The 150th Open: Taking In Eden Corner
A Friday visit to the Old Courses influential 11th and 12th holes saw players still challenged by the architecture.
Fine subscribers: forgive the lack of a full roundup tonight in lieu of a different take from St Andrews. But know this: even with just one forgettable Links trophy visit on his results page, Cameron Smith has taken to the Old Course. The Australian leads The 150th Open by two strokes at 13-under-par (67-64).
First round leader Cameron Young followed up his 64 with a nice 3-under-par 69. The two Cameron’s will tee off at 3:55 p.m. BST Saturday in what is shaping up to be a fantastic weekend shootout.
Rory McIlroy made a big-time Road hole birdie en route to a 68 after his first round 66. He’s three back of the Cameron’s, as is Viktor Hovland after a 66.
Tiger Woods stunk up the place with a +9 performance that ended with a stunning scene at 18. Will it be the last time? I doubt it.
Playing (And Pouting) At Eden Corner
The Road hole earns the rubber neck prize thanks to its car wreck qualities. But for a better balance of risk, reward, skill, patience and class, the High and the Heathery (In) have inspired more copies and off-shoots in golf architecture. They’ve also done their fair share of scorecard damage for over 150 years.
I ventured out during Friday’s second round to see how the 11th (High) and the 12 (Heathery) were doing. Little did I know I was stepping into an Old Course version of Amen Corner, minus azaleas and $30 million of acquired property. But because of the Friday setup, players briefly left the huge crowd support and braved these two gems. While they are big boys who experience a similar departure from the comforting warmth of patrons at Augusta National’s 12th and 13th, it’s bizarre to get so little fan feedback even at the Old Course where spectators are often far back.
The 11th, often labeled the Eden by architecture geeks because it sounds better than High, has famously been re-created by C.B. Macdonald in a few American courses of note. Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie used the Eden’s general green shape and bunkering placement for Augusta National’s 4th. And that was no token tribute to the hole just because Jones lost his mind in 1921 and stormed off after not escaping the Hill bunker left. They built the green in Augusta with a monster false front like the 11th here, and with bunkers left and right mimicking the shape here.
One key difference: like most of the great one-shotters, this par-3 plays slightly uphill like most of the greats do. The 4th at Augusta National plays downhill.
Alec Bauer’s depiction of the High hole many years ago in his book Hazards remains accurate other than the weird circle depicted:
The 12th is the most influential short par-4 in golf. The recent fascination with drivable holes can largely be attributed to this straightaway hole. Just about every architect of the last 100 years has been enamored with the options it presents, but few have tried to mimic it because the 12th is hardly sexy in appearance. There are bunkers littered randomly, the gorse has been allowed to suffocate it a bit too much, and the green is not bunkered.
Yet modern-players-turned designers like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both pinpointed the Heathery as the hole expanding their minds to architecture’s possibilities. Each started selling clients on the need for short par-4’s—especially Weiskopf when working with Jay Morrish—and Heathery directly inspired one of the very best in tournament golf: the 17th at TPC Scottsdale.
The 2022 yardage book depiction:
Everything that has made both holes so grand through the decades was on display with Friday’s brutal far-left hole locations:
The 174-yard 11th is brutal a wake-up call after the gentle 9th and 10th holes, playing as the 4th toughest hole in round one (3.308) and 3rd toughest in round two (3.237).
With the Eden’s far left cup location, players in the 150th faced a totally different look after Thursday when the shot played more to the right over the Strath bunker on the left. But as usual, the best play is to the center between the Hill and Strath, taking two putts and moving right along.
🚨🚨🚨 Random interruption: According to the beautiful new book, The Golfing Strath Family of St Andrews by David Malcolm and Noel Terry, the Strath name is one of the oldest here and a tribute to a family vital to St Andrews that died too young to take on the Morris name stature: