Carnoustie is playing as a true links this week – The ground is firm and the ball will bounce and run unpredictably. Here’s how some of the top players see the test.

Driver Or Not? Leading Players Discuss Carnoustie Strategy
 
Given the unusually dry weather of the past couple of months, the course at Carnoustie for the Open looks like a links should. Fairways are firm and fast running and an errant ball will continue rolling until it finds trouble. Balls coming out of the rough will be tough to stop so a premium will be placed on finding the short stuff from the tee.
 
This will be the first Open since Hoylake in 2006 when true, traditional links characteristics will be a factor in how the players approach the course. The protagonists will need to display creativity and imagination to successfully negotiate this tricky track. Despite a little overnight rain, the course is firm and fiery and will likely become more so as the week goes on.
 
So how do the main protagonists see the test? What will their approach be and are they looking forward to it?
 
Tiger Woods won at Hoylake the last time an Open was played over a course this firm… Could he do it again? He’s excited to have the chance and he has a game plan:
 
“I think trajectory means a lot. This course can be played so many different ways, which is going to be the real interesting test is how we’re going to manage our way around the golf course.

(ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

As I was saying to some of the guys a couple days ago, the fairways were faster than the greens…
 
…Feel has a lot to do with playing The Open, and I think the guys traditionally over the years who have done well have been wonderful feel players and also wonderful lag putters because a lot of times it is difficult to get the ball close and have a numerous amount of putts from about 40, 50 feet.”
 
He’s struggled with the big stick since his comeback to form but he doesn’t see that being a problem this week:
 
“There’s not a lot of opportunities to hit the driver just because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards. It’s just hard to keep the ball in play. Even hitting sometimes 4 and 5 irons, they’ve been running 50, 60 yards.”  You can almost hear his sigh of relief!
 
Justin Rose is a former Scottish Open champion and he played well at Gullane last week in similar conditions to those the players will face at Carnoustie. He has the experience of dealing with challenging links conditions and he doesn’t necessarily agree with Tiger that driver isn’t the club!
 
“There are going to be opportunities to hit driver… Fairway from 200 is as difficult as rough from 90 yards…” Remember though – Rose is a very good driver of the ball!
 
And he is playing down Carnoustie’s fearsome reputation:
 
“I don’t see it as tough. I see it as all links golf courses are tough, but it’s — I don’t feel like it’s much tougher than Birkdale, Muirfield, or Turnberry.” Good positivity from Justin!
 
He believes that to conquer Carnoustie, patience is the key:
 
“You’re going to have shots that do end up in bunkers. You’re going to have breaks and bounces that go against you. So I think accepting that is probably the biggest, wide sweeping statement here; the player who wins is going to have to be patient with all of that for sure.”
 
World Number 2 Justin Thomas is facing conditions he hasn’t seen before in his two previous Open starts:
 
“It just presents the opportunity to hit a lot of different clubs off of tees and play the course a lot of different ways. With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

 
And, he’s with Tiger on the driver issue:

“To me, a lot of those holes have a bunker in play with a driver, and that’s causing me to not want to hit driver.”
 
But he’s a little confused on the nature of those bunkers:
 
“The bunkers here are truly a water hazard.” …. But it’s hardly rained for two months Justin!
 
And he’ll be hoping this doesn’t happen:
 
“If I get two, three over par early, front nine, whatever it may be, potentially trying to change my game plan and start hitting drivers, and then you start hitting them into bunkers, gorse bushes, whatever it may be. And you start making more bogeys and double bogeys.” … Not such good positivity from this Justin.
 
Tommy Fleetwood is the course record holder at Carnoustie, having shot 63 in the Dunhill Links last year. But he’s fully aware that score was compiled in rather different conditions:
 
“It is a completely different course. I played yesterday, just I’ve never played it this firm or fast. Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it. It was definitely apparent that the difficulties this week are probably going to be putting it in play and hitting it in the fairways and go from there.”
 
But, he also points out that the greens are still very playable:
 
“The greens are still pretty receptive. You can tuck some pins away, but overall the greens are pretty flat.”
 
And where does he stand on the driver or not driver debate?
 
“There’s certain holes where your game plan might be to hit driver off the tee just simply because you’re not going to be to hit a club that is going to take trouble out of play.” … Driver.
 
The conditions are making Tommy feel nostalgic:
 
“It just reminds you of like an Open, to me, a long time ago, where you had really hot summers and the courses were playing really firm and fast.”
 
The overall consensus from most of the players is that tee shots are going to be key this week – To find the correct positions to approach the still, reasonably, receptive greens.
And the strategies for finding those spots are clearly going to vary – Some like Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood will trust their accuracy with the driver…
Others like Justin Thomas might look to more canny placement with irons on certain holes then there will be a few, like Tiger Woods, who are simply relieved that they won’t have to hit driver.
Will we seem him use it at all? We know he has put a new driving iron in the bag – maybe the biggest head cover will stay on. If that happens, and he keeps the ball in play, he could well contend.