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St Andrews Golf Club, St Andrews , Fife, Scotland

St Andrews changes for 2005 Open

The Open on Tuesday defended changes to the Road Hole bunker, one of the most notorious traps in golf.

The Open returns to the "home of golf" in July and the Royal & Ancient Club has altered the 455-yard, par-4 17th, the toughest hole on the Old Course.

The Road Hole bunker, which has a deep, almost vertical side, has been widened for the July 14-17 championship. That will make it easier to hit into, but also easier to get out.

Some purists and local observers claim the changes have ruined the bunker.

"I completely disagree," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. "The Road Hole bunker has never been the same from one Open to the next. To say it has been ruined from what it was is completely false. I think that bunker has improved from what it was."

The Road Hole bunker has ruined the rounds of many contenders at St. Andrews.

In 2000, David Duval took four strokes to get out of the trap and wound up with a quadruple bogey 8 as he finished tied for 11th behind winner Tiger Woods. Ernie Els did exactly the same at the 2002 Dunhill Links tournament.

The Old Course has been lengthened by 164 yards this year to a distance of 7,279 yards with the addition of new tees on five holes, the 2nd, 4th, 12th, 13th and 14th.

"We are restoring rather than changing the course," Dawson said. "Modern equipment and the greater athleticism of the game's leading players has led to many of the Old Course hazards being taken out of play."

He cited the 14th hole as an example.

"The drive at 14 had become hazard-free," he said. Adding 37 yards to the length of the hole will bring a series of bunkers called The Beardies back into play.

At 618 yards, the 14th becomes the longest hole on any course in the Open Championship rota.

"We are not looking for the course to become a big hitter's paradise, but are committed to staging a Championship that isn't just for golfers who hit the ball a long way," Dawson said.

"We are not trying to change the character of the course, just trying to reinstate the challenges, decisions and hazards players had to contend with in the past."

When Woods won in 2000, he did not go into any bunkers in any of his four rounds.

"Because of the history of the Old Course, moving hazards is not the option it would be at many other places," Dawson said. "You can't simply move a bunker here and there on The Old Course. All that leaves is to move tees."

Prize money will be the same as last year, with a total fund of 4 million pounds (US$7.6 million; euro5.8 million). The winner will get 720,000 pounds (US$1.36 million; euro1.05 million).

 

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