Open Hopefuls Set Forth Up North

With this month’s Open Championship heading for Carnoustie, the most northerly venue on the R&A roster, and with Tiger Woods in the field for the first time since 2015, Mike Wilson predicts a rollercoaster ride as any one of a dozen world stars seek to get their hands on the Claret Jug

Carnoustie’s Holy Trinity

Stretched to almost 7,500 yards, Par 72, Carnoustie is and of itself, one of the great tests of world golf and world-class golfers, but there it boasts three momentous challenges which must be overcome by the man who will ultimately claim the Claret Jug this month.

1. ‘Hogan’s Alley’, a 578-yards Par-5, invariably played into the teeth of the wind, boasts one of the narrowest fairways in Open Championship golf. A mere 25-yards in the landing area, squeezed between the out-of-bounds fence running ominously down the left and a clutch of deep, dangerous bunkers set to the right.

The hole is where Carnoustie starts to turn up the heat - the optimum line is between the bunkers and the out of bounds fence. But it requires a brave player to aim for that narrow piece of fairway. The second shot is no less perilous with a ditch angling across the fairway, and the out of bounds is continuing to be a threat.

‘Hogan’s Alley’ was christened after the American star flighted his ball well to the left, beyond the out-of-bounds fence, before drawing it back into safety on all four rounds of his epic Open Championship victory there in 1953.

2. ‘Spectacles’, the 14th hole, a 514-yards Par-5, named after a pair of deep, dangerous pot bunkers lying side-by-side in wait just 65-yards short of the green. Any miscued or over-ambitious attempt to reach the green in two can end up in a sandy grave, bunkers with sheet, 12ft-high revetted faces from which the only escape is sideways or backwards.

Gary Player struck what he considers having been the finest shot of his life en route to his famous Open Championship victory in 1968. Making Eagle-3 by successfully navigating the ‘Spectacles’ to just a few feet, driving a lethal dagger into the hearts of his two chasing rivals, Jack Nicklaus and Bob Charles to win by two.

3. ‘Home’, the 18th at Carnoustie, one-yard short of 500, Par-4, one of the most demanding finishing holes in Major championship golf.

The infamous Barry Burn is in play for the drive to the right and left of the hole and also short, with fairway bunkers cut into the right-hand side and it was here that Johnny Miller lost the 1975 Championship when he took two shots to get out of the bunker.

It was here that the hopes of Jean Van De Velde inexplicably capitulated in 1999. Losing a 3-shot lead on the final tee, putting his drive in a watery grave he took three to extricate himself from, leaving the door ajar for local hero Paul Lawrie slip through to take the title.

And history almost repeated itself in 2007 when Irishman Pádraig Harrington twice dumped his ball into the Barry Burn on the 72nd hole when locked in battle with Spaniard Sergio García. But a superb pitch by the Irishman to five feet saved a double bogey, got him into a playoff which he subsequently won to lift his first Major title.


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