Players get reacquainted with Old Course

Players get reacquainted with Old Course


Players get reacquainted with Old Course

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The sights and sounds of a walk around the Old Course are sometimes more flavorful early in the morning when the wind is down and the commotion less distracting.

At first glance, it appeared there’d be a crossing of major forces, what with Phil Mickelson on the first tee and Tiger Woods on the 17th green. Surely, they’d be meeting somewhere along the massive piece of historic sod that combines the first and 18th fairways, but it was not to be.

Woods went directly from the 17th green, across the first green, and headed to the practice range.

No worries, because Mickelson moved with Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney from the first hole to the second tee and compared thoughts on which line to take on a blind shot over a big sand dune.

Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, suggested they take it at the “left corner” of the grandstands off in a distance. Johnson wondered about hitting it at “that big white thing” in the distance, which was the R&A merchandise tent. Brown offered another line, Johnson asked if that weren’t too aggressive, to which the caddie offered: “That’s why we’re here today, to find out.”

They discovered that right was no good – deep, whispy grass. But their second attempt, more in line with “the big white thing,” was OK.

That prompted more questions toward Mickelson, who is playing an Open Championship at St. Andrews for a fourth time, and the left-hander shared his thoughts. He did, however, offer a disclaimer, because he had his yardage book from 2005 and many of the sight lines have changed thanks to new tees.

Speaking of which, that necessitated a walk to the most controversial aspect to this 2010 Open Championship – the new tee at 17. The hardest par 4 in the world is now even harder, thanks to a tee box pushed back across a road so that it’s a 495-yard journey.

OK, so does it change the line with your tee shot?

That was the topic of conversation between Geoff Ogilvy, his caddiie Alistair Matheson, veteran caddie Billy Foster, then two players who joined them, Robert Rock and Simon Dyson.

For years, players would tell you that it was best to go over the “H” in the words “Old Course Hotel” emblazoned on a sign. Foster watched Ogilvy hit his first drive over the “L” and a second one over the “OUR’ in the middle word.

Which did he like better?

Foster smiled. “They were slightly different, but we’ll see when we get up there, won’t we?”

Indeed, we did, and the walk around the corner of the hotel revealed that both of Ogilvy’s efforts were in the middle of the fairway. That supported Ogilvy’s contention that the line hasn’t changed dramatically, “that anything over the lettering is fine.”

That means if you are left of the “O” in Old, you are more than likely in dastardly rough left of the fairway. And if you are right of the “L” in Hotel, well . . . ask Rock. The Englishman ventured tight to the wall along that borders the course and behind the Old Course Hotel, then was told the bad news. His ball has disappeared into the bushes.

He merely shrugged. After all, it was a practice day and he had learned a valuable lesson. Stay within the lettering at the 17th tee.


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