Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports columns

July 17, 2012

Bishop: Royal Lytham presents a formidable challenge

Bunker-heavy course awaits British Open players

The Open Championship is this week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. This will be the 11th time the British Open has been played here dating back to 1926. The course is known for its bunkering — 206 in all.

Some call Lytham the toughest of all the Open courses. The course is narrow, with small greens, small targets and it has very penal bunkers. Bobby Jones won here in 1926. Bobby Locke followed in 1952. Then it was Peter Thomson in 1958 and Bob Charles in 1963. Tony Jacklin won in 1969, Gary Player in 1974 and Seve Ballesteros took home the Claret Jug in 1979 and ’88. Americans Tom Lehman (1996) and David Duval (2001) were the last two winners at Royal Lytham.

“It’s really a punishing course. The ball is going to bounce and you have to anticipate that and judge it,” says Thomson, the ’58 champ. “I put it at the top of the list. In every way it’s a championship course. It will bring out the best player without a doubt.”

The front nine is unusual in that it has three par 3s, including the first hole. The front nine runs mostly northwest to southeast, the same direction as the prevailing wind. Traditionally, Open competitors have made their best scores on the opening nine. In fact, the front nine at Lytham has conceded more sub-30 scores (five) than any other nine on the British Open rotation.

As easy as the front nine can be, the back nine is brutally tough. The final six holes are all par fours and they are heavily bunkered and normally play into the teeth of the wind. Shots finding the sand will no doubt result in bogeys or double bogeys. Many think that Lytham’s finishing holes are the toughest in all of golf.

Lytham has produced an impressive list of global champions. There is not a single fluke among its winners. Tom Lehman was ranked 13th in the world when he won here and that is the highest ranked player to win at Lytham. Jack Nicklaus played here six times and never won.

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