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Next Major: British Open, July 19-22, Carnoustie Golf Links

June 18, 2007|Daniel Wexler | Special to The Times

Once called "the hardest course in the world" by Gary Player, Carnoustie, the site of next month's 136th British Open, will be host of the championship for the seventh time. Regularly buffeted by winds off the adjacent North Sea, this relatively flat layout features some of the hardest closing holes in golf, as well as famously difficult bunkers described by the late Pat Ward-Thomas as being "placed to threaten the stroke that is slightly less than perfect rather than one that is slightly better than awful." Though the game was played here as early as the 16th century, today's course owes mostly to James Braid's 1926 redesign of an 1857 Old Tom Morris layout. Known more for its challenge than its charm, Carnoustie remains one of the most demanding tournament tests in golf.

Open Champions

Open Champions at Carnoustie, with their winning score:

1931: Tommy Armour (U.S.), 296

1937: Henry Cotton (England), 290

1953: Ben Hogan (U.S.), 282

1968: Gary Player (South Africa), 289

1975: Tom Watson (U.S.), 279

1999: Paul Lawrie (Scotland), 290

Hole No. 2

In a gale of epic proportion, Britain's Henry Cotton jump-started the legendary final-round 71 that won him the 1937 Open Championship on this long, narrow par four. His approach finding casual water on the 60-yard-deep green, Cotton searched for several minutes before finding a suitably dry point from which to play -- then promptly holed his 60-foot birdie putt and never looked back.

Out-of-Bounds Fence

A nightmare for the hooker, Carnoustie's simple, low-slung out-of-bounds fence flanks the northwest corner of the property, guarding the left side of holes six through nine. With the prevailing wind at least quartering toward it, the fence is likely to have a prominent -- if early -- effect on numerous championship rounds.

'Hogan's Alley'

During his march to the 1953 Open Championship, Ben Hogan took the aggressive line at the par-five sixth, daringly rifling four consecutive tee shots between the center-line bunkers and the nearby out-of-bounds fence. Hogan won this, the only British Open he entered, by four shots, and was known as the "Wee Ice Mon" by the golf-crazy Scots forever after. The hole was officially renamed "Hogan's Alley" in his honor in 2004.

'South America'

Playing across the Barry Burn and into the breeze, the 446-yard 10th is known as "South America" in honor of an ancient son of Carnoustie who planned to spread the golfing gospel on that far-off continent. After a long night's going-away revelries, the adventurer was disappointed to awaken the next morning still very much on Scottish soil -- likely face down, and more or less adjacent to this challenging par four.

The Spectacles

Carnoustie's most famous bunkers, the "Spectacles" rise up in the second-shot landing area of the 14th fairway, an into-the-wind par five of 515 yards. This was the scene of one of the Open's greatest deciding shots, in 1968, when Gary Player laced a final-round three-wood across the bunkers to two feet, the ensuing eagle leading him to a two-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus and Bob Charles.

Barry Burn

Winding in and out of the property's eastern half before emptying into the North Sea, the Barry Burn briefly comes into play at the 10th hole before dominating the finishing pair like no other brook in golf.

Well documented as a primary component of play in the mid-1800s, it very likely has been Carnoustie's defining golfing feature since the 1500s.

Hole No. 8

This shortish 183-yard par three is much overlooked among Carnoustie's many longer holes, but its small, tightly bunkered green sits dangerously close to the out-of-bounds fence, with the prevailing wind blowing any weakly struck ball directly toward the boundary.

Hole No. 16

Playing directly into the prevailing breeze, this 245-yarder is one of golf's toughest par threes. Tom Watson was unable to make even a single par here while winning the 1975 Open. Like most holes at Carnoustie, the trouble (in this case five small bunkers) lies short of the green, while the putting surface itself falls off at all sides. A three here Sunday might well win the championship.

Hole No. 17

Stretching nearly 460 yards, this hugely dangerous two-shotter will see most players hit a fairway metal to a twisting fairway nearly surrounded by the burn, though with a strong tailwind, the very longest might attempt to clear the water altogether. In 1931, little-remembered Jose Jurado of Argentina nearly achieved golfing immortality here, leading eventual Open champion Tommy Armour by one before driving into the burn and making a double-bogey.

Hole No. 18

Normally played as a par five, this into-the-wind monster is shortened to a 444-yard two-shotter for the Open, making the carry of the burn (which crosses 25 yards shy of the green) a necessity, not an option.

France's Jean Van de Velde achieved a different kind of immortality by making a legendary seven to squander the 1999 Open here, but America's Johnny Miller has also felt the 18th's wrath, missing the 1975 Tom Watson-Jack Newton playoff after leaving his second in the fairway bunker that now bears his name.

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