Check in for drama on the 17th at St Andrews

Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:24pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - There are few holes in world golf revered quite as much as the 17th on the Old Course at St Andrews -- a par-four brute where British Open dreams could be crushed this weekend.

The Road Hole, named after the old turnpike road that forms its right boundary, plays 495 yards, if you're feeling brave, requires a tee shot aimed at the Old Course Hotel, then a long second at shallow green guarded by the infamous Road Hole bunker on one side and a stone wall at the rear.

Players averaged 4.653 on it in 2010 to make it, not surprisingly, the toughest hole on the course.

It has a habit of creating drama.

Tom Watson effectively lost the Open there in 1984 while five years ago Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez made a miracle shot, facing away from the flag he punched his ball against the wall for it to ricochet back on to the green.

American youngster Jordan Spieth, still on track for a mythical grand slam as he prepares for his first St Andrews Open, practiced the same shot this week.

As the world's elite golfers fine-tune their games next to the Fife coast, the 17th is already causing headaches and a ball is yet to be struck in anger.

"At the 17th you can hit it in the hotel in a heartbeat," said 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia.   Continued...

Nick Faldo of England reacts to a missed putt on the 17th hole during the Champion Golfers' Challenge tournament ahead of the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, July 15, 2015.      REUTERS/Lee Smith