Royal Liverpool, steeped in over a century of golf history, once again hosts The Open Championship. However, this year, all eyes are on a newly crafted par 3 that promises to infuse the final stretch on Sunday with heightened drama.
Unlike traditional links courses, the 17th hole at Royal Liverpool was not forged by nature but rather bulldozed into place. Spanning a mere 136 yards, this seemingly innocent distance belies the true challenge that awaits golfers. The green is fiercely guarded by slopes and bunkers, offering opportunities for both remarkable birdies and disastrous high scores.
Renowned golfers, including former Open champion Zach Johnson, have experienced the treacherous nature of this new addition during practice rounds. Balls dropped at the edge of the green consistently rolled back into the deep bunker on the right, adding to the hole's mystique and challenge.
The perils surrounding the green are aplenty. From the steep fallout at the entrance to the tall fescue and waste areas flanking the front and back, to the bunkers on the left and right—especially one that lies approximately 10 feet below the putting surface—the "Little Eye" poses an unyielding test of skill and precision.
Jon Rahm aptly described the hole as a "really difficult turtle shell par 3." A well-executed shot would reward players with a clear birdie opportunity, while a miss could lead to a frustrating bogey. Such a dynamic creates immense pressure, particularly on championship Sunday, where a one-shot lead could hinge on this pivotal hole.
The R&A, the tournament's organizers, added the 17th hole to enhance the course's drama. It forms part of the formidable final stretch, including the 620-yard par-5 15th, the 461-yard par-4 16th, and the 609-yard par-5 18th. The CEO of R&A, Martin Slumbers, anticipates a captivating showdown as events unfold on Sunday.
The hole's designer, Martin Ebert, emphasizes its departure from the power-centric modern golf era. Instead, the 17th celebrates precision and finesse, demanding the players' utmost concentration and ability to judge the wind accurately.
As practice rounds progress, players have exhibited mixed reactions to this unique challenge. Ebert, however, believes he struck the right balance in terms of difficulty. Anticipating that most golfers of this caliber would find the green, he acknowledges that challenging wind conditions may force some off-course, igniting thrilling moments of drama and potential game-changing turns during The Open.
In conclusion, the new 17th hole at Royal Liverpool has become the center of attention in this year's Open Championship. Its strategic design, demanding precision over power, and the treacherous surroundings make it a true test for even the most skilled golfers. As the tournament progresses, fans can expect to witness moments of both triumph and heartbreak on this captivating and unforgettable hole.