SI CONVENED A PANEL OF GOLF EXPERTS—SENIOR WRITERS MICHAEL BAMBERGER, DAMON HACK, ALAN SHIPNUCK AND GARY VAN SICKLE AS WELL AS SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR JOHN GARRITY—AND A PGA TOUR PRO (WHO PARTICIPATED ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY) TO TAKE UP THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS
Van Sickle: The last time we went to Royal St. George's, in Sandwich, England, Ben Curtis edged out Thomas Bjorn, and the course was firm and bouncy and played like a pinball machine. St. George's is pretty, but playing there is definitely a trip to Funkytown. How do you feel about the course?
Hack: I've heard that if there's one Open to miss, it's Royal St. George's. It lacks the grandeur of Birkdale or St. Andrews or Turnberry.
Shipnuck: St. George's is a fun course. They have that crazy bunker that's a thousand feet tall or something. I like the weirdness.
Bamberger: I've caddied, played and reported from there, and I think it's way underrated. Nicklaus had the famous quote years ago about how he likes the Open venues in order from north to south—in other words, St. Andrews the best and Sandwich the least. But I think St. George's is terrific, a true links that gives you everything, including wind and quirky bounces.
Van Sickle: Players hate the course because they don't have control of the ball. It bounces every which way but straight. Nick Price said St. George's is the only links that plays better when it's wet and soft than when it's firm and fast, and he's right.
Anonymous Pro: The worst place you can drive it at Royal St. George's is down the middle of any fairway because you're assured that your ball won't end up in that fairway. You need to aim at the edge of rough and work it back toward the center, then you have half a chance because the fairways are all upside-down bowls.
Bamberger: It's true, a lot of good shots aren't rewarded. The superpurist says that adds up to a funky winner. I say, That's Open golf. Part of the test is, Can you control your emotions after a crazy bounce? Tom Weiskopf never won a major in the U.S., but he won on a bouncy Troon layout and said he liked it because for once he didn't have to be perfect.
Van Sickle: In the 21st century an archaic idea like the rub of the green has gone by the wayside. There is no such thing as an accident anymore. Someone is always to blame. Referees and umpires make mistakes, so now we fix them with instant replay. Golf at St. George's is a fickle game. Today's players don't get that.