Royal St George’s is toughest open course with a history of surprises

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Royal St George’s is toughest open course with a history of surprises


ishe past few years, Royal St George’s has been a place for the underdogs. The last two Open winners in this windy corner of Kent were Ben Curtis, a 500-1 underdog in 2003 who had never seen a British or Irish course before, and Darren Clarke, who competed in the 2011 edition. ranked 111th in the world but played the golf of his life to finish three ahead of his closest challengers, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

The shocks weren’t limited to the winners here. The 2011 tournament started as surprisingly as it ended, with Tom Lewis leading the field after the first round, becoming the first male amateur to hold at least a share of the 18-hole lead since Michael Bonallack in 1968. , his remarkable 65 lowest ever. score in one round for an amateur at the Open. Lewis, who was paired this Thursday with the eight-time major champion he is named after, Tom Watson, fell in the second round but managed to qualify and took home the silver medal for best amateur.

Royal St George’s is probably the most difficult course offered in the Open rotation. In the 14 championships on the course, all winners beside one (Greg Norman in 1993 over -13) finished with a winning score of five under par or worse. Some of the rolling slopes of the greens and fairways look more like a creation of Zaha Hadid than that of Dr Laidlow Purves in 1887. If you have a fragile stomach you can get a bit seasick, even behind the ropes. .

For the elite golfers of the world, where every metric is analyzed to the nth degree, the number of variables here -om changing weather conditions to blind tee shots, one of which on the 4th hole is over a bunker. 40 foot tall nicknamed “Himalayas” – might seem a bit awkward.

Many drives split the fairway but end up bouncing off a 15-20% slope and into the rough. Bryson DeChambeau is so wary of thick stuff that he even considers taking the irons off the tee. After three days of training, Brooks Koepka just sighed: “It’s not my favorite place, let’s put it that way. “

Darren Clarke celebrates victory in 2011. Photographie : Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

It’s a matter of familiarity. So many British and Irish golfers have grown up playing golf courses. England’s Laird Shepherd, one of eight amateurs this year, is a member of the Rye Golf Club, which borders Camber Sands in East Sussex, and now lives in St Andrews, the birthplace of links golf. While his goals this week boiled down to ‘four rounds of golf’, Royal St George’s should be ‘suitable for a stranger’.

“There’s a lot of luck with the slopes on the greens and fairways,” Shepherd told The Guardian. “It’s hard to know where the ball will end up. Trying to control the ball in the wind is what I’m relatively good at, so I don’t mind if it’s blowing a bit. Amateur guys from the UK have a lot of experience in links golf because that’s what brought us here. This gives us the advantage. “

Shepherd’s comments are a veiled reference to his victory at the British Amateur Championship last month, meaning he qualified not only for this year’s Open, but the US Open of the year as well. next and a probable invitation to the Masters 2022. It is no understatement to call it one of the greatest golfing comebacks on British soil: in a 36-hole match-play final against Monty Scowsill, Shepherd trailed eight strokes after 17 holes but was victorious. Now the 23-year-old is “just trying to take it all”.

“The size of the Open can be overwhelming,” he continues. “I just go to the players’ locker room, see some of the guys I watch on TV. My locker is next to Jordan Spieth’s and we had a good conversation. It’s so cool guys give you the time of day.

Clarke, meanwhile, is also there, returning during his greatest triumph. “At 42, would I have been someone you think had a chance? He said on Wednesday. “All I ever wanted from a young child when I was training was to have my name on the Claret Jug, and I was able to do that here. Victory in 2021 would be even more shocking than a decade ago, but whether it’s Clarke or anyone else, Royal St George’s was built for upheaval.

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