It’s not become a pussycat, by any manner of means, but, according to Rory McIlroy, Carnoustie has lost some of his teeth due to gorse bushes being removed for last year’s Open Championship at the Angus venue.
Mainly due to straying out of bounds from the tee at Hogan’s Alley and running up a double-bogey 7, McIlroy had to settle for a two-under-par 70 in his opening round there in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. However, Matthew Southgate was bogey-free as he carded a seven-under 65, while course-record holder Tommy Fleetwood and two-time winner Tyrrell Hatton both signed for 66s on a day when the scoring overall at Carnoustie was better than in the past in this event.
“They have taken a lot of the gorse bushes out where you really had to think about some tee shots, even when I first started to play here,” observed McIlroy, who made his Open Championship debut on the course in 2007, winning the Silver Medal.
“Now, with trying to accommodate a lot of spectators for The Open, they have taken a lot of the gorse out, which makes a lot of the tee shots easier. I think that’s probably why you’re seeing a few lower scores around Carnoustie than you’re used to seeing.”
McIlroy, who has finished second on three occasions in this event, was three-under for his round after starting at the 10th when his tee shot at the sixth strayed out of bounds by a matter of inches. “Not ideal,” said the world No 2 of that setback. “It was just a little bit left. But it was nice to birdie the last.”
Helped by the fact his dad, Gerry, outscored him by five shots, Team McIlroy sit on seven-under, five shots off the lead. “It actually turned out to be a decent day,” said Rory, who now moves on to Kingsbarns for his second circuit.
Southgate is a Carnoustie member, having received that as a present on his 16th birthday from his dad Ian, who fell in love with the place through playing in an amateur event, the Craw’s Nest Tassie.
“It’s a dream come true really for me,” said the 30-year-old of a start that included an eagle and five birdies. “I’ve waited a long time to go down that last hole with that feeling. A really, really special day for me.”