Harrington to face lengthened course for Open title defence

Harrington to face lengthened course for Open title defence

Padraig Harrington will try for a third successive Open Championship this July on a Turnberry course which has been lengthened by nearly 250 yards since it last staged the event 15 years ago.

Some 135 of those yards come on the final three holes. The biggest change in distance comes on the par-five 17th, the hole Nick Price eagled with a 50-foot putt as he overhauled Jesper Parnevik in 1994.

From 498 yards then it has been stretched to 559 yards – and has had three new bunkers added to it.

The biggest change in design, however, is at the 16th. Instead of being a 410-yard straight hole it is now a 455-yard dogleg right around newly-constructed dunes and hollows, making the burn in front of the green much more of a challenge.

The most spectacular alteration, meanwhile, has been made at the 10th.

A dramatic new tee has been built on a rock outcrop near the famous lighthouse and the drive now requires a 200-yard carry over the bay.

In all, six new tees have been introduced, extending the course from 6,957 to 7,204 yards.

Turnberry has played host to The Open only three times in its history.

Its debut was in 1977, the year of the never-to-be-forgotten ’Duel in the Sun’, in which Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus left the rest for dead with a dazzling exhibition of shot-making over the closing 36 holes.

Nicklaus finished 65-66, but Watson scored 65-65 to win by a single stroke, with Hubert Green 10 strokes further back in third.

In 1986 Greg Norman broke his major duck, triumphing by five from England’s Gordon J Brand after a second-day 63 which equalled the Major championship record.

That was the year the Australian – third at Birkdale last July at the age of 53 - led all four majors with a round to go, but Nicklaus denied him in The Masters, he slumped to a 75 in the US Open and a 76 in the US PGA, where Bob Tway holed a bunker shot at the last to beat him by two.

Last time Parnevik looked a near certain winner, standing on the final tee three ahead of the field, but he had not looked at a scoreboard and in trying for a closing birdie he thought he might need he bogeyed instead and behind him Price finished birdie-eagle-par.

Harrington is among a number of notables who have never played a tournament at the Ayrshire venue.

Tiger Woods will also be making his first visit, but Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Geoff Ogilvy all competed in the 1996 British Amateur.

The preparations continuing on the course are almost nothing compared to the refurbishment work at the five-star hotel overlooking it.

Dubai-based Leisurecorp bought the property last year with plans for a £28m (€31.5m) overhaul.

The hotel is currently closed and there was a report of work being suspended following a fall-out with contractors, but a spokesman said the renovations were now “back on track”.

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