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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
R&A hits back at Hoylake attack
By Matt Slater
Golf editor

The distinctive Open scoreboard beside Royal Liverpool's 18th green
The distinctive Open scoreboard beside Royal Liverpool's 18th green
The Royal and Ancient, the organiser of the Open, has rejected criticism of this year's venue, Royal Liverpool.

The Hoylake course was the subject of a damning article in the influential US magazine Golf Digest last month.

The magazine's course critic derided Hoylake for its extensive out-of-bounds and said it "isn't a blast from the past, it's a thing of the past".

But the R&A's David Hill rebuffed Golf Digest's claims and said Hoylake was "comparable" with other Open venues.

Hoylake has been off the Open rotation since Roberto de Vincenzo won there in 1967.

But recent improvements to the course's facilities and far easier access to the Wirral links thanks to the M53 motorway have helped convince the R&A to come back.

(The course) hasn't changed with the times, except maybe for the worse

Golf Digest's Ron Whitten
Golf Digest's Ron Whitten, however, is far from impressed with the decision to return to England's second oldest seaside links.

"Times have changed," wrote Whitten in the July edition of America's best-selling golf publication.

"When Roberto De Vicenzo won in 1967, first prize was $5,880. The last-place guy in this year's Open will earn more than that.

"But (the course) hasn't changed with the times, except maybe for the worse.

"Sure, it's 7,258 yards, par 72 now, 263 yards longer than it was 39 years ago. But it doesn't have one par-five that can't be reached in two with an iron, and its par-fours, which look long on paper, will play short on the ground because most are modestly defended dog-legs."

Whitten then points out that there have been as many "not-so-grand" happenings at the course as there have been notable firsts and historic achievements, before dismissing the course as "visually disappointing" and monotonous.

But Hill, the R&A's director of championships, was unimpressed by Whitten's barbed critique.

It's an unsung, wonderful links course

BBC Sport's Ken Brown
"It would have been nice if he had played the course. We would then have had more respect for the comments he made," said Hill.

"I think the week of the championship will tell if his comments were inaccurate or accurate.

"We would not have come back if we didn't think it was of the highest standard. It's in first-class condition and the top-class players coming here will enjoy it.

"Obviously, we're hoping for the variation in the weather that is the main protection of all links courses and what makes them such great challenges."

And Hill's defence of Hoylake was seconded by BBC golf commentator and former leading player Ken Brown.

"Nearly all traditional links courses are old-fashioned. That's not derogatory in my mind, it's traditional - how golf should be played," said Brown.

"It's an unsung, wonderful links course."

Phil Mickelson practising at Hoylake
American star Phil Mickelson has visited Hoylake twice recently
Ultimately it will be the players that have the final say and recent history at Open venues suggests even the most links-phobic US Tour golfer will find something nice to say about Hoylake.

Even Open legend Peter Thomson, who won one of his five Claret Jugs here in 1956, was eventually brought around to Hoylake's charms.

"At first I found it a bit of an enigma, to tell the truth," the 76-year-old Australian told BBC Sport.

"When I first went to practise there I came away very pessimistic. I thought 'I can't handle this course' - I found it a bit unfathomable. It was too flat.

"But, of course, everybody else felt the same way and in the end I grew to like it and it went in my favour."

The R&A and Royal Liverpool will be hoping for a similar result this time.



SEE ALSO
Open course guide
12 Jul 06 |  Golf
A-Hoylake!
17 Jul 06 |  Golf
Hoylake through the years
17 Jul 06 |  Golf


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