A caddie's take on Royal Troon
Ask Mark Fulcher the secret to playing well at Royal Troon and he keeps his answer short and sweet; “You have got to handle the wind. Simple as that.”As the long-time caddie to Justin Rose, ‘Fooch’, as he is universally known, has experience to burn. He was alongside Rose when he won the US Open at Merion in 2013 and he will be hoping for a similar performance from the Englishman at The 145th Open starting tomorrow.
“The wind is the significant factor at Royal Troon,” Fulcher said. “Tom Watson practised in both winds when he won here in 1982. And while it won’t necessarily prove to have been an advantage, to have done the same can’t hurt.”
The pair will have been at Royal Troon for nine days when play begins and have been around the links long enough to get that “handle” on the wind. “So much depends on its direction,” Fulcher explained. “At the 16th we’ve hit driver, 3-wood, 8-iron on one day and driver, 8-iron the next. The wind makes a huge difference.
“For the most part it will come down to scoring on the front nine and staying patient on the back nine, unless the wind comes out of the south. The hardest part is realising that once you reach the 10th tee you are going to be playing it in a directly opposite wind. To go from a right-to-left wind to a left-to-right wind is really testing.
“The player who wins this tournament is going to be the one who adapts to that change better than anyone else.” Accuracy off the tee, he says, will also be a key component for a successful run at the Claret Jug.
“The test of Royal Troon is that if you hit the ball straight it will give you a chance,” he said. “The perfect example of that is at the par three 17th. It is so well designed. It’s 230 yards, but you have 10 yards which is dead flat in front of the green. But as soon as you get green high, it falls off. If you hit a pure, straight shot, it won’t kick off to the side. It will stay on the green. But if you miss it left or right it will take you further away.”
Mark Fulcher’s three key tee shots:
1st: “You must get this right because it sets up your round. Everybody thinks it’s a simple 370 yard par four, but you could get your tournament off to a horrible start if you hit the wrong shot there and find the bunkers. It’s a four or a five-iron.”
11th: “This is such a tough hole. The tee shot is critical because it’s tight down the right (with out of bounds) and there’s trouble down the left. Throw in the wind and its really testing.”17th: “This needs to go dead straight. Anything right or left and there’s trouble lurking at what is a key point in the round.”