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July 18, 2013

Muirfield should present a big challenge

British Open begins today at storied Scottish course

(Continued)

Muirfield cosmetically fits the description of a links course to a T. Its soil is sandy and because of its lack of moisture, the grass tends to have short blades with long roots. The best way to describe its fairways would be like applying a coating of tightly cut grass on top of concrete. Only 92 of the courses in Scotland (17 percent) are true “links” courses.

The grass in Muirfield’s rough is often the wispy long grass which makes play very difficult even in a good lie. This spring was wet in East Lothian and the recent warm temperatures have made the seaside fescue grasses thick and tough to control shots from.

The bunkers at Muirfield will prove to be menacing and players will try to avoid at all costs, particularly in the fairways. Escape from these deep bunkers is only possible if the ball is not close to a sod stacked face. Many times a player will have to hit a shot sideways or even backwards to get the ball out of the bunker.

The locals here are concerned that the dry and fast conditions (referred to as “wee bouncy”) will cause the scoring to be unusually low by Open Championship standards. In all likelihood, the wind will make things interesting and create all of the challenge the players need.

“It only takes about 10 mph of wind around here to make Muirfield challenging,” Sergio Garcia told me Tuesday night.

With the concrete-like ground conditions many players are hitting 5-irons off the tee downwind to 250 yards. Garcia admitted that he “only hit three or four drivers” in his practice rounds. At the same time, he was quick to point out that many of the fairways funnel into the bunkers and even with irons off the tee, bounces can present problems and balls will run out into bunkers.

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