Expect the winds to dominate at the Open

Steve Stricker can appreciate better than most how the British Open is unlike any other major.

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy’s biggest challenge this week at the British Open will come from the winds at the Royal St. George.

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy’s biggest challenge this week at the British Open will come from the winds at the Royal St. George.

SANDWICH, England — Steve Stricker can appreciate better than most how the British Open is unlike any other major.

One day after winning the John Deere Classic with a birdie-birdie finish on the green, manicured fairways of a TPC course in America’s heartland, Stricker was trying to stand upright on the lunar links of Royal St. George’s. The yardage book was more of a guide than the gospel.

It was tough to control his golf ball through the air, even harder when it was bouncing along the ground.

“It’s quite a turnaround,” Stricker said Wednesday. “To learn and adapt to this style in 2 1/2 days is a challenge.”

That short time was all he needed, however, to learn what most others have about this links course in the southeast of England. It’s a strong test for golf’s oldest championship on a mild day.

When the wind is up, which it has been all week, it can be a beast.

The 140th edition of this championship gets under way Thursday at Royal St. George’s, as unpredictable as any links on the Open rotation. This is the course where Greg Norman in 1993 became the first Open champion to win with all four rounds in the 60s.

It’s the same course where Ben Curtis was the only player to break par when it was last here in 2003.

A dry spring has kept the rough from getting too thick, which is but a small reprieve.

“It’s a big challenge, and we are the best players in the world here,” PGA champion Martin Kaymer said. “So it should be tough. At the end of the day, everybody has to deal with the same golf course.”

Even so, it’s not always the same for everyone.

The piece of information getting most of the attention on the eve of the British Open was the weather report. The forecast is for gusts up to 25 m.p.h. Thursday morning with patches of rain, before the wind tapers off in the afternoon. The wind is expected to remain moderate Friday morning, then switch directions and return to gusts upward of 25 m.p.h. by the end of the day.

If that holds true, the players teeing off early Thursday and late Friday could get the worst of it.

And as a reminder of how significant the tee times can be, remember that Louis Oosthuizen teed off at 6:41 a.m. in the second round last year at St. Andrews, missed the worst of the weather in his round of 67 and was on his way to a seven-shot win.

Among the early starters Thursday: Rory McIlroy, the overwhelming favourite to add the claret jug to his U.S. Open trophy.

McIlroy, who has not played since his record-setting win at Congressional last month, did most of his preparation last week at Royal St. George’s. He played in a strong, southwesterly wind, which is typical this time of the year. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland played at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in a wind coming out of the opposite direction.

He played at the same time Tiger Woods used to practice, and while the gallery for McIlroy wasn’t quite as large, the kid caused a frenzy when fans tried to get his autograph after he finished. For the rest of the day, officials banned autographs in the area leading from the 18th green.

It’s a different test for McIlroy, with conditions much more firm and dry than at the U.S. Open.

“It’s firm. It’s fast,” he said. “But the thing is with this wind, you’re going to have to keep the ball low. But sometimes it’s hard to run the ball into these greens because they’re so undulating and they can go so many different ways.”

The wind direction during three days’ of practice has the Royal & Ancient concerned enough that it might move some tees forward. Chief executive Peter Dawson said the most likely candidates were the par-5 seventh (some players couldn’t reach the fairway) and the par-3 11th (Phil Mickelson couldn’t reach the green with a driver).

Then there’s the par-4 13th, where Stricker hit driver off the tee and driver off the deck to get it near the green.

“Now, if the wind turns around, it’s a different story,” Dawson said.

It’s different for everybody — even in the same group.

Stewart Cink, who won at Turnberry two years ago, was reminded of that while playing a practice round with Davis Love III, Lucas Glover and two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington. They came to the par-3 sixth hole, which measures 162 yards to the front edge of a green that is 35 yards deep. They all hit pitching wedge with the wind in their favour.

“Some of them were short by about 50 feet, and some of them went through the green into the rough,” Cink said. “And they all landed within 5 yards of each other.”

So what does it take on this most difficult links?

McIlroy believes the second shot will be key. Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, emphasized chipping and putting because the greens are so difficult. Kaymer favoured the 10-foot putts, many of which will be for par.

K.J. Choi, who won The Players Championship in May and is having one of his best years, spoke in English to describe his experience, and while the sentences were short, the meaning was clear.

“Wind very important,” he said. “This wind is the most difficult. Greens are small targets. Chipping.”

Cink came up with the best answer of all — as it relates to this British Open, and this style of golf.

“Attitude,” he said. “A lot of the field is weeded out already. They’re not accustomed to hitting good shots and being put in a bad spot. Because you don’t always get rewarded for good shots. But if you hit enough good shots, you won’t get in as many bad spots as someone who doesn’t hit a lot of good shots.”

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta’s declining COVID-19 numbers are a positive sign for the province. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer down to 634 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone down to 2,054 active cases

(Screenshot).
Seven central Alberta charities benefit from community foundation grants

Seven central Alberta charities have received grants from the Red Deer and… Continue reading

Red Deer Gun Show organizer, Harold Drok, is concerned $1 fee from each ticket sale will go to Westerner Park once shows can be restarted there. This new policy replaces parking fees which will be waived for future Westerner Park events. (Black Press file photo)
Event organizer concerned about Westerner Park’s new parking fee model

A show organizer is concerned this could impact proceeds

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
Organizers of central Alberta anti-lockdown rodeo plead not guilty

Ty and Gail Northcott charged under the Public Health Act

(Black Press file photo.)
Road closures at both ends of Red Deer next week

Red Deer motorists should expect delays with road closures in the north… Continue reading

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

(CPAC)
Trudeau says he knew about investigation into general overseeing vaccines weeks ago

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he learned weeks ago that… Continue reading

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine and avoid quarantine on return if they meet some straightforward conditions, the Public Health Agency of Canada confirms.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canadians can drive to U.S. for COVID-19 vax and avoid quarantine, Ottawa confirms

TORONTO — Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Quebec can modify part of the Canadian Constitution unilaterally: Trudeau

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Quebec can unilaterally modify part… Continue reading

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, file photo, giant bucket-wheel excavators extract coal at the controversial Garzweiler surface coal mine near Jackerath, West Germany. Canadian environmentalists are welcoming a report from the International Energy Agency that says new fossil fuel investment must end if the world is to meet its climate goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Martin Meissner
Canadian environmentalists happy with International Energy Agency report

Environmentalists say a report from the International Energy Agency that concludes investment… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ceasefire needed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid loss of more civilians: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is calling for a… Continue reading

A forest fire burns late into the evening northeast of Prince Albert, Sask., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
Saskatchewan wildfire grows, forcing evacuations in the area to expand

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — Dry conditions and strong winds caused a large… Continue reading

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Tam hopeful for summer even as Canada hits grim death milestone in COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says she expects… Continue reading

Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Sheffield United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Pantling/Pool via AP
Canadian teenager Daniel Jebbison turns heads with Premier League goal

Jebbison, 17, is the youngest player in Premier League history to score on his first start in England’s top tier

Most Read