“Not much grass out there.”
“Baked like Ziti.”
Those are just a few of the player quotes concerning the site of this year’s Open Championship. (Okay, the last one comes from my younger, wilder days, but it applies in a different context). The Carnoustie Golf Links has been around since the 16th century, and after a very dry spring and early summer, well... it shows.
Early pictures show a brown east coast of Scotland and Carnoustie did not escape the lack of precipitation. Though never described as “lush”, links courses do have grass yet golf is played more along the ground compared to the US game where it is mostly played through the air. As such, the players competing this week will have to make changes to their swing and strategy. Gone are the chances of a big drive and a lob wedge. Instead you will see golfers tee off on long holes with 4 irons, getting sometimes upwards of 70-80 yards of roll. Then punching or chipping balls from 150+ yards off the green to allow run-up onto the putting surface. Padraig Harrington (2007 winner) and by no means a long hitter, drove a ball in a practice round over 460 yards.
And as Tiger Woods said, “the fairways are running faster than the greens.” And that might be true. Because of trade winds and gusts from the nearby North Sea, and with no trees to block the winds, slick greens would not allow a ball to come to rest. So Open Championship courses, and links courses in general, usually have green speeds much slower than what you find on normal PGA Tour stops (and nothing like Augusta National or US Open speeds). But the dry conditions didn’t let the course green up, and even the long fescue rough is more wispy and more manageable than in years past.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Nicknamed “Car-Nasty”, this course is almost always the most difficult of the courses used in the Brittish** Open rotation. Plenty of pot bunkers, aforementioned long fescue rough, burns that meander through the property (Scottish for “creek”), usually windy conditions, and blind shots aplenty all combine for a very tough test to determine the Champion Golfer of the Year.
And of those vying for the title and Claret Jug trophy, several are former UGA student-athletes. Let’s take a look at them:
Bubba Watson starts his tournament Thursday at 2:48 pm GMT (9:48 am ET). With 3 wins this season, he can’t be counted out even if this isn’t his particular cup of Earl Grey.
Russell Henley, (Macon, GA’s favorite son behind Otis Redding, Little Richard, and “Machine Gun” Ronnie Thompson) tees off at 12:42 pm local, and 7:42 am on the US East Coast. He’s had some good finishes and is back solidly in the world top 50.
Brian Harman starts early. As in 3:14 am ET. Good thing Golf Channel will be on the air at that time (seriously).
Kevin Kisner will see Brian Harman’s tee time and raises him to 7:52, which is at least 2:52 am to you and me. Well, to me. And probably a lot of you.
In years past we’ve had as many as 5 or 6 former Bulldogs qualify for this oldest and most prestigious of golf championships, but 4 is nothing to sneeze at. All your other favorites will be there: Jordan Speith will defend, his buddy Justin Thomas will too, as is their mutual buddy and newly engaged Rickie Fowler. Phil Mickelson will try not to cause a rules infraction, and Tiger Woods will compete in this tourney for the first time in 3 years.
You can watch it on TV here in the States starting at 1:30 am ET Thursday on Golf Channel, and they will run non-stop until 4 pm (it gets dark pretty late in Scotland this time of year). That schedule will be repeated Friday. After the cut Friday night, Golf Channel broadcasts at 4:30 am Saturday and Sunday until 7:00 am, after which NBC will air the coverage from 7:00 am until 2:30 pm.
So if you’ve not got your fill of people with foreign accents using different names for things like elevators, playing fields, and soccer, tune in to see our ‘Dawgs on the old side of the Atlantic.