1st, 447 yards, par 4
The opening tee shot has a bit of scare factor to it – and rightly so as this is The Open, after all. You do not see much of the fairway from the tee – just a narrow strip down there in the distance with heavy rough either side. That first tee shot is always going to get your attention.
2nd, 364 yards, par 4
When I came here six weeks ago, the course was still quite soft and I’d planned on taking a driver off the tee here to try to get it well down there to try to leave a pitch and run into the green. But, given how hard it has become, that may not now be the case. Whatever I take, trying to avoid the bunkers on the right will be a priority.
3rd, 377 yards, par 4
This is one of the holes here you are looking to make a birdie. I’ll probably be taking an iron off the tee, maybe a fairway wood, depending on the wind. Depending on the hole location, the green here is pretty straightforward so, after a tough opening hole, the second, here and the fifth are holes you are looking to birdie to get on it early and feel as though you are going to have a good round.
4th, 226 yards, par 3
It’s a hole where you want to make a par and then get out of there. Depending on where they put the tees, it’s going to be tough to get it on there as you can’t land it on the green and expect to see it stay there. If the wind is into you, you could be hitting a 2-iron and just hoping to get it up there but, if it’s downwind, it will be a 7-iron. Either way, I’ll settle for being close to the green.
5th, 559 yards, par 5
In the practice round on Monday, when it was blowing straight downwind, I hit 2-iron about 330 yards then 6-iron on to the green. But, on Tuesday, when it wasn’t quite as windy, it was a 3-wood and 5-iron. It is a hole you can hit a driver and keep it up the right then have a mid-iron in and is definitely one you’re looking to birdie, especially when wind is coming from the west.
6th, 461 yards, par 4
A dogleg to the left and the wind direction will dictate the choice of club off the tee. If you hit an iron around 250-260 yards there’s a slope that carries everything towards the left half of the fairway, where you can bring a little wall into play if you go too far left. But, if the wind is behind, you could go with a driver and be left with just a wedge or sand wedge.
7th, 184 yards, par 3
It has been playing into the wind in the practice rounds and it’s a strong par 3. You’ve got a grandstand on the right side of the green so that’s not going to block the wind if it’s into your face. It’s been playing quite long and I’ve been hitting 3 and 4-irons so far this week. The front part of the green is very steep and there are three bunkers protecting the front left side and some heavy rough on the right. If they could give me four 3s right now, I’d take them.
8th, 441 yards, par 4
If the wind is behind, as it has been so far this week, I’ll be taking a 4 or 5-iron off the tee here and will be trying to get it down the left-hand side, away from those bunkers on the right, to leave an 8 or 9-iron into the green. I can’t see myself being too aggressive or taking any risk on this hole as you could easily find the rough on the left. This hole is definitely about putting it in the right position on the fairway.
9th, 554 yards, par 5
It all depends on the wind obviously, but you certainly want to lay up short of the cross bunker on the left. From there, you should be able to reach the green in two unless the wind is absolutely pumping into your face. It could be anything from 2-iron or driver off the tee and, although there’s the out of bounds wall on the left, you definitely need to be on the left of the fairway to get the best line into the green and avoid the bunkers 30-40 yards short of that on the right.
10th, 469 yards, par 4
The wind here is generally down off the left and there are three bunkers that are all in play depending on what you take off the tee. For me it is simple – it is driver all day long. That’s probably the strongest part of my game. For the second shot, you’re going to have to be careful as the green slopes away to the left, especially if you are playing a bounce and run. It’s a birdie chance if you get tee shot away. If not, it could be a bogey hole.
11th, 387 yards, par 4
In the wind we’ve had so far this week, it hasn’t been playing too difficult, but, as I know from when I won the Amateur Championship here in 1998, it becomes a totally different challenge when the wind is straight into your face. The last couple of days I’ve hit a 3-iron, then a wedge or sand wedge. It is a birdie chance.
12th, 379 yards, par 4
I only played this hole for the first time on Tuesday, when the wind was coming in off the right. I hit a 2-iron towards the right-edge of the trap on the left, which is a good target. I’ll be trying to go into the green on the left side as well and try to let it feed down from there to the flatter part of the green.
13th, 190 yards, par 4
It’s a tough short hole as there aren’t many places to miss it without being punished. There’s a false front so, if you come up short, it’s going to roll back 40 yards. It’s a narrow green that slopes in from both sides. I’ve hit a 4-iron into the wind and 7 or 8-iron downwind. It probably has the steepest bunkers on the course surrounding the green, the one where Ernie Els produced his great escape in 2002. What I find is that you’ve almost got to be lucky to get a lie in the middle of these bunkers.
14th, 475 yards, par 4
I don’t think there’s much strategy to this hole other than needing to hit a solid drive into the fairway. Depending on the wind, you could have as little as a 6 or 7-iron or as much as a 3-iron, as I did into the wind yesterday. It’s the start of two stout back-to-back holes. It’s one of the few that I think will demand you to drive the ball and it’s too long and too difficult to be a good birdie chance into the wind.
15th, 448 yards, par 4
You’ve got a lot of options off the tee here, with the challenge to avoid some well-placed fairway bunkers. Depending on the wind, I’ll probably be hitting anything from driver to 5-wood. The green has a lot of slope in it and it’s another of the par-4s where a par is a good score.
16th, 186 yards, par 3
So far this week it’s been playing a 7 or 8-iron downwind, but it’s a tricky little hole. It’s a classic case of hitting the middle of the green. As soon as you get a little bit cute here you’ll walk off with more than 3, as Ernie Els did when he made a double-bogey after going left when he won here in 2002. It comes at a crucial time in the round and it’s easy to stand on the tee with an 8-iron in your hand feeling confident you can make 2 but walk off with a 4.
17th, 575 yards, par 5
It is imperative here to steer clear of the group of bunkers up the left side as they’re full of trouble but you also don’t want to go too far right as the rough is quite thick over there. In a 10mph downwind yesterday, I was able to get home with a 3-iron from 240 yards thanks to the bouncy conditions. In that wind, it’s definitely a birdie chance.
18th, 470 yards, par 4
Sir Nick Faldo
A special hole for me after I came here in both 1987 and 1992 needing two pars to win and managed it both times. First and foremost, my strategy will be trying to hit the fairway. On Monday, it was a strong right to left wind and if stays the same, I’ll probably hit a 3-wood off the tee then a mid-iron on to the green. It’s not a birdie hole – make par and you’ll be very happy.