CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The elite of women’s golf gather at probably the toughest course in the British Isles for the final major of the year, the $2.5 million Ricoh Women’s British Open.
During the 1999 Open, Carnoustie was dubbed “Car-nasty” because it played so tough. There seems little danger of that this week. The par-72, 6,490-yard course is playing so easy, the women might just nickname it “Car-nicely.”
Here are five things to look for from Carnoustie this week:
1.) No Van de Velde moment: Carnoustie is famous for Jean Van de Velde’s meltdown on the 18th hole during the 1999 Open Championship. The Frenchman’s 2-iron approach shot hit the right grandstand and ended up in the Barry Burn. Photos of Van de Velde standing in the burn are synonymous with that Open. Indeed, that moment turned out to be the defining moment of the Frenchman’s career.
Don’t expect to see any women standing in the Barry Burn this week. Not unless they hit an awful shot.
Carnoustie’s 18th is famous for striking fear into the hearts of generations of golfers. With out of bounds down the entire left-hand side of the hole and the Barry Burn in play off the tee and fronting the green, bogeys, double bogeys and triple bogeys are common. There seems little danger of such disasters this year, not when the elite of women’s golf will be flicking wedge approach shots to the flag.
The 18th measures only 386 yards this week. Even those physically challenged off the tee will be hitting no more than a medium to short iron into the green. As for the out of bounds and the Barry Burn? No problem.
“I was quite shocked with 18, to be honest,” Melissa Reid said. “I thought the burn would definitely be in play on the drive, and it’s just driver/wedge. I’ve hit driver/wedge in there both days now. I definitely thought they would move that tee back.”
Paula Creamer agrees. “Why not play it further back and make it a par 5? Eighteen doesn’t play, I don’t think, the way it should be played.”
2.) Reachable par 5s: Carnoustie also is famous for Hogan’s Alley, the par-5 sixth hole. Legend has it that in the 1953 Open Championship, winner Ben Hogan drove down the left-hand side of the hole each round, threading tee shots between the fairway bunkers and the out-of-bounds fence on the left. That gave him the chance to reach the green in two.
The hole setup this week means the women don’t have to think about threading tee shots between the four fairway bunkers and the out of bounds. It’s only 225 to carry the final bunker, meaning players will be hammering drives down the right-hand side of the fairway.
“I think six could have been moved back further,” Creamer said. “It could have been a little bit different, making it more of a three-shot type of hole.”
As for the normally dreaded 17th, it’s playing as a 433-yard par 5. In practice, the women were hitting rescue clubs off the tee to the island fairway. “Seventeen is a strange hole for us,” Creamer said. “I think you go 4-rescue, 5-iron on a par 5.”
Reid was especially scathing of the Carnoustie par 5s. “I feel like the par 5s you can reach with mid-irons,” she said. “I was kind of expecting you’d have to hit a really good 3-wood and then maybe have a chance of getting on in two, but you’re hitting mid-irons into par 5s.”
3.) Michelle Wie and the belly putter: Wie might not have much of a belly, but she’s switched to the belly putter, anyway. She changed for last week’s Evian but missed the cut. She’ll be hoping all the work done on the practice green here under the ever-watchful eyes of parents B.J. and Bo pays off.
4.) Pictures of lush fairways: The first time I played Carnoustie, it was burned out and brown. That was in 1990, when we had a very dry summer. This year, it is lush and green, as if it belonged somewhere other than Scotland. That’s links golf. Mother Nature plays a big factor in links conditions, and although it still will play linksy, it won’t be as fast and running as it could be.
5.) Low scores: Paul Lawrie won the 1999 Open Championship with a score of 6 over par, and 7 under was good enough for Padraig Harrington in 2007. If the weather stays fair over the next four days, as forecast, then look for double digits under par to win.