This Open Championship had a equity drawback. Did the R&A remedy it?

Keita Nakajima of Japan enjoying a bunker shot on the 4th gap within the first spherical.

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When the Royal & Historical’s setup czars made the decision to partly defang Royal Liverpool’s daunting pot bunkers earlier than the second spherical of the 151st Open Championship, it was a call most gamers undoubtedly embraced, even when it didn’t register with all of them.

“Not acquainted,” Zach Johnson stated when requested concerning the transfer; this was following a second-round 69 that had elevated him to 2 over for the week.

A reporter defined to the U.S. Ryder Cup captain that within the wake of the primary spherical — when balls frequently trundled into the bunkers and settled inside a few inches of the revetted sod partitions, making extraction a mighty, generally not possible, activity — the R&A elected to make the pits much less penal by raking the sand towards the partitions, in impact making a ramp that might push balls again towards the middle of the bunkers and provides gamers extra room to function. The R&A’s official discover learn, partially: “Yesterday afternoon the bunkers dried out greater than we’ve seen in latest weeks and that led to extra balls working straight up towards the face than we’d usually count on.” 

“They made an announcement?” Johnson stated, starting to smile. “I in all probability ought to have learn that.”

Johnson’s inattention to event alerts wasn’t the one rationalization for his obliviousness. He was among the many fortunate few who largely prevented the bunkers Friday, so he had few alternatives to examine them.

“I feel I solely hit it in a single sand entice or bunker, luckily,” he stated.

Different gamers have been much less lucky, that means by the top of the second spherical, a lot of the subject had had an opportunity to type an opinion on the R&A’s sudden about-face.

Like Johnson, Rory McIlroy was unaware of the brand new raking protocol when his second spherical commenced. However when McIlroy knocked his second shot right into a greenside pot bunker on the par-5 fifth, the gentler, kindler slopes rapidly turned obvious to him.  

“I used to be pleasantly shocked that I had a shot,” he stated, including, “I wouldn’t say there’s one individual within the subject that wouldn’t welcome that change.”

Maybe, however there was at the very least one participant who had combined emotions: Scotsman Richie Ramsay.

Ramsay, who bought wind of the setup tweak not by the use of a proper participant discover however on social media, stated he not solely famous that the sand was fuller on the base of the partitions Friday however that it additionally may need been too full.

On the par-4 sixteenth gap, he stated, he hit a 4-iron into the breeze that discovered a greenside bunker — and a plugged lie. He needed to pitch out backward, resulting in a double-bogey 6. Two holes later, on the par-5 18th, he stated he hit a 3-wood downwind along with his second shot that flew right into a greenside bunker “like a missile.” That ball additionally plugged, in the midst of the bunker. Ramsay stated he couldn’t inform if his shot had run as much as the wall after which trundled again into the unlucky lie, or if it had merely buried in that spot.

“Two simply shockers, actually,” stated Ramsay, who signed for a one-over 72 to drop him to 3 over for the week. “I don’t know if that’s an anomaly or I don’t know if that’s one thing that’s an everyday prevalence. You’ve simply bought to attempt to take the hit, however clearly I wasn’t that happy [with] 16 and 18 to say the least.”

bunker at royal liverpool

The sneaky purpose the bunkers at this Open Championship will give gamers suits


Alan Bastable

As ever with major-championship setups, placing a stability between difficult and unfair is a high-wire act. It’s true of inexperienced velocity and fairway width and tough size, however not often is there as a lot scrutiny on bunkers as there was this week in North West England. Matthew Jordan, who’s a member of and the course record-holder at Royal Liverpool, is aware of these bunkers in addition to any participant within the subject.

After a second-round 72 dropped him again to 1 below, he known as the R&A’s choice “in all probability worthwhile,” however added, “I feel all of us wish to see them as hazards, don’t we? We don’t wish to see folks hitting in there, getting excellent lies and flicking them out. It’s simply exhausting to get a stability between — I had a pair yesterday which have been simply unbelievable. I’ve by no means seen that round right here earlier than. I feel that was in all probability the suitable choice, however on the identical time, I’m all for them being hazards.”

Of the plugged lies Ramsay encountered, Jordan stated: “Yeah, I feel one factor that’s occurring is that if the ball flies in, it’s flying in exhausting, it’s hitting up the face, after which due to —it’s not that steep, and there’s a little bit of sand there, so it’s simply developing after which coming down and semi-plugging, which isn’t nice. I don’t understand how the blokes are making ready, nevertheless it’s only a troublesome one, isn’t it, to get proper? I feel they’re shut.”

Go away it to Jordan Spieth to supply one of many extra nuanced takes on the state of affairs. Within the first two rounds, Spieth managed to principally keep away from the bunkers, so he didn’t spend a lot time analyzing their severity. However, he stated, he did perceive why the flat bases could be problematic, if not borderline unfair.    

Rory McIlroy navigating a pot bunker at Royal Liverpool.

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“You’ve got these downwind par-5s the place you possibly can hit actually, very nice photographs into greens the best way that they ask you to play them,” he stated. “After which they will find yourself primarily — possibly generally greater than a full-stroke penalty relying on the place it finally ends up, and also you hit the suitable shot.

“The into-the-wind holes it doesn’t matter as a lot. The downwind holes it makes an enormous distinction as a result of the ball will simply proceed to chase till it stops, and when you have just a bit little bit of an upslope or the ball comes again only a couple inches from the place it might have yesterday, that might imply getting it out of the bunker versus having to play backwards like Tony [Finau] did yesterday on that one gap.

“That’s instance on a par-5. You noticed some on 18 yesterday, as effectively. That’s the place you’re attempting to hit it. I used to be 270-something yards away right now and I hit a 4-iron 5 yards left of the entrance fringe of the inexperienced, after which I can’t advance my ball quite a lot of toes out of the bunker, however that’s the Open Championship, and these bunkers make this golf course.

Spieth, who’s at two below on the midway level, eight again of Brian Harman, characterised the raking adjustment as “ transfer,” and added that “the rain will make an enormous distinction tomorrow. I feel it’ll make it extra playable. Balls will bounce off and transfer extra in the direction of the center ever so barely and also you’ll be capable of get extra membership on the ball.”

Padraig Harrington, who made the three-over minimize on the quantity and is enjoying in his twenty sixth Open, additionally authorized of the choice.

“The bunkers are nonetheless extreme with out them being absolute penalties,” he stated. “Each fairway bunker is a chip out. Quite a lot of the greenside bunkers now with the change you may get out of them however you’re not essentially getting up-and-down. They’re nonetheless not a terrific place to be.”

Nor ought to they be. Bunkers are, in spite of everything, designed to be prevented.

As Ramsay stated, “At some programs we play, you’re really seeking to be within the bunker, and it’s a free swing and you may get the management. I don’t suppose that’s the best way issues needs to be.”

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s govt editor, Bastable is accountable for the editorial path and voice of one of many recreation’s most revered and extremely trafficked information and repair websites. He wears many hats — modifying, writing, ideating, growing, daydreaming of someday breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely gifted and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Earlier than grabbing the reins at, he was the options editor at GOLF Journal. A graduate of the College of Richmond and the Columbia College of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey along with his spouse and foursome of children.

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