will be as crucial as the stimpmeter. Club members are so concerned about the
weather that they employed an actuary to show that there is only a 10% chance
of four straight dry days in July. A score of level par might win the claret
jug if the wind howls and the rain goes sideways as it did on Friday in '67,
when a lightning bolt struck the 5th-hole flagstick and zapped a star-shaped
tattoo around the cup. "You hope for some help from nature," says Royal
Liverpool officer Graham Brown, longtime holder of the club's amateur record.
"If the wind blows, par's not a bad score. With normal weather we'd expect
the winner to be at 10 or 12 under. And if it's flat calm, the professionals
will take the course apart. But we will not do what they do at the USGA.
They've got this thing about 70. All we want is a good event."
Royal Liverpool is a gamble, and you can bet there'll be a backlash if the 2006
Open fizzles. As one English golfer blogged, "If you like tradition and
looking at big shiny cups in display cases, then you will like this course.
Apart from that it is very flat and boring." There are also doubters in
Scotland, where some who know Royal Liverpool are quick to dismiss it as
"the weakest course in the rota." But then it's not officially back in
the rota, not yet. The R&A plays its cards close to the waistcoat on such
matters, reserving judgment. Still, the locals think it's a done deal. "It
would take a monumental cock-up for this to be a one-off," says
Championship Committee member Brown. He and other Hoylake golfers expect to
host the Open every 10 years from now on, and what's more, they expect to
deserve it. The par-5s may be pushovers for today's pros, but Royal Liverpool's
four trickily bunkered par-3s, ranging from 159 to 200 yards, are no tea party.
Such demanding par-4s as the 3rd (iron off the tee, O.B. on the right) and the
12th (cambered fairway, fallaway green) present what Brown calls "stiff
Hoylake has its
own answers to the postcard images at other Open venues. St. Andrews has the
spires of the Auld Grey Town. Troon has the Isle of Arran. Hoylake has Hilbre,
an island you can walk to at low tide. Just don't wade out: The tide is fierce,
and so are the jumbo jellyfish. Seals frolic on the rocks near the wreck of the
steamship Nestos, which ran aground in 1941. Hoylake's scenery can even top
those nuclear reactor towers at Royal St. Georges; several miles off the coast
is a clutch of gigantic, eco-friendly windmills. Those towering, three-bladed
constructions spin lazily most of the time, but they whir when the offshore
breeze sweeps toward the old links.
blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions." The Times of
London golf correspondent Bernard Darwin, grandson of Charles, wrote that line
when the course was among the most famous in golf. Now what's old is new again,
at least to most Americans. There are no sure bets, given Hoylake's oft-wild
weather and the oft-wild drivers of Tiger and Phil, but the 135th Open
Championship is sure to be a bigger spectacle than the 96th. In '67 only 29,880
paying customers attended the Open; this year there'll be 9,000 a day in the
stadium seats around the final green. As the World Cup proved, that many sporty
Brits can make a mighty noise.
they're in for a treat. "I expect the contenders will plot their way
around, flipping irons off the tees," he says. "And then, if it's close
at the end, they will take the big stick and go for it." If it's glory or
disaster you're after, you've come to the right place.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Land of Lake
Lengthened by 263
yards since 1967, Royal Liverpool presents tantalizing
possibilities--particularly at 18.