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Revamped Road Hole proves not to be a crash zone after all

There had been much pre-Open griping and growling from the players about the powers-that-be at St Andrews daring to interfere with the famous 17th Road Hole, which they had extended by 40 yards in an attempt to tame today's longer hitters.

Paul Casey, for one, had been critical of the redesign prior to teeing up yesterday. "Golf courses and iconic holes should be protected like old buildings," he said. "I have never thought length is the answer. It might make holes tougher but it doesn't make them better. The Road Hole has almost become an unofficial par five."

But yesterday's first-round scores on the hole were actually better than they had been five years ago when the Open was last at St Andrews. Last time out the average score on the par four was 4.62 and, with a few stragglers left out on the course last night, yesterday's average was coming in at 4.58.

And the weather could not be used as an excuse, as in 2005 the conditions were much more serene than they were for at least the second half of yesterday's field. Maybe the authorities got it right after all?

Try telling that to Anders Hansen, though. The Danish golfer knocked his approach shot at the 17th into the treacherous pot bunker left of the green. Then it took him four attempts to get out, and he wound up taking a quadruple-bogey eight, which in effect would have marginally affected the overall hole average.

With his ball lodged up against the lip, Hansen first attempted to get out going to his left. When that failed, he took two swings straight at the flag, only to be foiled each time. Finally, he turned toward the right – actually facing back toward the tee box – and was able to get the ball on to the green. A two-putt from there left him shaking his head and putting a snowman on his card.

Hansen bounced back with a birdie at the final hole, but he still finished with a five-over 77 on a day when most players were able to go low because of benign conditions.

The Road Hole claimed a victim after all.