Verdict is in: Bomb-and-gouge doesn’t work at Carnoustie on either side of the draw

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 20: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 18th hole during the second round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 20, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Verdict is in: Bomb-and-gouge doesn’t work at Carnoustie on either side of the draw

2018 British Open

Verdict is in: Bomb-and-gouge doesn’t work at Carnoustie on either side of the draw

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Thirty-six holes into a fascinating British Open, two pre-tournament debates have been settled.

Would bomb-and-gouge golf win out over more tactical, conservative precision?

That’s a big no.

And what side of the draw enjoyed advantage?

The morning-late times enjoyed more perks.

On the tactical front, an unusual pre-tournament debate broke out over how best to play the baked-out Carnoustie links. Hit drivers as far down holes as possible and hit wedges into putting surfaces, even if meant hitting from the sunburned light rough?

Or take a more conservative tact, mixing mostly irons off tees with the occasional driver?

“The game plan that I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I just couldn’t do it,” said Rory McIlroy after his impressive 69-69 start left him two back of the lead. “So a lot more irons off tees and a lot more conservative, but ended up being the same score.”

The field’s proudest bomb-and-gouger, Jon Rahm, posted a second round 78 that included an out-of-bounds tee shot at the seventh hole and a brutal opening 41 where he never budged from trying to overpower Carnoustie even as playing partner Rickie Fowler played safe.

Phil Mickelson’s second-round 69 included a hybrid approach of conservative and aggressive, something he had telegraphed as soon as he first saw Carnoustie a week ago.

“[The weather] changed throughout the day entirely, and it changes the way you are trying to attack the course or play conservative,” he said. “It’s just a fun test.”

Pat Perez was adamant long hitters would often be at a disadvantage on many of the holes here, and the missed cuts of Rahm, Dustin Johnson and so-so play of Justin Rose validated his stance.

“That’s why the leaderboard is where it is, that’s what I was saying earlier in the week, I don’t think you’re going to get the long hitters — of course you have [some of them]. They’re great players. Rory and them, they’re great players,” Perez said.

As for the draw, players felt those teeing off early Thursday in light winds and without rain Friday afternoon enjoyed the best conditions.

“Most of the good scores yesterday were in the morning, and they had no wind, and they had very little wind this afternoon with a softer golf course,” said Tiger Woods, pleased with is even-par position through 36 holes.

Another veteran noted the perks of playing early-late.

“So I got the better half of the draw maybe too, right?” said Bernhard Langer, who made the cut at 2 over. “It wasn’t much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing.”

While Friday’s morning wave enjoyed smoother greens early, Woods even noted how much mellower the course was after Thursday afternoon’s crispy conditions.

“We certainly had a chance to get the ball down a little bit further and control it on the ground a little bit better,” he said. “The ball wasn’t rolling 80, 90 yards like it was yesterday. It was a little bit easier in that regard.”

Saturday’s third round should treat most of the field well, with light afternoon winds expected. Sunday’s finale should see stronger breezes and the potential for an earlier starting time to enjoy an advantage.

Either way, the tee shot strategy will be clear: get the ball in play and do not try to overpower the mighty Carnoustie.

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