Open Golf 09: Learn some cruel lessons

Why turning three shots into two is so vital

Open Golf 09: Learn some cruel lessons
Open golf 09
Watson hits his approach to the 72nd hole - he only need a kind bounce

There were some cruel lessons to be learned from the final stages of yesterday's Open Championship at Turnberry - not least that hard work on those tricky shots around the green will pay off.

Handicap golfers were no doubt scratching their heads as to why more players were unable to get up and down from just off the green to save par but from your armchair it's hard to appreciate the delicacy of touch required to keep the ball down and under control when the greens are firm and a seaside wind is whipping across the course.

Add to this the pressure of the occasion and it's no wonder players wilted under the intensity of the closing stages.

open golf
In the limelight: Stewart Cink in closing stages

It was an amazing day's golf with up to a dozen players with striking distance of the Claret Jug as the title of Open Champion 2009.

A clue as to the final outcome came when Tom Watson, confessed to the cameras before he started that he was 'feeling the enormity of it all' before teeing off. As for Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood, two world class golfers, in the penultimate group, both would have facied their chances on a day that the wind and golf course proided the ultimate test of links golf

But it's a cruel game and, as in all professional sport, the difference
between success and disappointment can be so marginal that luck can appear
to play a part. Links golf has so many different elements that even with perfect shots a player's short game will get tested by the unpredictability of the bounce.

A crucial hole as the event reached its climax was the par-3 15th hole. At 206 yards and the wind helping off the right, the back left pin position
was easily accessible to players of Tour calibre and protected only by a typically severe, steep-faced links bunker less than five paces behind the hole.

It proved a turning point for the eventual winner Stewart Cink, who pitched his
shot perfectly on the front of the green and alowwed the ball to roll up within a few feet from where he converted a telling birdie.

Trapped: Westwood in the sand

Among the other challengers Retief Goosen landed his shot only a couple of yards further up the green and finished awkwardly in the bunker leading
to a double bogey that cost him dearly. Lee Westwood scared the hole on the way by but just trickled in to the same bunker as did Mathew Goggin. Bothj hit poor trap shots that led to bogey at crucial times in their rounds.

For Tom Watson the golfing gods dealt a cruel blow at his 72nd hole. Had his great approach landed more softly it would have nestled within a few feet and today we would have been heralding probably the most outrageous but thoroughly deserved Open wins

Instead a firm first bounce, spin off the ball and it release into a swales behind the green. The man from Kansas City opted for a Texas wedge and his putt from the fringe left him a tricky downhill eight-footer which he missed and let in Cink to deliver a crushing play-off win. Watson was emotionally and physically drained and four extra holes was more than he could manage.

Tiger Woods has dominated golf for a decade or so now and people talk of his
power, his swing, his work ethic and all the mental toughness that makes him
the champion he is. Yesterday at Turnberry, Chris Wood, Lee Westwood and Tom
Watson all took three to get down from less than 15 yards from the 18th flagstick - I doubt, if, in a similar situation the world No.1 would have wilted.

If you want to be harder to beat by your friends while getting your
handicap down in a hurry, practise turning three shots into two around the green. Build a good short game can make all the difference!

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