July 16, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Royal Liverpool in 2006 (left) versus today. (Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, England -- Davis Love III remembers finishing his round at Royal Liverpool in 2006 and going back to his rental house to watch the TV coverage of The Open Championship.
As Tiger Woods doggedly pursued the emotional victory, he only hit one driver -- and made birdie with it -- in 72 holes. Love couldn't believe it. Neither could his buddy Fred Couples.
"Freddy and I were ... watching it, going what is he doing, he's not hitting any drivers," Love recalled recently. "We both ended up missing the cut so we were like maybe we should have put our drivers away, too."
Love says he might have played a round where he hit just one driver -- but never a whole week where the big stick stayed in the bag.
"That just shows his committment to playing the golf course the way it's best suited and sticking with a game plan, and it worked," Love said.
Royal Liverpool was brown and fast in 2006, the product of a dry summer that had officials worried enough that two fire trucks stood ready on the property. Such is not the case this year, though, with green fairways lined by ample amounts of fescue, gorse and heather.
What hasn't changed, though, is the egalitarian nature of Royal Liverpool.
Although it's playing longer than it did eight years ago and the prospect of heavy rain on Saturday could add distance to an already softened landscape, the course doesn't necessarily favor the longer hitters at 7,312 yards. The run-up areas to the greens don't repel shots unfairly and those pot bunkers, which Adam Scott called "instant penalty," will bite everyone equally, as well.
"I don't walk on to this golf course and kind of sigh and say, here we go again, this is 330 paradise," Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, said. "It's not that kind of golf course. It's a placement course, I think.
"Look at the way Tiger won here in 2006. He can dominate with length, but he didn't have to. This golf course doesn't ask that question. It asks you to play a game of chess more than anything."
One thing anyone hoping to win the Claret Jug on Sunday must do is take advantage of Royal Liverpool's par 5s. Woods played them in 14 under in 2006 -- making two eagles and 10 birdies -- and his winning score was four strokes better than his bounty on those holes.
Three of the four par 5s can be found on the homeward nine, which plays to a par of 37. They measure 528, 532, 577 and 551 yards, none of which is outrageously daunting to today's talented pros.
"You can look at them both ways," explained Justin Rose, who won last week's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and the Quicken Loans National in his last two starts. "They can be tough par 4s. Depending on the wind direction, I haven't figured out how they play yet with different winds. If some of them are into the wind, they're legitimate par 5s. If you take care of the par 5s you will do relatively well.
"I thought the par 3s are good golf holes, short- to mid-irons, which I feel like they're really good classic holes. If you take care of those two sets, then you can afford to play the rest of the course relatively conservatively."
McDowell said Royal Liverpool is one of his favorite Open venues because he sees it as being fair.
"I think good shots get rewarded here," he said.