x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Stormy weather could move things forward at British Open

Strong winds forecast for the first two days may mean modified tee placements to make the course playable.

SANDWICH, England // With strong wind set to cause havoc at the British Open, organisers said yesterday that some tees may have to be brought forward at Royal St George's to make the course playable.

Gusts of up to 30mph (48kph) are forecast for the first two rounds today and tomorrow.

Depending on wind direction, it will make some fairways unreachable off the tee for many players.

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of Royal & Ancient, which organises the tournament, picked out the par-five seventh and the short 11th, which is 243 yards from tee to green, as two of several holes that could be modified.

"We do have some wind issues out there," Dawson said. "We made the players aware at the start of the week that some tees may be moved up and they were invited to practise off forward tees if they wished.

"I think players should be able to reach the fairway and reach the par threes, frankly."

Otherwise, the course was described by Jim McArthur, the R&A championship committee chairman, as "in terrific condition" and by Dawson as "right up there with the best.

"We believe that Royal St George's is a true Open Championship test," McArthur said. "It's very much based on strategic play rather than muscle power."

Conditions should be easier than in the 2003 tournament at Sandwich, when players were critical that the rough, which gobbled up errant drives, was too thick.

As a result of the dry spring in southern England, Dawson said organisers had been concerned there would be nearly no rough at all. Recent rainfall has calmed their fears.

"We've always said we take what nature gives us, but fortunately we've had some rain ... which has been sufficient to rejuvenate the golf course and the amount of rough we have out there is pretty close to what we would like," Dawson said.

"It's not as thick as it might have been but it's good playing conditions. We're happy with it."

Ben Curtis, the American, was the only player to finish under par in 2003, and Dawson said he does not expect particularly great scoring this time.

"This course, I think, needs more knowing than most because there are more slightly blind shots here, the kicks off the fairway ... you need to know them," he said. "Like all the links courses, it's very wind-dependent how it plays.

"I don't think we're going to get particularly low scoring here this week, especially with the wind up. The course is tough."

Dawson said, based on advanced ticket sales and indications on practice days, he anticipates bigger crowds than in 2003, when about 185,000 spectators came through the gates.