July 10, 2018

Carnoustie will be a Test!

The Open Championship this year will be played at my favorite links golf course, Carnoustie. I have been fortunate to have played it in many different conditions; howling winds, rain, high rough, dry fairways, and calm. Each time I have been challenged to the maximum of my game and have loved every minute of it. The reason for the enjoyment was the exacting nature of the course. Each hole presents a different test that requires you to shape your shots to fit the occasion. Each round is different based on the weather conditions and the course setup. But I rate this course my favorite, because for the fairness. You hit the right shot and it will be rewarded. Do anything less and the punishment is doubled.

From 1983 to 1994, I took a group of members from Lakewood Country Club each year to play in the International Four-Ball Invitational. Each year we played the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoutie, and the King's and Queen's courses at Gleneagles. We made it a two week golf trip by coming a week earlier and playing Turnberry, Royal Troon, Muirfield, Dornoch, and other famous courses. Carnoustie was the least impressive from first glance. Situated in a small blue-collar town, with a non-descript clubhouse, and uninspired landscape, it didn't radiate greatness. However, when you walked the fairways and observed the course layout and strategy, you soon realized this is something very special. The front nine is hard but in reasonable conditions can yield under par scores. Disaster lurks for the errant shot, but not to the extent that is exacted on the back nine. The golf tournament will be won on the final five holes, with the last three holes being the most brutal. Get by the 14th and 15th and you are faced with a 248 yard par three with a green that appears to be only 30 feet wide. Scary tee shot with no bailout. Four is not a bad score on 16. Then if you were frightened of 16, then 17 tee shot is even tougher! Barry Burn winds across the fairway then down the left side and then cross again, creating a small island target area for you tee shot. Navigate that challenge and then you have a long iron into a narrow green guarded by penal bunkers. 18, in my opinion, is the easiest of the three finishing holes. Avoid the OB and Barry Burn on the tee shot and the rest is fairly straight forward. Barry Burn does cross the fairway again about thirty yards short of the green, but it really is not a factor, unless your name is Jean Van de Velde. The 16th at Carnoustie, along with the 16th at Cypress Point, are my two most difficult and favorite par three holes that I have played. The 461 yard 17th at Carnoustie is in my top three par four holes in the world due its unique architecture, length, and exact shotmaking requirements.

The Open winner needs to have length and be a precise ball striker. Only a few errant tee shots will ruin many good players' chances to contend for this trophy. I can see Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth having good tournaments, but none at this moment have the exacting game for Carnoustie to be the winner. Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood or Justin Thomas have the ability to handle this course and a win by them would not be a surprise. But the best suited player for Carnoustie is Dustin Johnson. He is long and straight and can hit a lot of greens in regulation. Putting is always important in a major championship, but with this course it will be ball striking that will be the most crucial factor. Carnoustie will be the winner and Dustin Johnson will hold the trophy.


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