ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND // The Open Championship organisers are convinced they will see more players struggle to handle the 17th at this year's championship at St Andrews, after lengthening the famous Road Hole to give it back its teeth. Having been known as one of the toughest holes in the game, the 17th lost much of its menace because long-hitting players using improved club technology were able to get within a short iron of the green and avoid the deep greenside bunker and gravel road which made the par-4 a terrifying ordeal.
Royal and Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson said today that taking the tee back 40 yards should force the players to take longer irons for their second shots into the green and risk their balls finishing in the bunker or on the road, which makes a third to the green very difficult. "We knew this could be controversial. What we have seen over time is that the challenge of the hole, although still a very strong challenge, has diminished somewhat because the hitting distances now allow players to hit into the green with a much shorter iron shot, quite often a seven iron or sometimes less," Dawson said at a British Open briefing. "We have found that has taken the road bunker or more particularly the road behind the green out of play. We don't see many players on the road these days, that's because of the distance and control they can achieve (off the tee) and the accuracy of these shorter iron shots."
Now the hole will be 448m long, but players won't have to change their line of shot off the tee. "The hole has never been lengthened (before). It was played in 1900 the same length as in 2005," Dawson said. "The new back tee is on exactly the same line as the existing championship tee so there's no change to the line of play and we do believe that what is already a challenging hole will become even more so."