Open Preview: The 17th: Hole of hidden terrors

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IT MAY be called 'Lang Whang' - or 'Good Whack' to those not fluent in original Scottish dialect - but at 498 yards, Turnberry's par-five 17th hole is short enough that under calm conditions the competitors in the Open this week will be looking for a birdie four.

The rider in that sentence is the part about calm conditions. In the third round of the 1986 Open, Greg Norman, one of the longest hitters in the game, needed two full-blooded drivers and a six-iron to get up. On the other hand, in the balmy weather that blessed the 1977 Open, Tom Watson hit the green on the final day with a three-iron second shot and made a comfortable four while Jack Nicklaus pushed his approach and missed the four-footer that his chip had left him.

The strength and direction of the wind, as usual on a links, dictate how the hole plays. The valley in which the drive should land is a generous expanse, although as the hole curves round to the left, only a portion of the fairway is visible from the tee. The second bunker down the right-hand side is some 375 yards away. It is set in a severe uphill ridge, at a point where the fairway narrows considerably. If the hole plays into a substantial breeze, or if a player's drive has finished in the rough, the whole area can constitute another obstacle to be overcome. With a tailwind, however, most players will only notice the bunker and the ridge as they stride on towards the green some 100 yards further on, itself sited on ground that gradually continues to rise from where the ridge is located.

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