The fairways at Carnoustie are baked to a rich brown, a stark contrast to the deep green of the heavily watered putting surfaces. It’s no exaggeration to say the fairways are actually faster than the greens, and that’s by design. Tournament officials have had to suspend play at the British Open before because balls were blowing off the greens.
So that’s going to make for some interesting club selection this week, with many players opting not to put a driver in their bag and instead adding a one- or two-iron they can keep under the wind.
How crazy is it? Justin Thomas hit a five-iron 305 yards, and Brooks Koepka hit a four-iron 320. Padraig Harrington hit his drive on No. 18 at least 457 yards and into the burn, essentially a moat that separates the fairway and green.
“I think where you really can get in trouble is just pressing out here,” Thomas said. “I’m probably going to hit a lot of irons.”
It could be a problem if any player reaches for his driver, he added, “then you start hitting them into bunkers, gorse bushes, whatever it may be. And you start making more bogeys and double bogeys. And the next thing you know, you turn a one or two over into a five or six over.”
It has been 23 years since a young Tiger Woods played here as an amateur in the Scottish Open, when he got his first taste of golf in this country.
He remembers being on the range and taking aim at the 100-meter sign.
“I was hitting nine-irons and four-irons and five-irons and just having a blast trying to hit the sign,” he said.
“You know, I hadn’t been able to do that before. I’d never played links golf. This was my first time. I remember my dad on the range with me saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100-yard sign?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’
“So I spent probably about close to two hours on the range just hitting balls before I even went and played, because I thought it was just the best, seeing the ball bounce and being creative and using my mind.”
Matt Kuchar won a bronze medal in golf at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, and for a while he or his sons took that hardware every place they went. England’s Justin Rose, who won gold in those Games, understands the feeling.
“I did it for a little while,” he said of toting around the medal. “It was fun for a bit. I got a sense that the boys were getting irritated after two or three months of doing it, and I thought, ‘That’s enough.’