Jul 17 2009 by Mike Wilson
THE waiting is finally over. And on Sunday evening, Turnberry will crown its first Open champion in 15 years.
Who’ll follow in the footsteps of Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price, winners in 1977, 1986 and 1994?
If you know the answer to that one, head to the bookies NOW and make yourself a fortune. Because the 138th Open has never been more wide open.
Veteran Turnberry stalwart and Girvan club secretary Bill Tait revealed how some regulars have been aiming for the sand as they negotiate the tough Ailsa links.
For they find it easier to play from the bunkers than hack their way through the tough rough that envelops one of the hardest courses anywhere.
Retired banker Bill reveals: “In a recent members’ competition a total of 480 balls were lost – and four of them were mine. Landing in the rough was a nightmare – you couldn’t find your ball and if you could, it took you two or three shots to do so.
“I found myself actually aiming for the bunkers as it was far easier to play from the sand. However, the top players won’t get it so tough.
“The rough will be trampled down by the crowds and there will be plenty of ball spotters to assist them.”
Bill hopes the course won’t be made too tough to the detriment of players who play it every week. He said: “I wouldn’t like to see a course being destroyed every 15 years just to host The Open.
“At the moment, it’s playing very dry but they have been watering like mad. Everything is brown down here except the Ailsa course which is very green.
“I would love to see Padraig Harrington do it again but for me Masters champion Angel Cabrera will do well. Graham McDowell is also a good tip.”
The Ailsa course has undergone significant enhancements to ensure it is ready to face the challenge of the world’s top stars.
It has increased in length to 7,224 yards (from 6,957 yards for The Open Championship in 1994).
The new layout features six new championship tees and 21 new bunkers bringing the total number of bunkers to 85. Par for the course will remain at 70. The 16th hole has also been spectacularly remodelled to create a longer 458 yard, par four dog leg, approaching the existing 16th green from a different and more difficult angle.
The 10th hole also features a stunning new championship tee on a steep crag of rock close to the lighthouse and Bruce’s Castle with a 220 yard carry to the fairway driving straight over Bruce’s cave.
David Spencer, CEO-Golf for Leisurecorp, the owners of Turnberry, said: “We are determined that the venue will stand tall with pride, taking its rightful place as one of the top golf courses in the world.”