Golf: The making of a monster

Like adding a skid pan to Silverstone, it discouraged aggression and rewarded caution

AMID ALL the recriminations ignited by the punitive condition of Carnoustie - which made so many of the world's best golfers look like my friend Davey, who aspires to double-bogeys on a good day - one graphite- shafted irony stands out.

When Carnoustie was reinstated as an Open Championship venue, the world of golf cheered. Some folk still wondered whether, even with the construction of a posh new hotel, the bleak little pebble-dashed town could still cope with the razzmatazz of the modern-day Open. But everyone agreed that the course was probably a purer test of golf than could be found anywhere else in the British Isles, maybe anywhere else in the world.

As it turned out, the town coped admirably and, against all the odds, ended up winning more friends than the course. Sergio Garcia, for one, will not want the Open to hurry back to Carnoustie, unless he is burning to avenge his humiliation. St Andrews next year will seem like a pitch-and-putt by comparison, while Carnoustie, once synonymous with excellence, now seems to be a byword for epic unfairness. Which is itself unfair, for the course is still a great one.

The villains of the piece, by common consent, are the men who sit on the Championship committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks. Rage, blow." Was that King Lear, or a chap in blazer, flannels and R&A tie, standing on the first tee roaring at the heavens, just after dawn last Thursday morning?

For the officials did all they could to turn Carnoustie into the severest challenge ever to confront the world's best. Apparently, they commanded the greenkeepers to chuck fertiliser on the rough, which made even the sparse tufts just off the fairways look like Tina Turner on a bad hair day. The fairways were reduced, in places, to barely 10 yards in width. In short, they turned it from being hard to shoot even par to being nigh on impossible.

What they did was like adding a skid pan to Silverstone, in the sense that it discouraged aggression and rewarded caution, which made the Open a less enjoyable spectacle than usual.

I got my first taste of the brewing controversy a week ago today when I had lunch with the five-times Open champion Peter Thomson. The great man had just come back from Carnoustie. "I think they may have crossed the line this time," he said, meaning the line between toughness and unfairness. Thomson hoped that the players would kick up a stink before the Championship, forcing some last-minute adjustments to the course. But he knew they wouldn't. "They're too polite these days," he complained. Years ago, he said, the leading pros were more inclined to flex their muscles.

In 1967, according to Thomson, the R&A was more or less forced to permit the larger American ball to be used in the Open, after receiving a letter from the top American players, who threatened to pull out otherwise. There was later some doubt about the provenance of the letter. But whether genuine or not, it had the desired effect.

Similarly, suggested Thomson, old mischief-maker that he is, the Championship committee would think twice about tricking up the Open venue if the likes of Tiger Woods threatened to boycott the event.

Thomson's recollections of staying in Carnoustie during the 1953 Open (he was, remarkably, to win the claret jug in 1954, 1955 and 1956) would not strike much of a chord with his modern counterparts. He stayed in the Station Hotel, which used to shudder when the London-Aberdeen express thundered by, and had no en-suite facilities. Indeed, Ben Hogan nearly went home to Texas when he found that he couldn't pee without first taking a stroll along the corridor.

Which brings us to Jean-Baptiste Ado. Jean van de Velde is not the first Frenchman to do well at Carnoustie. Ado, a protege of Henry Cotton's, also had a fine tournament there in 1953. He was an unsubtle but powerful player, whose strength, it was rumoured, came from carrying contraband over the Pyrenees.

Not expecting to make the cut in the Open, Ado gave up his room in Dundee, so Roberto de Vicenzo invited him to share his room at the Station Hotel. But when Ado went for a pee in the night he inadvertently locked himself out, and, unwilling to disturb his host, kipped down in the corridor. "I know, because I tripped over him," said Thomson.

Carnoustie's hotels have come on a bit since then. Thanks to the men in blazers, however, the course is not what it was.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride