Monday, July 19, 2010

How to play the Road Hole, Then and Now

During the 150th playing of the Open Championship, Lee Westwood was rightfully lauded for his magnificent play at the 17th hole. During one round, his approach shot landed just short of the Road Hole bunker leaving, what looked to be, an impossible up-and-down. Playing over the hazard onto the narrow green and at the flagstick was too risky. The only sensible alternative seemed to be to pitch away from the hole, leaving a putt of at least 25 feet. Westwood, though, pulled out his putter and ran the ball around the Road Hole bunker and onto the green. Leaving himself a makeable putt for par, which he sank. The scenario is nearly identical to the one that Alister MacKenzie detailed in his book, The Spirit of St. Andrews, published in 1934.

"I remember shortly after the war, watching the contestants in the Open Championship or some other important competition playing the seventeenth at St. Andrews. One of the the competitors had pulled his second shot wide of the the road bunker: I said to a friend who was with me, 'Here comes an American. Watch him pitch over the Road bunker and land in the road beyond.' Instead of doing so, the played at a little hillock, only three feet across, to the right of the road bunker, and his ball curved in a complete semicircle and lay dead at the pin.

"I said to my friend, 'That is the best player I have ever seen. Let's follow him to the clubhouse and find out what his names is.' We did follow him and we found his name was Walter Hagen."

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