Sam Burns, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland, Marc Leishman and three-time Open champion Tiger Woods will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
The 21st-century phrasing is that big players make big plays in big games, while the timeless version is that St. Andrews always crowns a worthy champion. However, that’s not intended as obvious rhetoric concerning the best player of the week; rather, that’s a reference supporting that the winner is of a class worthy of prevailing at St. Andrews.
It normally does not work that way, but this is St. Andrews, this is The Open and this is its sesquicentennial staging. That, laddies, is permanent class.
St. Andrews last hosted in 2015. Of that field, 45 of this week’s gathering of 156 qualified again, including 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia who is in his final appearance as a former winner.
The out-and-back routing of the links is the same, albeit 16 yards longer than when it last hosted in 2015. At 7,313 yards, the par 72 technically is the longest it’s played in its history. The qualifying component is that dry conditions in advance and throughout the tournament will allow tournament officials to stretch as long as they want. They never do, of course, but the elements are cooperating for the possibility.
All things considered, which allows for customary breezes along the sea in Scotland, conditions will be docile for both sides of the draw in both of the first two rounds. When winds freshen up on Saturday, the most experienced, mature and grizzled among the low 70 and ties after 36 holes should emerges as the strongest contenders to be etched onto the Claret Jug. Sunday promises – can you use that term to describe the weather here? – to be spectacular, if not perfect. With hole locations then rising into primary position to protect scoring, those who have been here before should generate the most roars.
With 112 bunkers, which featured less sand to elevate the magnitude of what were already genuine hazards, job one is to avoid them. Because of the expanse, hitting fairways and greens is all but a constant across the field, but knowing where to miss is key. Course management rules the day. Unlike a stock par 72, St. Andrews has only two par 3s and two par 5s.
There is merit to the narrative of this being a putting contest, but it should be framed in the context of where first putts are struck. With undulations eliminating thoughts of long-range conversions on hundreds of thousands of square feet of putting surfaces, but with considerable space to find level ground, second shots at the targets are the premium.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings (The Open Championship)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Barracuda Championship), Sleepers (The Open Championship), Draws & Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ‘Em Preview
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.