Sports Pulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Steve DiMeglio discusses the upcoming tournament and why it will present many obstacles for the golfers.
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Tiger Woods might use his driver one or two times per round this week in the 147th British Open. Or not at all.
Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm said they’re going to use driver as much as possible.
So goes the puzzle at Carnoustie, long considered the most difficult course in the Open rotation, its collection of pot bunkers, gorse, length and the Barry Burn that comes into play on six holes creating historical havoc.
Now add a dry, warm summer and the riddle has changed, what with the fairways being brown and brick-hard and the rough on the thin side.
Players got a sense of how firm the fairways were when Padraig Harrington used driver on the 18th hole in a practice round last weekend and reached the Barry Burn — 457 yards away. The same day, Brandt Snedeker topped 400 yards with his driver on the 18th.
On Sunday, Woods played the hole a tad more conservatively, electing to hit 3-iron off the tee. The ball rolled to a stop 333 yards away. Two days later, Justin Thomas it 5-iron off the 18th tee — and it stopped 305 yards away.
Thus, it remains to be seen how many drivers will be seen.
“Well, there’s not a lot of opportunities to hit the driver just because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards. It’s just hard to keep the ball in play,” said Woods, who famously used his driver just once in the entire tournament in 2006 when he won the Open at Hoylake when conditions were similar.
“Even hitting sometimes 4- and 5-irons, they’ve been running 50, 60 yards. It’s going to be an interesting test to see which clubs we’re going to be using off the tees.”
After playing a practice round together Monday, McIlroy and Rahm said they’ll be using driver quite often.
“There isn’t much rough and I think if you are someone like Jon or myself who can fly it over 300 yards, you are basically taking all the trouble out of play on a lot of holes,” McIlroy told reporters.
“I think you will see guys get very aggressive off the tee. Obviously, you have to pick your points where you are not going to be as aggressive. But for the most part, if you can get it down there and get a wedge in your hand it is going to be a big advantage.”