Different strokes



R&A to give St Andrews a bit of bite

Fear can be the biggest obstacle faced by a golfer, mostly amateurs. The fear of water! The fear of fast greens! But it would seem the RA, governors of the game and responsible for staging the British Open, aren’t immune from phobias of their own and the fear of low scoring – whisper it, the possibility of a 59 – is seen as the main reasoning behind plans to toughen up the Old Course in time for its next hosting of golf’s oldest Major championship.

The British Open doesn’t return to the home of golf until 2015 but the Royal and Ancient have commissioned Martin Hawtree – the designer who gave new teeth to the Royal Dublin links – to “enhance the challenge for elite players” whilst “retaining true to the special character of the Old Course”.

Hawtree’s recommendations – to be carried out in two phases – have been agreed by the St Andrews Links Trustees and Links Management Committee and the RA championship committee: the first phase involves work on the  second, seventh, 11th and 17th holes, the second stage (taking place over the winter of 2013/2014) involves modifications to the third, fourth, sixth ninth and 15th holes.

Among Hawtree’s plans to toughen up the links are the construction of new bunkering, one to the right of the third fairway and another to the left of the ninth fairway 20 yards short of the green.

Bunkers will also be repositioned closer to the right edge of the second green and to the right of the fourth green.

Previously, it was considered sacrilegious to tamper with the greens. Not any more. The back of the 11th green will be lowered to create more hole location options.

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the RA, explained the changes were required to “stiffen its defences . . . to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals.”

Or, perhaps, just the R&A’s way of Tiger-proofing – or ever more so, Rory-proofing – the old links.

Jin-ho Choi swaps spikes for army boots

The biggest challenge which young Korean golfers face is not so much on the golf course but how they cope with compulsory national service in the army.

And Jin-ho Choi, one of the hot young guns coming off the golfing conveyor belt in that part of the world, is about to go through such a test.

Jin-ho – who turned pro in 2004 – will be part of the Asia-Pacific team that takes on China in next weekend’s Nissan Cup, after which he will swap his golf cleats for gumboots and hotel rooms for bootcamp. First up for Jin-ho is five weeks of physical training, after which he will enter nearly two years of service.

Such stints of national service have proven to affect promising golfers in the past, but Jin-ho told the AsiaOne website that he wanted to make his a positive experience. “I can’t play any tournaments during my service period, but I can practice as much as I want.

“I will be free to go to driving range or gym after duty and I am off on most weekends. I think with all the practice I will be doing, I could emerge even better because I will have enough time to get myself prepared for the future.”

The real blessing, perhaps, for Jin-ho is that he is married with a young child which means he will likely serve in the national reserve. Still, this week will see him playing competitively for the last time for almost two years. Now, that’s what you call a test of character!

Twitter Talk

“Woohoo! Great year from the curly one! Amazing finish! #10winsandcounting”

Caroline Wozniacki on boyfriend Rory McIlroy’s dominance of the tours in Europe and the USA.

“Many congratulations to @McIlroyRory on his 5th victory of the season in Dubai and for winning both Euro US money titles. Truly world #1” South Africa’s legendary golfer Gary Player takes his hats off to the boy wonder.

“@McIlroyRory World’s number one player PGA tour number one European number one #anyquestions

Graeme McDowell gives due credit to his friend’s supremacy.

“What an unbelievable way to end an unbelievable year!!! Couldn’t be happier!! Thank you to everyone for their support throughout 2012!”

Rory McIlroy embraces his global golf fans.

“Huge respect @MBannonGolf for the way you have developed the talent that @McIlroyRory has shown as world number one. #quietman”

Denis Pugh hands out the laurels to the coach who made the swing.

“Well folks another season over. A lot of highs and lows but it’s been my best one yet. #thefutureisbright”

Shane Lowry, looking to 2013 with confidence of his own.

The rules

Q: In strokeplay, a competitor X played out of turn from the teeing ground and knocked his ball down. His playing partner Y informed him that, although he had played out of turn, he should continue playing the ball as it was in play. X argued that he should reload and did so, abandoning the ball he initially played. What is the ruling?

A: Player X was wrong. He should have listened to his playing partner. When the competitor played another ball from the tee, the original ball was lost and the other ball was – under Rule 27-1 – in play under penalty of stroke and distance.

Welsh timely boost

As it happens, rival Swiss watch manufacturers Rolex are one of the main sponsors of the European Ryder Cup team having first filled the role at The K Club (2006) and have been official timekeeper for the biennial match since Oak Hill. The timely move away from a start in the Swiss Alps would seem to take some marketing power away from their watch rivals.

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