Forty-four summers in the past, Tommy Nakajima of Japan was in the hunt throughout the third spherical of the 1978 British Open. On the Old Course at St. Andrews — the place the match will likely be staged as soon as once more this week — Nakajima knocked his second shot onto the placing floor at No. 17, a par 4 referred to as the Road Hole. Mission completed.
Nakajima would now seemingly make a par, or bogey at the worst, on one in every of the most intimidating holes in skilled golf.
His putt, nonetheless, made its method down the unsuitable slope, taking an unlucky left flip right into a pot bunker with remarkably excessive facet partitions. But his troubles had been simply starting. From there, Nakajima wanted 4 photographs to get the ball onto the inexperienced. He ended up recording a 9 on the gap, ruining any actual hopes of profitable the claret jug. He would end the match in a tie for seventeenth.
Nakajima’s taking part in associate in that third spherical was Tom Weiskopf, who had gained the 1973 British Open.
Before Nakajima hit his first putt, Weiskopf stated to his caddie, “He better be careful,” Weiskopf recalled.
Nakajima’s collapse, as crushing because it was, has hardly been the solely calamity on the Road Hole, so named as a result of it’s subsequent to a highway.
“There are a lot of things that can go wrong on this hole,” stated Nick Price, who gained the British Open in 1994. “It’s like walking through a minefield.”
In 1984, Tom Watson discovered the highway. He was aiming to win the match for the third consecutive time. Such a victory can be his sixth title in the Open; he would tie the file held by the British golfer Harry Vardon. However, Watson’s dream would quickly be historical past.
In 1995, Italy’s Costantino Rocca, in a four-hole playoff in opposition to John Daly, wanted three photographs to get out of the bunker. That was it for him.
The first problem for gamers at No. 17 — which was lengthened in 2010 to 495 yards from 455 — is to navigate a treacherous blind tee shot, which means gamers can’t see the touchdown space on the fairway as a result of the view is blocked by a inexperienced shed on the proper.
The most popular touchdown spot is on the proper facet of the fairway, but when the ball veers too far proper, it would find yourself out of bounds. Players will sometimes set their goal, relying on the wind, for one in every of the letters on an indication on the shed that reads: Old Course Hotel. Sometimes, balls hit the lodge itself.
No marvel a variety of golfers play it protected by aiming left, however that method isn’t foolproof, both.
If you go into the tough on the left, “you’ve got a terrible angle to the pin and a terrible angle to the front edge of the green,” stated David Graham, a two-time main champion.
Wherever that first shot finally ends up, the subsequent shot is simply as daunting.
“The last thing you want to do is go on the road,” Tony Jacklin, who gained the 1969 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England. “The best you can expect to do with a second shot is go for the front part of the green. I don’t care how in command of your game you are. You can’t guarantee hitting that green in two.”
As Tom Watson is aware of too nicely.
During the 1984 Open, Watson was tied with Seve Ballesteros when he despatched his drive at 17 to the proper. He hit it far sufficient to clear the wall of the lodge, however the ball wound up on a steep slope.
“The shot you want to play to that green is a low-running shot,” Watson stated. “You can’t do that from a severe upslope.”
He flew his two-iron method about 30 yards to the proper, the ball coming to a relaxation on the highway shut to a stone wall. With an abbreviated backswing, Watson managed to get the ball to inside 30 toes of the flagstick. He may nonetheless save par.
Before he putted, nonetheless, Watson recalled, “All of a sudden, I hear this roar at the 18th hole. I look up and there’s Seve with his fist up in the air. I said, ‘Uh-oh, I’ve got to make this putt and birdie the last hole.’” When he didn’t make the putt, Watson knew it was over. He misplaced by two photographs and by no means gained one other claret jug.
Watson, who performed in the Open at St. Andrews on eight events, strongly advises in opposition to difficult the again or center a part of the inexperienced.
“If you really play it smart,” he defined, “you never try to hit it more than 20 or 30 feet onto the surface of the green. Try to two-putt for your par and get out of there.”
Or possibly not go for the inexperienced in any respect.
In the 1990 Open, which he gained, Nick Faldo laid up in need of the placing floor on 17 in three of the 4 days, together with the last spherical. Leading by 5 photographs and 215 yards away, he noticed no motive to take any probabilities. Faldo walked away from the gap with a bogey. Earlier in that very same spherical, Peter Jacobsen had wanted three strokes to transfer the ball 30 yards from the tough at No. 17, recording an eight.
In 1984, Ballesteros appeared to method the gap as if it had been a par 5, hoping to make no worse than a bogey. Price, the 1994 British Open winner, expressed an analogous sentiment.
“If it was really into the wind, I’d lay up with a four or three iron and then chip up,” Price stated. “If I made 4, I made 4. I wasn’t going to make six, seven or eight, that’s for sure.”
That the gap comes so late in the spherical, with a championship presumably at stake, makes the problem much more formidable. In 2015, the final time the Open was held at St. Andrews, the Road Hole ranked as the most troublesome gap, with the gamers averaging 4.655 strokes.
Over the course of the whole match, there have been solely 9 birdies on 17, whereas there have been 217 bogeys and 32 double bogeys there.
“It’s nearly impossible to make a birdie even once in four days,” Graham, the two-time main champion, stated. “If you do, it’s a long putt.”
Bernard Darwin, the English golf author and completed newbie, maybe put in finest in describing the elusive inexperienced on the Road Hole. He wrote that it “lies between a greedy little bunker on one side and a brutally hard road on the other. Many like it, most respect it, and all fear it.”