Carnoustie a lot different than in 1999

The site of this week’s British Open has wider fairways and little rough.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Tiger Woods hit putts with one hand and held his yardage book with the other, studying Carnoustie as if he were seeing this links course for the first time in his life.

Considering what happened last time the British Open came here, it all looked so new.

Gone was the rough, so thick at its foundation that it was difficult to see the golf ball, much less hit it. The fairways were far more generous, nothing like Kapalua or a resort course, but certainly wider than the country lane that players faced in 1999.

Woods said it brought back memories of his first trip to Carnoustie — not 1999 in the British Open, but 1995 and 1996, when he played the Scottish Open at Carnoustie for his first taste of links golf.

“It looks really nice, really fair,” Woods said.

Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson, who regretted how players lambasted the setup in ’99, was among those to greet Woods when he finished his practice round. The conversation was private, but Dawson appeared to be pleased by what he heard.

Complaints still come

It can’t be considered a major without complaints, and certainly there was griping on a sunny, lazy afternoon along the North Sea.

“A bit too easy,” David Frost said.

Frost played in the second-to-last group in the final round eight years ago, despite opening with an 80. He wound up in a tie for seventh, finishing at 10-over 294. He was among the few who found no problem with the tight fairways and heavy rough.

He took far greater issue with a course where he could see his ball off the fairway even as he stood on the tee.

“I think the fairways are very wide and there’s no rough,” Frost said. “So, it’s a little bit of a total opposite to what it was in ’99.”

Most players would celebrate this change.

“No, it’s too lenient,” Frost said. “I just think it should have been tighter.”

Van de Velde catastrophe

It’s probably a good thing Jean Van de Velde isn’t around this week to see Carnoustie or he might really be haunted by throwing away the British Open. With a mixture of bad decisions and bad luck, he took triple bogey on the final hole to fall into a three-man playoff that was won by Paul Lawrie.

It is difficult now to reconstruct the sad sequence that cost Van de Velde the claret jug.

His second shot caromed off the bleachers, back across Barry Burn and into rough so deep that the best he could do was chop it into the 6-foot wide burn. He took a drop in grass so mangled that he only managed to get it over the stream and into a bunker.

That would not have happened this week, because there’s so such thing as mangled rough right of the 18th fairway, or hardly anywhere else at Carnoustie. In fact, the area in front of the burn is mown closely, not like the front of ponds at Augusta National, but close.

But it is noticeable only by those who were here in 1999.

Not like he remembers

Steve Stricker had the one of the 102 rounds in the 80s eight years ago, missing the cut. He played Sunday with Jerry Kelly, his pal from junior golf in Wisconsin, and was asked if Carnoustie looked familiar.

“Yeah, it does,” he said. “Except for the rough and the width of the fairways.”

He remembers narrow fairways that were 20 yards wide, and only a dozen paces between rough lines on some holes.

“The rough was very thick. You were having a hard time getting it to the green,” Stricker said. “Now, the rough is not bad at all. You can actually aim at the rough on some of the holes.”

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