Carnoustie: This time there can be no excuses. Carnoustie, as expected, will be tough, but it will be fair.
The way the daunting links course abutting Scotland’s North Sea was laid out for the British Open the last time it was played here in 1999 has gone down in golfing folklore as one of the most savage ever for a major tournament.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie was the upset winner on that occasion, but most agreed that golf in general was the loser as the best players in the world were humbled by the fearsome chest-deep rough and pinched fairways.
Lessons have been learned, and this time around the stage is set for a classic four days of championship golf.
Tiger Woods, looking to become just the second man in 125 years to win three Opens in a row, lent his seal of approval to the layout.
“It’s extremely fair — not like it was in ’99,” he said.
“It’s probably a little more difficult than it was in the Scottish Opens I played. So it’s roughly right in between.”
Much at stake
As usual much is at stake for the 31-year-old world No.1.
A win would make him the first man since Australian Peter Thomson in 1956 to record a hat-trick of Open wins and it would take his career haul in majors to 13, just five short of golf’s Holy Grail, the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus. If he fails, it would mean he is in danger of going winless in majors for the year for the first time since 2004. That would spark a new round of speculation over whether his predominance is under threat especially as he has a new priority in his life with the birth last month of daughter Sam Alexis.Woods is the hot favourite with the bookies, but the odds have been shortening over the last few days on Ernie Els.
The big South African is one of the finest exponents of golf links currently playing and many feel that he should have won more than the once he has done at Muirfield in 2002.
The signs are that he is running into form at the right time after a difficult first half of the year and he knows and likes Carnoustie having played the course many times.
World No.2 Phil Mickelson has much less of a links pedigree, with only a third place at Troon in 2004 to show for his efforts in 14 campaigns, but he is optimistic that he can challenge again for major honours after six months of swing reconstruction and injury woes.
Mickelson spent two days of practice at the course two weeks ago before playing in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond where he lost a playoff to Frenchman Gregory Havret and he was optimistic about his chances. — AFP