Master the weather and you’ll master Hoylake
Readjusting to the changing conditions vital for British Open success
Ernie Els, watched by caddie Colin Byrne, hits an approach shot during his practice round yesterday prior to the 143rd British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake. Photograph: Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images
The decisive factor in Martin Kaymer’s victory in the US Open at Pinehurst last month was he was able to adapt to the subtle changes the rain had made to the course for the first two rounds.
The German was aware the overnight precipitation before the first round had softened the course enough to warrant playing more aggressive iron shots to the greens. This is what yielded his record first two round total. The rest were still edging their way around the perilous greens as if the fiery practice round conditions were still prevailing.
Here we are at the 143rd British Open filled with memories of the parched tournament here eight years ago where the predominant colour of the course was that of baked dust. Tiger won by running his irons strategically around the course, leaving his driver as a prop on which to hang his towel.
This year Hoylake has a verdant appearance, much more yielding than you would expect for a summer links.
So as we all discovered the links as presented to us this week, the adjustments were being made for every golfer who has so little experience of links land as a modern professional.
Some who had played in the Scottish Open last week in the traditional Royal Aberdeen had been given a huge insight into the subtleties of a week’s worth of seaside golf in a tournament where a 200-yard shot may only need a wedge downwind and a 150-yarder into the wind may require a five-iron. Numbers, in the increasingly scientific approach to the professional game, were only a very rough indication of what club to hit.
Just as we had got our heads around how short or long a shot was playing, Sunday’s rainfall and misty conditions changed everything and we were back to playing a form of inland golf.
Serious contenderIt would be unwise not to factor this into choosing this year’s British Open champion and therefore give Justin Rose consideration as a serious contender for the title. He has had a week of adjusting and readjusting to the vagaries of golf in links land and obviously fared very well.
With my boss Ernie Els’s early start last Sunday in Aberdeen we had time to shoot an inspiring 66 and head immediately south-west to Liverpool to get a glimpse of Hoylake before the Open madness began. Well that was the idea.
On arrival in the almost colonial-style Royal Liverpool clubhouse late on Sunday afternoon it was like entering what you had expected to be a sedate Sunday gathering and being greeted with a raucous carnival atmosphere, with members and guests milling around the elegant clubhouse filled with expectation for the great golfing occasion that was about to kick off in their club.