‘I don’t know who annoyed the greenkeeper’ – Open bunkers changed after player complaints

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays into a bunker on the 18th hole during the first round

Rory McIlroy was one of many players surprised by Royal Liverpool’s penalty bunkers – Reuters/Paul Childs

Open organizers took emergency action overnight after the first-round sandstorm as they attempted to repair flat-bottomed bunkers that forced balls to run to the edges of vertical faces.

Greenstaff was deployed to bring the concave floors back to the traps by building up the edges of the bunker, allowing the balls to roll towards the center of the hazards. It was almost an unprecedented act, although the R&A claimed it had not been an unusual setup.

“We would like to inform you of an adjustment we have made to the way bunkers were raked overnight,” a statement read.

“Yesterday afternoon the bunkers dried up more than we have seen in recent weeks and that led to more balls directly to the face than we would normally expect.

“So we raked all the slightly different bunkers to get the sand up a rung on the rivet on the face of the bunkers. We routinely rake flat bunkers at most open sites, but decided this adjustment was appropriate given the drier conditions that occurred yesterday. We will continue to monitor this closely. »

The pros disagreed that it was business as usual. Matthew Jordan, the 27-year-old who grew up playing on the Wirral links, was stunned.

Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot from the bunker on the 18th on day one of the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England

Jordan Spieth sneaks into a bunker on the 18th at Royal Liverpool – Getty Images/Stuart Kerr

Scotland's Connor Syme plays upside down from a bunker on the 15th hole in the first round

Connor Syme had to play out of the bunker upside down on 15 – Reuters/Paul Childs

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his left handed shot from the 18th bunker during a practice round ahead of the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 19, 2023 in Hoylake, England

Rory McIlroy practices a left-handed bunker shot during a practice round ahead of the tough bunker conditions – Getty Images/Richard Heathcote

“I’ve never seen bunkers like this,” he said. “I don’t know who annoyed the greenkeeper, but yeah – they’re so flat and they’re so penalizing. You just can’t hit it in any bunker.

Rory McIlroy left his third shot in the greenside bunker on the 18th after trying to play it aside but had a nice escape for a par, while Phil Mickelson took a bogey triple eight after falling to the sand during the latter par five, while Justin Thomas made a nine.

The biggest casualty was Taichi Kho, who after seven bogeys on the front nine was one under on his back nine heading for the final hole.

Kho left his third in the bunker, then his fourth and turned to hit his fifth. He walked into the rough fescue and from there he fought back into the same bunker. Then his seventh went back into the fescue but from there he found the green and putt twice for a 10.

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