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Saturday, July 17, 1999 Published at 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK

A Long way from home

World no 2 David Duval in one of Long's bunkers

BBC News Online's Stuart Roach reports from Carnoustie on the toughest hole this beast of a course can offer.

When the casualties of Carnoustie are calculated, the vicious sixth hole will stand like a tombstone in the west winds.

The 578-yard monster is renowned as one of the game's best par fives, but has claimed more victims than Hannibal Lecter.

[ image: Andrew Coltart and caddie discuss Long's unique charms]
Andrew Coltart and caddie discuss Long's unique charms
Course officials clearly thought long and hard about what to call the hole - and settled for "Long".

Its endless victims have no doubt called it many different names, most of them unprintable.

Quite simply, Long is a beast of a hole on a beast of a course.

Twin bunkers slapped in the middle of the fairway provide a driving dilemma of aiming for the narrow strip to the left bordered by an out-of-bounds fence all the way to the green, or an area on the right leading ominously towards Carnoustie's merciless rough.

The left-hand strip is no more than ten yards wide and was christened Hogan's Alley after the legendary American Ben Hogan drove into it every time on his way to winning the 1953 Open here.

Even if you can land your ball in Hogan's footsteps you face a tough second into a fairway bottlenecked by Jockey's Burn, a drainage ditch that sounds more like a painful underwear rash but can be twice as painful.

Postage stamp

Only then can you open up a two-tiered slippery slope of a green protected by bunkers front and back to make the target area look like a postage stamp from distance.

All too often, the class of 99 have been found wanting and Hogan would have cringed at the statistics:

  • Only 13 birdies in the opening two rounds from a total of 310 attempts
  • More than half failed to make par
  • Eight suffering triple bogey or worse

But 1997 Open champion Justin Leonard knows enough about Hogan to tell you he would have sympathised.

A keen scholar of golf history, and particularly that of the great Hogan, Leonard is thrilled to be walking in his shadow.

[ image: Justin Leonard: Keen student of Hogan and history]
Justin Leonard: Keen student of Hogan and history
"This is a special place and for Mr Hogan to have done so well here means so much.

"But I think he would have played the sixth under very different conditions from what we have faced.

"I was laying up to the bunkers with a driver whereas in practice we had a little bit more of a helping wind and could hit up the left side."

Bernhard Langer is more forthright and claims that Long is too much of a menace.

"I think the sixth is the one hole which is unfair," said the German.

"The lay-up area is 11 yards wide and that means even if you hit a good drive you are hitting a three wood into an area of 11 yards width with bumps and humps on it, a ditch on the right and rough left and right.

"I don't think that's helpful on a hole like that which you can't reach anyway, not unless it's straight downwind. You can argue about some of the other holes, but I think that one is over the top."

Not a lottery

Unfair is a word which has been used far too often this week, along with cruel, soul-destroying and even lottery. But this tournament is no lottery.

If it is, let me enter and keep my fingers crossed. You never know.

[ image: Nick Faldo suffering on the sixth]
Nick Faldo suffering on the sixth
Sunday's winner will be the man who has proved the most consistent, the most accurate and, probably, the bravest.

If he doesn't deserve the claret jug, then who does?

There have been notable casualties in this east coast war; El Nino was blown away as Sergio Garcia carded 30-over-par for two rounds of golf, Open champion Mark O'Meara's defences were breached all too easily and Greg Norman had an air shot.

Some players claim crowds do not enjoy seeing that.

But witnessing one of the greatest men to have ever played the game suffer an air shot will secretly fill the thousands of average club golfers in the crowd with a warm glow inside.

No war is won without casualties. O'Meara will rest in peace - perhaps thankful to be walking away from the battlefield.

But this battle will continue to rage and the man to emerge on top will deserve a medal for bravery, as well as the claret jug.

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