• Winner must favour brain over muscle
HOPES of a first British winner of The Open since 1999 will be tested to the limit not only by a stellar international field but also by the elements which threaten to turn Royal St George’s into a place not for the faint-hearted over the next four days.
World No1 Luke Donald, compatriot Lee Westwood and the man billed as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods following last month’s US Open heroics, Rory McIlroy, are expected to spearhead the home challenge.
But with winds likely to reach speeds of up to 20mph, narrow fairways, treacherous bunkers and dramatically sloping greens set to have their say on proceedings, Jim McArthur, chairman of the Championship committee of tournament organisers the R&A, believes the famous old venue will provide the sternest of examinations.
“We believe that Royal St George’s is a true Open Championship test, he said. “It’s very much based on strategic play rather than muscle.”
Indeed, so strong were the winds which battered the Kent coast yesterday that tournament organisers could move some of the most challenging tees at Royal St George’s forward for today’s opening round.
With a northerly wind gusting up to 30mph as players including McIlroy and Darren Clarke played their final Open practice round, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said that the tees on the seventh and 11th holes could be brought forward.
The seventh features a long carry over rough that, playing upwind, left some players struggling to reach the fairway on Tuesday, while the short par-three 11th is playing considerably longer than its 243 yards.
“We informed the players at the start of the week that we may move some tees forward, and if this wind remains as it is we will consider it,” Dawson said “The back tee at the seventh was always going to be challenging given that it is 220 yards to reach the fairway, but yesterday some players were having great difficulty reaching it.”
With conditions as they are, Martin Kaymer one of the biggest threats to the significant British challenge admits he will have to sacrifice any thoughts of playing “beautiful golf” if he hopes to get his hands on the Claret Jug come Sunday.
“The greens are very slopey, very difficult, and some approaches seem to be impossible sometimes,” he said. “The good thing about the Open is you don’t have to play, let’s say, beautiful golf. You have to score well. You have to give yourself good angles to the green, so it’s a very tiring week.”