by a Sunday Express Reporter
PAUL LAWRIE blasted Open officials yesterday for making Royal St George’s notorious fourth hole virtually impossible.
The 495-yard hole, with its massive Himalayas bunker and featured in the James Bond film “Goldfinger”, is a fearsome prospect even in decent conditions.
However, yesterday it was such a ferocious test, even from a forward tee, that the first nine players out in the heavy rain and gale force wind were a collective 14 over par.
Lawrie had a triple bogey 7 on his way to an 11 over par 81, and afterwards condemned R&A officials for not putting the tee up another 40 or 50 yards.
“I thought the fourth tee was really poor,” said the 1999 Open champion. “I said to our match referee, Mike Stewart, that they had put the tee up only 20 yards.
“It’s 250 yards into a howling gale and pouring rain. You can’t reach the fairway, so you’re aiming for the left rough.
“I necked my drive it into the Himalayas bunker, but the hole is hard enough without having to aim your drive down the left rough.
“That was the only problem in terms of the course set-up, but they could have put that tee much further up, probably another 50, 60 yards.
“Only five or six players in the field could reach the fairway. I had no chance. The conditions were just brutal.”
Lawrie went through half-a-dozen gloves and four or five towels in the downpour. However, he said he has played in marginally worse conditions.
“I would say Saturday afternoon in 2002 at Muirfield was worse than that, but it was getting to that stage when we finished,” he said.
“But Tom Watson is one under par out there after 10 holes. It’s frightening, just ridiculous!
“I didn’t play very good, but the conditions were awful.”
Horrendous though the weather was, there were people playing the neighbouring Princes and Royal Cinque Port courses.
“As we walked off the 13th green, we saw golfers out for a bounce game at Princes,” said Lawrie, who played alongside 2002 Scottish Youths champion, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy.
“Mad, absolutely mad. “I said to the crowd following us at the 15th, ‘You’re mad, just mental.
“I’m out here, but I’m being paid. You don’t have to be out here’. But it’s part of the game.”
Lawrie has suffered since winning the 1999 Open. He has missed seven cuts, four of them in the last six years.
As here, he had the wrong end of the draw a year ago in terms of weather, a fierce gale leading to a second round 82.
“It was blowing a gale,” he recalled. “That day there were loads in the 80s. I’m sure there will be loads this time in the 80s.
“You want to play well every week, but obviously The Open is special to British players. You want to be at your best, and you get out there and the conditions are just awful.”
Stephen Gallacher fell outside the top 40 with a 77, a reasonable effort as he was three over par after four holes.
“It was just survival,” said Gallacher, who played for the first time with a rain glove. “It was hard to swing properly. You just had to try and get it down the middle.
“It’s the toughest I’ve ever played in, even worse than Carnoustie in 1999. I had to put on another waterproof jacket. The first one was soaked through.
“Stewart Cink and I both ripped our drive at the eighth and it went just 205 yards. It was a short game tournament. I probably would have managed a 73 had I holed a few from 10 feet.”
Courtesy of the Scottish Sunday Express