Contenders face the road to ruin on 17th

The infamous Road Hole at St Andrews has played an influential part in determining the outcome of the previous 27 Open championships.

ST ANDREWS // The infamous Road Hole at St Andrews has played an influential part in determining the outcome of the previous 27 Open championships at the daunting Old Course. Its biggest contribution in modern times was destroying Constantino Rocca's hopes in 1995. The Italian disastrously took three shots to get out of the small but treacherous bunker there when losing a play-off to John Daly.

That punitive sand trap lies in wait for balls leaked to the left, while the tarmac on the right which runs adjacent the stonewalled course boundary, in play but hardly a good play, is waiting for overhit approaches which run through the two-tiered green. That demanding stretch of links terrain promises to be even more punishing, having been lengthened by 40 yards to the point where most of the players tackling it over the next four days will be happy to settle for four pars.

Graeme McDowell, winner of the US Open last month, went even further in discussing the threat of the new 495-yard monster. "If anyone is selling four fours there right now, I'll buy it," he said. "But in all honesty I would settle for two fours and two fives." The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, organisers of the championship, made the bold decision to bring the driver back into play at one of golf's most iconic holes. Even the most accomplished of drivers such as Tiger Woods confessed to finding the hole "unplayable" when the wind was at its worst for his first practice round on Sunday.

On Monday and Tuesday with the conditions more benign, most of the players managed the carry of nearly 300 yards from the back tee to give them various options of how to approach the green. Ian Poulter a strong contender for a maiden major victory, hinted that he might take the softer option. "I'm quite happy to hit it to the bottom of the slope at the front of the green and take my chances on two putts from 50 or 60 feet," he said. "If it's into the wind then aiming towards the second fairway is not a bad option, leaving an approach from the far left." How much the new back tee will be used over the next four days is dependent on the weather. Several of the players who tackled it yesterday drove from the old 455-yard mark, perhaps in anticipation of today's tee box placement.

495 yards par 4 Hole lengthened by 40 yards this year bringing the driver back in play for some, but several shorter tee options remain. Two bunkers left of fairway short of the green rarely occupied but one small but deep trap halfway up the green is a genuine hazard. Tarmac on the right runs adjacent to the stonewalled course boundary. Dangerous for approaches that run through the two-tiered green. Green slopes steeply upwards from the front edge and is much wider at the front than the rear.