‘They’ve created a monstrosity’: Caddie blasts Open Championship hole
Matt Fitzpatrick’s thoughts on Royal Liverpool’s 17th hole were brief. Just eight words, across three sentences.
Then there was Fitzpatrick’s caddie. He added some color. As did one of golf’s more well-respected coaches.
The 17th, as GOLF’s Josh Berhow reported here, has been a buzzy topic this week ahead of the Open Championship. In short, it’s short, but a monster. Once the 15th hole, the 17th was constructed after the 2014 Open at Liverpool in hopes of adding finishing fireworks, and its punishment is severe should a player miss his 136-yard target. There’s the ever-present wind. There’s a small, elevated, turtleback green. There’s a pot bunker to the left of the green. There’s a bunker with a steep face to the right of the green. There’s sand behind the green. The par is 3, but scores could be higher.
And the comments have come.
Brooks Koepka was a fan; he said he likes short par-3s, à la the famed 12th at Augusta National. Defending champ Cameron Smith called it exciting. Jon Rahm thought it was fair, only in that it was unfair to everyone. Then there was this, from the boss of the boss of the championship, who was asked about the 17th on Wednesday toward the end of his annual pre-tournament press conference — though the timing of the question surprised him.
“That’s pretty good,” R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said, laughing. “We took 35 minutes to get to the 17th. About as long as you would probably take to play it …”
A short while later, he continued. He was complimentary.
“I am a believer that the best par-3s in the world are short — the 12th at Augusta, 17th at TPC, 8th at Royal Troon,” Slumbers said. “This gave us an opportunity to change that hole to create drama. It’s hard, but if you want to go and do your research, go and compare it to the size of the green at TPC, Postage Stamp, 12th at Augusta. It’s a bigger green, the 12th at Augusta, which I think everyone in this room would probably put in the top three par-3s in the world, and it has a lot of jeopardy in there.
“I think it fits well. What it also does, it enabled us to reconfigure the final bit around there. So we got four holes. The final four holes will be 610 par-5, 480 par-4, 136 par-3, 620 par-5. A lot of things could happen on that, and I think that drama will unfold come Sunday.
“Whether it’s a great hole or a really great hole, I’ll wait until Monday morning.”
On Monday, the former had this exchange in his pre-tournament press conference.
“Have you played the new 17th hole?”
“I’ll leave it at that.”
You can interpret that as you will.
But there was no mistaking Foster’s feelings on 17. The caddie was interviewed by Golf Monthly — and you should read the entire story here.
“Unfortunately I think this Open Championship could be remembered for a calamity that happened,” Foster told Golf Monthly. “There was nothing wrong with the little par-3 they had before, and they’ve created a monstrosity, in my opinion.
“The green is very small. If you land it a foot short, it rolls back into a coffin that’s underground, so deep. This is challenging the best golfers in the world that will be making 6s, 7s and 8s.”
Foster also wondered about amateurs who would play the hole.
“God help the 15- or 20-handicapper that plays it on a weekly basis because it’s near enough impossible for them,” he told Golf Monthly.
“I just hope someone doesn’t have a three-shot lead playing that hole and make a 9 — it could happen. This week already it has varied between an 8-iron and a 5-iron; you land it on there, it’s just going to bounce off into trouble everywhere.”
Fitzpatrick and Foster will get their first tournament shot — or shots — at the hole at around 1 p.m. local time, or 8 a.m. ET. They tee off at 9:03 a.m. (4:03 a.m.).
And then there’s Pete Cowen, who’s worked with a number of players, including Koepka.
In an interview with bunkered.com — which you should read in full here — Cowen was blunt.
“I hate it,” he told the website. “I haven’t heard a player say a good thing about it. They’ll just deal with it.
“It could ruin somebody’s career if the wind goes in the wrong direction all of a sudden or there is bad luck rolling down from the wrong place.
“Why would you make a 120-, 130-yard par-3 impossible? It’s called an infinity green and that could be it — they could be playing infinitely backwards and forwards across the green.”