Another 'Carnasty' on the cards, warns Vijay

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ALTHOUGH his opinion was at odds with the views of many of the game's leading players, Vijay Singh, the world No2, yesterday drew an unflattering comparison with the set-up at the Old Course for the 134th Open tomorrow and the controversial staging of the championship at Carnoustie in 1999.

Six years ago Carnoustie was dubbed "Carnasty" by players after a combination of weather and fertilisation increased the severity of the rough to the point where anyone who missed the fairway could barely get the ball back into play.

While Scots remember that championship with some fondness because of Paul Lawrie's success, it was undoubtedly the Open where the Royal and Ancient, the organiser of the championship, let the course get away from it.

According to the Fijian, the Old Course is also in danger of crossing the line between testing and unfair and he fears for the consequences should the weather worsen.

"It's Carnoustie all over again," argued Singh. "I think the course needed changing but I feel they may have overdone it. There are some holes where a yard can make the difference between being unplayable and somewhere you can make birdie. The rough is not very consistent and if the wind blows hard it will get really tough and par could be a good figure." Singh sees the biggest impact made by the five new tees on the fourth and 14th holes. He reckons many will struggle to find the fairway at the fourth while the second shot at the 14th is a "monster". He added: "The course has totally changed. They've given us a chance to take a risk, but it's going to be a shot-maker's tournament."

Tiger Woods, the world No1, was also disturbed by the way the links was presented at Carnoustie but generally feels the R&A does a fine job.

"Excluding that one year at Carnoustie, the R&A set-up is fair," said Woods. "They have to set it up a little bit on the easier side because they don't know what the weather will do. Mother Nature dictates what the winning score will be here. In 2000, the wind didn't blow and I went low. It did blow in 1995 and we didn't go very low. The golf course is quick and it's getting firmer and faster."

Far from fearing a repeat of Carnoustie, Phil Mickelson, the world No4, said that he expected the score to be closer to Tiger's winning tally of 269 in 2000 than the 282 posted by John Daly, the 1995 winner.

"The toughness of this golf course is in the weather," he said. "That's where the greatness lies, because it's designed to play in tough wind and rain. That's when the bunkers, the swales and the hollows come into play."

If the weather stays easy, Mickelson feels the range of winners will extend far beyond the best players in the world and doesn't rule out another surprise winner in the mould of Ben Curtis or Todd Hamilton, champions in 2003 and 2004.

"There's a very good chance that a lot of guys will play well. If the weather stays like this, it will open up the field and more people can win."

Ernie Els, the world No3, feels the R&A along with the Links Trust have restored many of the old challenges.

"It's definitely tougher," said the South African. "They've added length to some of the holes and the rough on the 17th is as high as I've ever seen it. The course is in great condition but if it starts to blow it will be a very, very difficult challenge."