Top 10 Approach Shots from The Open
Jordan Spieth might have put together a back nine for the ages at Royal Birkdale to be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year but even he couldn’t crack our top ten best approach shots from The Open.
Here’s the rundown of our favourite Christmas crackers:
10. John Daly
John Daly will always have fond memories of The Open, as the Champion Golfer of the Year at St Andrews in 1995. At the 2nd hole at Royal Birkdale, the instantly recognisable Daly – sporting some terrifically striped blue trousers – made his mark in 2017. Hacking out of thick rough in his second round and playing straight into the prevailing wind, the 51-year-old judged his approach perfectly as the ball pitched onto the undulating green and came to rest not four feet from the hole. The two-time major winner would hole that putt to bring himself back to three-over-par yet still missed the halfway cut.
9. Justin Thomas
After firing a 67 in his first round on Thursday, Justin Thomas’ second round started badly and got progressively worse. In difficult conditions, the American would end up firing a ten-over par round of 80, dropping him out of contention and missing the cut. There was one bright spot in that dismal round: his tee shot on the par-three 14th that could not have come much closer to being a hole in one. The last of Royal Birkdale’s short holes, the 14th, the wind hard to gauge but Thomas was bang on line as his tee shot bounced once, hit the flag about halfway up and stopped dead next to the hole. At last Thomas could afford a smile.
8. Jason Day
Club selection is vital approaching the 8th green at Royal Birkdale, sloping as it does from back to front. In the first round of The 146th Open, Jason Day judged it perfectly. After a double bogey at the first to tee off his Open, the Australian was back on the comeback trail. Dressed all in black except for a pair of white Nike golf shoes, Day’s lob wedge bounced once, twice, three times before the backspin took effect and brought it to a stop right next to the hole. Day would roll that in on his way to a first round of 71, before the former World No.1 then found his A-game on Friday with a 65 that thrust him right into contention.
7. Rickie Fowler
The 5th at Royal Birkdale is known as a risk/reward hole and clearly Rickie Fowler is a fan of that. The American nearly made an albatross in the third round when he took on the short par-four with his driver and flirted with the hole. On Sunday, trailing compatriot Jordan Spieth by ten shots, Fowler needed to summon something special in his traditional orange outfit. Once again at the 5th he did, this time laying up and then dropping a wedge approach just beyond the hole and spinning it back to within a foot for another birdie. It was not to be for Fowler however as the American finished tied for 22nd.
6. Russell Henley
Friday at The Open was tough, as miserable weather battered the course for almost the entire day. And by the time Russell Henley arrived at the 12th the worst of it was clearing and his tee shot at the short par-three warmed many an onlooker. A lot of players mis-clubbed on this hole throughout the week but Henley was bang on the money, indeed quite how he didn’t register a hole in one is anyone’s guess. His tee shot skirted with the left edge of the hole, then span back and kissed the right side – leaving him a gimme for birdie. The 28-year-old American carded back-to-back 70s in his first two rounds to sit tenth at the midway stage but would fade to a tie for 37th in the end.
5. Lee Westwood
The green at the 5th hole is surrounded by bunkers on all sides, so approaching the hole from the second cut of rough might present a problem to some. But when you are one of the best iron players of your generation like Lee Westwood, it is no trouble at all. With no backspin imparted coming out of the rough, Westwood’s effort kicked on when it pitched onto the green and rolled inexorably down into the hole for eagle. Unfortunately for Westwood, that eagle was one of the few bright spots in a second round of 74 but the Worksop man would recover to finish in a tie for 27th.
4. Gary Woodland
The 5th was there for the taking on Friday as, not long after Westwood’s effort above, Gary Woodland also eagled the hole. His wedge approach, from the first cut of rough to the right, took a huge kick into the air when it landed on the green before breaking down and into the hole in what was clearly a generous pin placement. That was the highlight of Woodland’s second round of 69 and the American was well-placed at one-under, sixth overall, at the midway point of the third major of the year. In the end Woodland would fall away with back-to-back 74s on the weekend to drop out of contention.
3. Charley Hoffman
The 1st at Royal Birkdale is one of The Open Championship’s most challenging opening holes. To get a birdie there is quite something, to eagle it is almost unheard of. But Charley Hoffman made it look easy to start his 2017 Open in emphatic fashion. The 40-year-old American came within a whisker of hitting his first drive of the tournament out of bounds down the right. But from the deep rough, and with the ball lying above his feet, Hoffman’s approach pitched up onto the green and with the American calling for it to slow, the ball careened into the back of the cup and went down. Hoffman, unsighted from his position out to the right, would not find out the ball had gone in until reaching the green but it was the perfect start to a fine Open as he finished on Sunday in a tie for 20th.
2. Chris Wood
Coming down the 18th hole in the second round on Friday, Chris Wood knew he was right on the cut line. Standing over his approach shot, Wood would have been hoping not to make a mistake and protect his score of five-over and make the weekend. Instead, on what was almost certainly his playing partner and former Champion Golfer of the Year Mark O’Meara’s final Open, Wood hit the perfect approach. To make eagle in front of the clubhouse and secure your spot for the final two rounds must have been a fantastic feeling and Wood took that momentum into the weekend, firing a 68 and a 67 to finish 14th on two-under.
1. Austin Connelly
Austin Connelly only qualified for the 146th Open less than three weeks before. The then-20-year-old Canadian won a four-man play-off at the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club in Kent to secure his place at Royal Birkdale. But the youngster was undaunted among illustrious company and after a 67 in the first round was tied for sixth. It was on Saturday that everyone really became aware of the youngster after birdieing the 1st, Connelly’s second shot at the 2nd bounced once and plugged straight into the hole. Birdie, eagle to commence a sublime Saturday, and Connelly – in his first-ever major – was suddenly second on the leaderboard and making everyone take notice. His 66 on Saturday meant he was joint third coming into the final round before eventually finishing in a tie for 14th.