Yes, Royal Liverpool had issues: The traffic was terrible, with the worst backups at any major since the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, and daily crowds of 40,000-plus made spectating difficult. But the course itself was a winner. It was resistant to scoring, especially considering the weather and the lack of wind, the main defense of a links. Colin Montgomerie said the course was so fast that it must've been playing at "about 5,500 yards in real terms" rather than the 7,258 yards on the scorecard. Plus, with four par-5s reachable for everybody -- even short-hitting Fred Funk eagled the 18th -- par was really 70, if not 69. Knock two strokes off par and Woods's winning score of 270 is only 10 under. Not bad for a course that held its first Open in 1897 and was part of Bobby Jones's Grand Slam in 1930.
The bunkers are the thing at Royal Liverpool. There are 92 of them, and they're deep, have steep faces and are placed exactly where they can cause the most damage. The fairway bunkers especially are in essence one-stroke penalties. To avoid them Woods put the two-iron in his bag for the first time in eight months. "It's the best-bunkered course I've ever played," said Jerry Kelly, who finished 26th. "I'm one of the straightest players out here, and even I was hitting three-irons off the tee to stay short of them. They're no picnic."
During the third round Kelly did wind up in one. Short-sided at the par-4 7th, he blasted his ball as high as he could, then watched as it ran downhill and into the cup for an unlikely birdie. He raised his arms as if to say, Can you believe that?
You don't see shots like that in the U.S. With luck, we'll see them again at Royal Liverpool.
I really disliked the Butler Cabin ceremony at Augusta. I always felt that the best thing to do would be to go right to the public presentation of the green jacket, with emotions still at a fever pitch and all the people and a national TV audience there to see it. To go inside the flower-infested catacombs of the Butler Cabin and watch the club chairmen perform the ceremony they were helpless — really let the air out of the balloon. One year Hord Hardin asked Bernhard Langer how he pronounced his name. Another year he asked Seve how tall he was. I would watch this with my face in my hands, but the club wouldn't have it any other way. Oh, well. FRANK CHIRKINIAN