|The 147th Open Championship|
|Venue: Carnoustie, Scotland Dates: 19-22 July|
|Coverage: Live across BBC Radio, highlights on BBC TV and online, live text commentaries on BBC website.|
Carnoustie. Wrecker of dreams. Jean van de Velde. The most famous of Open Championship meltdowns.
The images are as fresh today as if they happened yesterday. Van de Velde, socks and shoes off, wading into Barry Burn. A three-shot lead and the Claret Jug slipping away at the last.
But the Frenchman, who signed for a seven on the par-four 18th, was not the only player chewed up by ‘Car-nasty’ in 1999.
Teenage tears flowed on day one for a Spaniard who walked off the course with an 89. An 18-over-par 89, the consoling shoulder of his mother absorbing the anguish.
That 19-year-old was Sergio Garcia. He had won the Irish Open two weeks before. The new Seve? Not quite.
Garcia returned in 2007, demons banished. He opened with a six-under 65 and led from start almost to finish.
He needed one final par to break his major duck but an eight-foot putt lipped out and for a third straight Open at Carnoustie, it was a play-off. American great Tom Watson had won his first major there in a 1975 play-off; Scotland’s Paul Lawrie benefited in 1999; this time it was Ireland’s Padraig Harrington.
What makes Carnoustie Car-nasty?
Clearly, the weather can play its part. But then it can do that at all seaside courses.
Taking that out of the equation, at 7,400 yards Carnoustie is the longest course on the Open rota, but what really sets it apart is Barry Burn, Island and Home – the final three holes – widely regarded as the toughest finish in championship golf.
Record 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus said in 2007: “I’ve always regarded Carnoustie as the hardest of all the championship venues.
“It’s got all the features you would want, including a few blind shots. It’s what you would expect from Scottish golf.”
Five-time Open champion Watson called the 248-yard 16th “the hardest par three in the world”.
It’s called Barry Burn, after the stream that meanders across it, and several other holes, and the American failed to par it in five attempts (including the 18-hole play-off). “Couldn’t lick it. Tried, but couldn’t lick it,” he conceded.
The Barry Burn also features heavily on the 17th. Island is so named because the drive has to find a landing area almost completely surrounded by water.
Three-time Open champion Tiger Woods called the hole “a little weird”; 2011 winner Darren Clarke opts for “weird and wonderful”.
And so to Home. A 499-yard par four. The burn crosses the hole three times, including just in front of the green. With a helping wind, a drive and a pitch is enough. Into the wind, it’s a daunting prospect.
Rampaging Irishman Harrington arrived on the 18th tee in 2007 with a one-shot lead after starting the day six behind Garcia. He hit two into the burn and walked off with a six – albeit after a terrific chip and putt.
“Out of bounds left off the tee, water left, water right, water short, bunkers straight in front of you,” he told BBC Sport. “All the complications off the tee that you can possibly think of.
“The second shot, you can hit the green and go out of bounds. We’ve seen that many times. It’s the most difficult closing hole in major championship golf and probably in world golf.”
Playing tough since 1931
Those final three holes have been troubling players since Carnoustie, located just north of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland, hosted its first Open Championship in 1931.
Eventual winner Tommy Armour, a Scottish-born American, said he had “never lived through such an hour” after local favourite Mac Smith and Argentina’s Jose Jurado fell apart.
Smith just needed to par his way in from 16 to win. A double bogey on 16 and another double on 17 ended his hopes.
Jurado also dropped two shots on the 17th and, in an era when scoreboards were not visible around the course, played it safe on the 18th, thinking he could bogey the hole and still get in a play-off.
“For maybe 20 years I thought about it constantly,” said Jurado long after two-putting for a bogey and handing victory to the American.
When The Open returned in 1937, England’s Henry Cotton played what is considered the round of his life in torrential rain to post a final-day 71 and win by two shots.
There is grainy footage of him putting between puddles on greens that would be deemed unplayable today.
It’s not always carnage at Carnoustie
This, the 147th Open, will be the eighth staging of golf’s oldest major at Carnoustie.
In 1953, American Ben Hogan arrived in Angus having already won the Masters and US Open. After opening with a one-over 73, he improved his score each day, finishing with a 68 and six-under total to win by four shots – the last of his nine majors.
He played with such precision that the sixth – ‘Long’, a 567-yard par five – was renamed Hogan’s Alley after he threaded his tee shot down the left side of the fairway, between bunkers and out of bounds, in each round to give himself a better angle of approach to the green.
It was Hogan’s one and only Open appearance, at the age of 40, and just four years after a near-fatal car crash threatened to halt his career. His record of winning the first three majors of the year has never been matched. He was prevented from attempting to win the final leg of the Grand Slam because the US PGA Championship was held at the same time as the Open.
Gary Player won the only other Open at Carnoustie. He played one of the best shots of his illustrious career on the par-five 14th, drilling a three-wood into the teeth of a gale to two feet to set up an eagle three.
That helped the South African catch and pass American Billy Casper, who had a six on that hole, named Spectacles because of the two bunkers that protect the green.
Harrington also eagled the 14th on his way to beating Garcia in 2007, a fortuitous hop out of the rough helping his ball finish on the green.
That eagle undid the damage of his double bogey on the last – a double bogey that Harrington later said could have sent his career “into reverse”.
Carnoustie. Maker of dreams.