Golf: Open fans enjoy every minute as Lucas Herbert and Matt Fitzpatrick suffer at the controversial 17th hole

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Golf: Open fans enjoy every minute as Lucas Herbert and Matt Fitzpatrick suffer at the controversial 17th hole

  • Lucas Herbert’s round unravelled with a triple bogey on the 17th hole
  • Matt Fitzpatrick made birdie after his caddie Billy Foster called it a ‘monstrosity’
  • Controversial hole will rarely present as amiable a face as it did here in round one

They had filled the grandstands at the 17th hole more than an hour before a ball had even been struck from the tee. Up by the green, as the sunlight danced off the waters of the Dee Estuary behind them, the crowds were three deep behind the ropes.

But they were not there for the view. No, they had come in search of pain, sporting pain.

So when the local boy Matthew Jordan teed up his ball just before 10.45am and lofted a wedge through a soft right-to-left breeze and into the pale blue sky, they held their breath.

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And then it fell to earth and landed like a butterfly with sore feet, about 15 feet from the hole. Perfect, just perfect. For 20 minutes or so, as groups one and two passed through this 136-yard stretch of coastline it was all rather like this. Five pars and one birdie. Where was the jeopardy? Where was the drama?

It was just round the corner, as it happened.

Lucas Herbert's round unravelled with a triple bogey on the 17th hole on Thursday

Lucas Herbert’s round unravelled with a triple bogey on the 17th hole on Thursday

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Lucas Herbert — a 27-year-old Australian — was three under par when he reached the 17th tee. He had enjoyed his stroll around Royal Liverpool. But when his tee shot turned slightly left in flight and rolled off the left edge of the green down into what was to become a popular spot, his round unravelled.

Shot two — a slightly thin chip — rolled across the green, past the flag and into the bunker on the other side. Shot three came back to his feet in the sand.

Shot four did make it out and two putts later he was walking to the final tee with a triple bogey on his card.

Between them, Herbert’s threeball had taken 14 shots. Five over par with wedges in their hands. And blindingly obvious to the players was that the hundreds of spectators who had made the 17th hole their go-to destination yesterday morning had enjoyed every minute of it.

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‘I could have told you there would be carnage,’ said Herbert afterwards.

‘It’s a great hole but I must admit I felt like there were about 5,000 professional golfers sitting around us in the stands watching. It’s not easy.’

Matt Fitzpatrick made birdie after his caddie Billy Foster called the hole a ‘monstrosity’

Matt Fitzpatrick made birdie after his caddie Billy Foster called the hole a ‘monstrosity’

As it happens, this controversial golf hole — only added to Hoylake’s 154-year-old layout a couple of years ago — will rarely present as amiable a face as it did here in round one. The wind was little more than a zephyr, the pin was in the middle of the green.

Both those things are likely to change before the Claret Jug is claimed on Sunday. When the pin is closer to the perimeters of the putting surface, horrors at the front and the back of 17’s tiny cambered green will be in play.

As predicted, the smart miss yesterday was left. Ernie Els found the same spot as Herbert. So did Xander Schauffele, Shane Lowry and Bob MacIntyre. Only Els failed to make an up-and-down par.

The hole was playing marginally above its par as we reached the middle of the afternoon.

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But there were wins to be had. Matt Fitzpatrick made birdie just days after his caddie Billy Foster called the hole a ‘monstrosity’. Rickie Fowler did likewise while Henrik Stenson was only a couple of rolls short of a hole in one. And all the while the crowd here was transfixed by a classic links hole, one where the line between success and damaging failure is devastatingly narrow.

Local boy Matthew Jordan held his nerve to hit a wedge to about 15 feet from the hole

Local boy Matthew Jordan held his nerve to hit a wedge to about 15 feet from the hole

It is rare to hear mistakes cheered at the Open. That tends to be a Ryder Cup thing. But this was different. Weekend hackers of all description had come to see grown men suffer just like they do.

At Hoylake, they are already planning ahead. Conversations are taking place about raising the tee and making the bunker to the right a little easier to navigate. Some members, particularly the ladies, do not always play the hole, preferring instead to go straight from the 16th green to the 18th tee.

That option is not available at the Open.

The 17th hole has been designed this way for a reason. Over the next three days it seems destined to have its say.



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