar this place'. You tin mentally get successful your ain mode consecutive away. There are reasons wherefore the R&A travel backmost present and they should beryllium respected."
Royal St George's has produced an eclectic premix of champions.
There are all-time greats specified arsenic Bobby Locke and Harry Vardon won there, arsenic did Australia's Greg Norman. "I was successful awe of myself retired there," Norman said aft his victory, having finished astatine 13-under successful 1993. He is the lone victor of 14 Opens astatine Royal St George's to person finished astatine amended than five-under.
Then, there's immoderate fertile long-shots. The past 2 Open champions astatine the layout were American Ben Curtis (2003), who was ranked satellite No.396, rated 500-1 with the bookies and had ne'er seen a British links people before; and Northern Irishman Darren Clarke (2011), who was ranked 111th and astatine likelihood of 200-1.
Curtis erstwhile rated Royal St George's his 5th favourite Open people ... having played conscionable 7 layouts connected the rota. That was adjacent aft helium bushed premier Tiger there, acknowledgment to the rising legend's first-hole horrors. Clarke volition ever emotion the course, naturally, yet tin recognize wherefore truthful galore different players can't basal it.
"The fairways are much unpredictable than immoderate different connected the Open rota," Clarke said.
"It tin thrust a golfer mad, arsenic you tin deed a shot consecutive down the mediate of the fairway and you don't cognize which unsmooth to locomotion to – close oregon left. There are that galore mounds."
McIlroy said: "Let's beryllium honest, St George's is nobody's favourite layout connected the Open rota ... but possibly Clarkey."
McIlroy finished tied-25th the twelvemonth that Clarke won, yet has returned with a somewhat softened presumption of the course. The people itself is softer, acknowledgment to rainfall successful the build-up to the Open, meaning it whitethorn beryllium a tad much forgiving.
"I walked distant from the play people connected Saturday and Sunday reasoning this is simply a overmuch amended play people than I retrieve it being," helium said.
"I deliberation that's conscionable due to the fact that of the mode it's playing close now. I deliberation it's perfect, and arsenic the days spell connected with a small spot of upwind and sunshine, by the play it should conscionable beryllium perfectly perfect. It should beryllium playing the mode it should play.
"I evidently didn't person large memories from 2011 the mode I played, and playing the past fewer days this is conscionable my perception; and due to the fact that of not playing my champion that time, I came backmost present and it's overmuch amended than I remember."
Clarke said that the people whitethorn good propulsion up different unexpected champion; whoever happens to look least-damaged from the mounds, bunkers and rough.
"At 42, would I person been idiosyncratic who you thought would've had a chance?" helium said.
"All I ever wanted from a young kid erstwhile I was practising was to get my sanction connected the Claret Jug and I was capable to bash that here."
Royal St George's was created successful 1878 by Laidlaw Purves. The R&A has bowed to immoderate disapproval of the course, with a simplification of bumps on the 18th fairway 1 flimsy concession. They person besides allowed the fairways to beryllium watered, connected apical of the rainfall that has fallen up of the tournament.
"We're precise conscious that this people has got a batch of precise terrible undulations successful the fairways and successful the landing areas," R&A main enforcement Martin Slumbers said.
"We've been conscious close the mode done to guarantee that a shot that lands connected that doesn't get kicked disconnected astatine a gait that could instrumentality it into deep, heavy rough."
Still, players volition necessitate astute reasoning and adaptability to survive, fto unsocial assistance the Claret Jug. Even the king of agelong hitters connected the PGA Tour, Bryson DeChambeau, suggested that helium whitethorn beryllium sparing with his operator usage this weekend.
"There volition beryllium definite holes wherever determination is simply a batch of upwind and you can't truly power the play shot with that benignant of wind, wherever it bounces, however it bounces," DeChambeau said.
"Keeping it debased and connected the crushed if it gets steadfast is decidedly thing I would utilise."
Fellow American prima Dustin Johnson added: "A bounce present oregon determination tin decidedly beryllium the quality betwixt winning a large oregon not. Definitely astir links play courses oregon astatine The Open Championship, that tin decidedly travel into play a small spot more; but everybody is playing the aforesaid play people and it's each the aforesaid humps and bumps for everybody."
Eleven Australians are successful the tract for the 149th Open, including 4 first-timers: Jason Scrivener, Deyen Lawson, Aaron Pike and Min Woo Lee. They volition beryllium joined by Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Lucas Herbert, Matt Jones and Brad Kennedy. Herbert and Lee are caller winners, astatine the Irish and Scottish Opens respectively.
Yet if they get the unsmooth broadside of Royal St George's, they tin instrumentality comfortableness successful the information that the people besides got the champion of the top of each time, 18-time large victor and triple Open champion Jack Nicklaus.
"What I bash cognize is I've ne'er played peculiarly good astatine St George's," Nicklaus erstwhile said.
"I won a tourney determination arsenic an amateur, erstwhile I was 19, and ne'er played a bully circular aft that. It's ever been a hard people for me."
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