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Tom Watson has said that he is excited to see how Bryson DeChambeau and his fellow bit-hitters attack the Old Course when The 150th Open takes place in St Andrews next summer – but had some words of sage advice for them.
There has been much gnashing of teeth over the prospect of golf’s longest hitters bringing the game’s most iconic test ‘to its knees’ and perhaps even breaking 60 next year, such are the huge distances they are now able to hit the ball.
Watson, a five-time winner of the Claret Jug, fully expects to see the likes of DeChambeau trying to drive several of the par-4s and admits that he welcomes their efforts.
However, he warned his fellow American that there’s much more to the challenge of the Old Course than length alone.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how they play the course,” said Watson. “I mean, look at how John Daly played it when he played in the playoff there [in 1995]. He hit driver to 16 and took the bunkers out of play. He just bombed it over those bunkers into the rough.
“If the R&A is smart, they’ll make rough really deep to the left over those bunkers, forcing the players to lay up short and hit the proper shot into that hole. I think they can do that with the set-up.”
He added: “Holes like number nine and number ten, sure, they’ll drive those holes but people love to see that. I love to see that, you love to see that. It’s wonderful to see these players hit the ball so far. But they still have to perform, they still have to putt, they still have to chip, they have to keep those long drives from going into the ‘landmines’, as I call them, those bunkers. They have to play their way around there and play smart no matter how far they hit it.
“You can drive nine, ten and 12. If you catch it downwind at 16 you can probably drive it there.
“The R&A want it fiery. They want it hard and fast. Two St Andrews Opens ago, I remember the greens were slower than the fairways on the Stimpmeter – literally! The long hitters can certainly take a shot at it but you better stay out of those bunkers. I imagine the R&A will put rough where the rough needs to be.”
Earlier today, the R&A announced that tickets for the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews will be distributed by a ballot. More information on that is available here.
The bunkered Golf Course Guide - Scotland
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