Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington has defended the changes made to the famous 17th hole at St Andrews for this week’s 150th championship.
The likes of Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and new US Open champion Graeme McDowell have criticised alterations which have seen the tee moved back 40 yards so it is now outside the boundary of the Old Course.
Montgomerie said if the 495-yard hole, which forces players to tee off over a hotel, had been suggested by a modern-day course designer they “would have been shot” for being “off their head”.
However, Harrington insists the additional length has restored the fearsome nature the famous Road Hole had 20 to 30 years ago and would provide a tough challenge for competitors.
“It’s an intimidating tee shot and a tight fairway but the way I look at it you always want to make sure that the guy who wins the Open is tested at some stage coming down the stretch,” said the Irishman, who won back-to-back Claret Jugs in 2007 and 2008.
“It’s no problem with length and it’s the same angle, it’s just playing as a big hole – as it should be at the end of championship golf.
“There is no-one going to get through 16 holes without thinking about it for four days.
“It’s what you were used to seeing on the TV years ago and exactly what they need.”
Harrington also felt criticism by players and golf course designers claiming the changes altered the history of the links was misguided.
“Everything evolves – you do realise they used to play this course from the greens to the tees, the reverse way round?” he added.
“I know 17 is very high profile but this is the modern game. I’m sure the old tee was probably not there 30 years ago.
“It has to change at some stage, that is part of golf. All courses, and this one in particular, has evolved over the course of time.”