Don't be stumped by the 'stamp'
Royal Troon's famous eighth hole will again provide drama at the British Open
TNP ILLUSTRATION: KELVIN CHAN
Dustin Johnson may be the favourite and Jason Day the world No. 1, but all leading golfers must beware the treacherous and unfamiliar challenges at this year's British Open, which tees off today at Royal Troon.
Troon is home to one of golf's most iconic and deeply unpredictable holes, the 123-yard par-three eighth known as the Postage Stamp.
Here is where German amateur Herman Tissies took 15 in 1950 but also where a 71-year-old Gene Sarazen had a hole-in-one in 1973.
World No. 4 Rory McIlroy said he took an eight or a nine there.
Then there is the 11th, a 482-yard par-four with the Glasgow to Ayr railway line just on the right, over a fourmetre high stone wall.
Jack Nicklaus took 10 there in 1962.
"They're both incredibly difficult, yeah," acknowledged England's Justin Rose, of the two holes.
McIlroy had never played at Royal Troon before he arrived last week to prepare for the 145th British Open and, after his practice round on Tuesday, you could not blame him if he never played it again.
Specifically, he might not want to play the Postage Stamp.
"I think I took an eight or a nine, so that didn't go too well," he told a news conference.
"Headed into the front-right bunker and it took me like five or six goes to get out of it."
At least he got an idea of how to play the hole when things get serious.
"Try to hit it in the middle," he said. "Even hitting it into the middle of the green is a good shot, and then take two putts.
"If you make four threes there this week, you're probably going to gain a bit of ground on the field."
The par-three hole is only 123 yards off the tee, but its diminutive green is surrounded by five bunkers, and the one on the right can be fearsome.
Henrik Stenson has some advice for fans at Royal Troon: Get a good seat at the notorious eighth hole.
"Anyone who wants to see potential train wrecks, if it's blowing hard off the left, that would be the place to sit, in that left-hand grandstand, and see a player struggle with that right-hand bunker," Stenson said.
"I threw a couple of balls in that right-hand bunker, and you can be down there a while if you do go in there."
Stenson, the world No. 6, has a respectable record at the British Open, with three top-three finishes out of 11 appearances.
But he remains a perennial contender for the title no golfer wants: Best player never to win a Major.
The 40-year-old Swede comes into the Open with a certain amount of momentum, winning the BMW International Open at the end of last month, something that "always gives the confidence a little push in the right direction" he said.
What that will lead to on Sunday is something Stenson is too circumspect to say.
Royal Troon is "a course that definitely can fit (me) if I play well, which I have to at any golf tournament, never mind the Majors".
- Wire Services.