Golf: Open 99: Hell hole to test patience of Jobe

... not to mention Duval, Pate, Parnevik, Price, Park and Steve Watson. The notorious sixth is taking its toll.
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ACCORDING TO the rankings David Duval is the second best golfer in the world and, with the optimism that beats within the heart of every talented sportsman, he had hopes of making inroads on the Open Championship yesterday. He was eight over, but a good round and who knew what might happen?

A birdie at the second reinforced the American's mood. Two more and he would be within sight of the leaders. Four and he would be in among them. Maybe Carnoustie is not the devil's creation after all.

Then he ran into the sixth hole and 578 yards of nature's malevolence. Twenty minutes later his round had been chewed to tatters and his hopes were a miserable pile of dropped shots. Thank you the Marquis de Sade, the Royal and Ancient, the course superintendent and anyone else responsible for laying this minefield in his path.

"It's the one hole that's unfair," Bernhard Langer said. "The lay-up area is 11 yards wide with bumps and humps on it, with rough either side and a ditch on the right. You can argue about some of the other holes, but I think the sixth is over the top."

Just a look from behind the tee confirms why Langer nominated this particular combination of earth and air as the worst of Carnoustie's dirty dozen and a half. Three bunkers lie right ahead like pimples on otherwise pleasant features. You try not to look, but you are aware they are there.

On the left is the out-of-bounds that Ben Hogan is supposed to have flirted with four times in 1953 and emerged unblemished. Hogan's Alley they call it, but such are the myths that surround the great man you are surprised to hear he did not walk on the water in the drainage ditch never mind find the narrow space that bears his name.

Duval assessed the alley and rightly rejected it as a mugger's paradise. Instead he chose an iron for accuracy, went right and was dismayed to find his ball in knee-high rough. "Good shots end in the hay," he said, "bad shots end up on the green. You just don't know what's going to happen."

It was not hay that Duval found round his ball but a haystack. Two shots later he was still in there and when his fourth went into a greenside bunker he was probably grateful he got away with a double-bogey seven. On second thoughts, grateful is perhaps not the correct word.

No one shows much gratitude when faced by a hole which was so long when the wind strengthened yesterday afternoon it could have been in two different time zones. After the field had gone from eastern to western to tackle the remainder of the forbidding links the catalogue of damage recorded only nine birdies and 62 bogeys.

Usually pros regard par-fives as birdie opportunities, the holes where their length and accuracy allows them to reach the green in two. On the sixth - which carries the wholly superfluous nickname "Long" - they were happy if they slipped out of the back door without a high number on their card and the average score was nearer six than five.

Steve Pate, a 38-year-old Californian good enough to finish fourth, eighth and 13th at Muirfield, St Andrews and Troon respectively, was not that lucky. He was two over as he entered the embrace of the sixth and six over as he made a tearful goodbye.

His drive found the rough, his second shot went so close to the ditch on the right that his next rolled into it. Forced to take a drop, he was playing five even as he made his approach and, when that was rebuffed to the extent he finished in a mound of rubbish on the right, he had used up his allocation of shots for the hole and was still 40 yards shot. Four strokes later his agony was over.

Phillip Price went from bad to worse when he blasted out of the rough into the giant bunker he had tried to avoid when he first got to the tee, Jesper Parnevik took a six there, David Park got a seven but, just in case you thought the sixth was only taking the P out of golfers whose name began with the letter, along came Steve Watson.

The 32-year-old Scotsman only got into the Open when the American Bill Glasson withdrew with an elbow injury and at three over after the first round he had reason to believe he might be a reserve of gold. He was sadly devalued by the sixth.

His tee shot tried to locate Hogan's Alley and landed in out of bounds and his next found a bunker. At one point during his journey he could move the ball only 10 yards from a gorse bush so it required a magnificent putt over a hump for him to escape with an eight. He is an unattached professional and the sixth had unhinged him from any hope of a big cheque.

"It's just an impossible par, that hole," Colin Montgomery said, articulating that sick rather than sixth might be a more appropriate adjective. But some succeeded. Bradley Hughes got the first birdie of the day there, the leader Jean Van de Velde launched his three-under-par 68 there with a four and Scott Dunlap chipped in from the rough to rescue par.

But the definitive moment came when an American by the name of Jobe took an eight there yesterday. You need his patience on the long, long haul of Carnoustie's sixth.