It is easy to forget, given just how thoroughly Jiyai Shin romped to victory at the 2012 Women’s British Open, that she did not lead from start to finish. But her triumph at Royal Liverpool, the English club often known simply as Hoylake, nevertheless stands as one of the most commanding performances in the tournament’s history.
Her message to the world’s top men’s golfers, who will contest their British Open at Royal Liverpool beginning on Thursday, can be summed up in two words: Look out.
“Royal Liverpool has a lot of small greens, as well as small, deep bunkers,” Shin, who also won the 2008 Open at Sunningdale, wrote in Korean in response to emailed questions.
“There is also wind,” warned Shin, who still plays on the L.P.G.A. of Japan Tour and tied for second at this month’s U.S. Women’s Open. “You have to be patient against the constant toil of the wind.”
The wind may not be the only menace, not at a club with a record of weather headaches at its recent Opens. In 2006, when Tiger Woods won, signs warned of the risk of fires. Eight years later, before Rory McIlroy’s victory, a forecast for thunderstorms led to a two-tee start for the first time in Open history. And when Shin played there in 2012, poor weather led to the third and fourth rounds being condensed into a single day. At the time, she said Hoylake had offered up the “worst conditions I think I’ve ever played.”
The coming days could pose problems, too.
“My worry is now what the forecast is for Saturday and Sunday, which there’s some uncertainty about which way it will go,” Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the tournament-organizing R&A, said on Wednesday. “But it’s going to be wet or it’s going to be very wet. We’ll see.”
Weather notwithstanding, the course has a distinguished history: No club along the English shore, with the exception of Royal North Devon, is older than Royal Liverpool, which was founded in 1869 and first hosted a British Open in 1897, when the amateur Harold Hilton won. Its men’s Open champions later included Bobby Jones and Peter Thomson.
The 151st Open, Shin predicted, “will be the beginning of another history.”
No. 1: Royal
Par 4, 459 yards
More often than not, Royal Liverpool’s first hole will play into the breeze, and there are fairway bunkers on both sides of the hole — right around the distances where many of this week’s players can drive their tee shots.
Welcome to the British Open.
“It is a dogleg hole that bends slightly to the left, and the width of the green is not wide, making it difficult to put the second shot on the green,” Shin said. “It is advantageous to aim a bit to the right to maintain the flow for the next shot when playing this hole.”
There are three bunkers near the green, which hardly has Britain’s smoothest putting surface. Trouble on No. 1 does not necessarily doom a player, though: Shin had a triple bogey there during one round.
No. 7: Telegraph
Par 4, 481 yards
Want to make it to the fairway? Hit the tee shot at least 250 yards into what could be a decidedly forbidding wind. Come up short, and you’re probably in the gorse that can be found all over Royal Liverpool. A successful tee shot, though, can position a player for an accommodating second shot toward the green, where two left bunkers lurk nearby.
The green has been infused with more tricks since Shin and McIlroy won, but Shin suggested the wind was a greater challenge than the green.
“It was difficult to adjust the distance from the second shot to the pin due to the back wind,” she remembered. “A strong wind had the biggest impact on the first bounce.”
No. 13: Alps
Par 3, 194 yards
Few holes are more beloved among Royal Liverpool’s members than No. 13. Mounds obscure the green from the tee box, suggesting that there is not much of a green on the left side.
But that’s not true, and there is actually more green on the left than the right.
Shin counsels not to expect much bounce from the green, which is diagonal and runs left to right, and she remembers how she “aimed a bit harder at the back of the pin than the front.”
And beware the right bunker.
“It seems like the club members know a thing or two about golf if they love this difficult hole in particular,” Shin said.
No. 17: Little Eye
Par 3, 136 yards
The British Open has never been played in Wales, but the new 17th hole will bring the competition awfully close: just across Dee Estuary. The raised green awaits players after a spread of bunkers and other perils, so there is little room for error off the tee. There are not many favorable spots for a ball that rolls off the green, either, and the R&A is hoping the hole will infuse some drama as the tournament nears its end on Sunday.
Perhaps this is the year of the par-3. At Los Angeles Country Club last month, the course included five par-3 holes for the first time at a U.S. Open since 1947.
“Personally, I think par 3 makes the game more exciting,” Shin said. “I think it will be a great hole with a variety of new variables.”
No. 18: Dun
Par 5, 609 yards
Shin arrived at the 18th tee box during the final round with virtually no chance of losing. The only question, really, was whether she’d win by a double-digit margin.
“When I walked up to the hole looking at the grandstands surrounding the green,” she said, “I felt that it was my stage and that I was honored to be there.”
It stands to reason that this year’s Open might not have such a runaway winner — the most recent player near Shin’s 2012 mark was Woods in 2000, when he won by eight strokes at St. Andrews — so No. 18 might be a bit more freighted. And it will assuredly be longer after the addition of a new tee, and it will also be narrower. The R&A itself is warning that the fairway can seem “just a handful of yards wide” in some spots off the tee.
The hole, the 16th for members and a place where Open players have often used long irons in the past, will veer toward the right, by an extensive and expanded out-of-bounds area, for second shots. If a player can avoid the five bunkers around the green, including the three on the left side, eagle is a possibility.
“Since the hole flows from the front to the back of the green, you can aim for the next shot without any worries even beyond the green,” Shin said.
On Sunday, weather permitting, someone will stand on that green and hoist the claret jug freshly engraved with his name.
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