On brutal Saturday, fourth hole wreaks particular havoc
SANDWICH, England -- When the request for volunteers went around a few months back at North Foreland GC, a local course some 15 miles north of Royal St. George's, James Little figured why not sign up. The British Open doesn't come around southeast England all that much, and the chance to have a up-close look at the game's best players in the world's oldest championship sounded like fun.
Standing in a soaking rain and a wind howling upwards of 30 miles per hour Saturday morning as the third round of the 140th Open was underway, Little began to question his judgment.
"It sounded like a good idea," said the sixty-something, working alongside his fellow North Foreland members as a marshal on the fourth hole, his glasses blurred with rain. "I'm not so sure now."
Of course, if you think it was bad for the marshals, image the players discontent playing in the fowlest weather they face all week. Particularly too on Little's hole, normally a par 5 converted for this year's championship to a par 4 playing 495 yards, with two massive bunkers 230 yards off the tee guarding the right side of the fairway, which required a 245-yard carry.
Knowing the bad weather forecast, R&A officials wisely decided against using the back teeing ground, moving up the players 25 yards closer to the fairway. Still, the hole prove diabolical. None of the 71 players made birdie on the hole (one of three on the front side where no birdies were made). Only 18 players made pars, the stroke average coming in at 4.93.
Little said he knew things would be tough when he saw Paul Lawrie in the day's second group hit his drive into the 15-foot tall right bunker off the tee, a hazard that for the first and second round was essentially out of play.
"You could have put that tee much further up," said Lawrie, who made a triple-bogey 7 on the hole en route to an 81 overall. "There was only about three or four people in the field that can hit the ball 250 in a howling gale. Apart from that, it was brutal."
"You felt for him," noted Little. "It got ugly very quickly."
-- Ryan Herrington