Open Championship: Royal Liverpool’s bunkers driving players crazy, forces change from R&A

Open Championship: Royal Liverpool’s bunkers driving players crazy, forces change from R&A

The dreaded pot bunkers across Royal Liverpool have given players fits at The Open Championship this week.

Late during Thursday’s first round, the golfing world watched these devilish little beasts anger some of the best players in the world.

Justin Thomas struggled from the greenside bunker at the 18th, which led to a quadruple-bogey nine.

Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy also faced impossible shots at the last hole, as each of their shots rested right up against the face of the pot bunker.

Rahm made a bogey.

McIlroy, meanwhile, escaped with an incredible par-save.

Yet, because of these struggles on Thursday, the R&A sent the following memo to the players and media Friday morning:

The Open

HOYLAKE, England — The R&A released an update regarding course set-up ahead of the second round at The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool
The R&A

Friday’s announcement came as a surprise, as the R&A rarely makes changes to course setup midway through the championship.

It made a positive impact on the course, however, which McIlroy noted following his 1-under round of 70 on Friday.

“I hit a 4-iron into the 5th hole today, and it pitched on top of the bunker and came back in, and I thought it was going to be [brutal],” McIlroy explained. “I didn’t know at this point that they’d made that little gradual rise up into the face, and when I got up there, I was pleasantly surprised that I had a shot.”

McIlroy stuck that bunker shot to a couple of feet and walked away with a birdie at the par-5 5th, the easiest hole on the course.

He likely would not have enjoyed the same fate if that adjustment had not been made.

Rory McIlroy, Royal Liverpool, The 151st Open

HOYLAKE, England — Rory McIlroy plays his third shot out of the bunker on the 5th hole on Day Two of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 21, 2023.
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“I wouldn’t say there’s one person in the field that wouldn’t welcome this change,” McIlroy added.

The bunkers still punished many players Friday, including Scottie Scheffler and Tommy Fleetwood.

Playing alongside each other in the same pairing, Scheffler and Fleetwood found the pot bunker to the left side of the 16th fairway, forcing both players to chip out.

They each made a bogey at the 16th, which dropped Fleetwood back to 5-under for the championship and sent Scheffler below the cut line to 4-over.

But Scheffler made a clutch birdie at the finishing hole, as he got up and down from the greenside bunker to make the cut on the number at 3-over par.

Had the R&A not make that change, Scheffler might be heading back home early.

Fleetwood, meanwhile, will play in the final pairing Saturday, as he sits five strokes behind leader Brian Harman.

Saturday will bring about harsh weather conditions again, but at least the bunkers will be pristine and ready for those who made the cut.

The pot bunkers will still be penal, but the golfing world will likely not see the carnage that occurred on Thursday afternoon.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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