HSBC STIRS UP OPEN DEBATE ON CHAMPIONSHIP LINKS
Which is the greatest opening hole in golf’s Open Championship, or the best around the turn, or indeed the finest finishing hole? These are questions golfers ask and debate up and down the land. HSBC, celebrating its first year as Patron of the Open Championship, decided to take that debate a step further by engaging two of the world’s finest golfers of recent times, Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie, to create a course of the finest holes in Open Championship golf, “The HSBC Ultimate Open 18”.
HSBC asked each of the players, who with 35 Open appearances between them know a thing or two about Open Championship golf, to produce an 18 hole Open Championship course, using holes from the nine courses on the current Open rota. Their brief was simple: to create a genuine Championship course in terms of length and par and with the sequence of holes corresponding to the actual hole number on the respective course, as played at The Open. They were then pitted against one another in debate, with the BBC’s Andrew Cotter keeping order, to produce the HSBC Ultimate Open 18, potentially the greatest of Open courses, were it to be played for real!
Padraig Harrington commented: “I really enjoyed the whole process as it's a discussion we often have. But taking it to the next level, actually to create a whole course, was a real challenge, as well as a lot of fun! There are so many great golf holes on all the Open courses that it’s sometimes hard to pick out one above another. I chose to look at both the design of the hole and the strategy required to play it while, of course, my emotions came into play. My own personal experiences, including the great weeks I enjoyed at Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale, and the history and theatre that I feel when at the home of golf, St. Andrews, for example, were definitely part of my decision making. I’m sure not everyone will agree to every selection– Monty certainly didn't!”
Both players brought a rich experience to the table. Irishman Padraig Harrington has won two Opens (’07 and ’08) and played in 14. Colin Montgomerie holds course records at St Andrews and Carnoustie, finished second in the Open at St Andrews in 2005 and has played an incredible 21 consecutive Open Championships. But they also brought a different approach.
“I focused purely on the quality of the hole, though undoubtedly those that suit me better, the 12th at Royal Birkdale for example, came ahead of others.” said eight-times European Order of Merit Winner, Colin Montgomerie. “I found it a fascinating exercise and I’m sure plenty of players, professional and amateur alike, will come up to us at Sandwich to tell us we got it wrong. But that's one of the reasons why we love The Open, because we have nine wonderful courses which all bring their own challenge, their own unique qualities to bear. I look forward to the debate to come!”
The final HSBC Ultimate Open 18 course they agreed on is certainly a challenge to ponder. At 7,264 yards, it’s comparable to this year’s Open course at Royal St George’s, Sandwich for example. But it’s the par 3s that really stand out, with four of the toughest to be found on any course.
Group Head of Sponsorship, Giles Morgan, said: “HSBC has been involved in golf at all levels since 2003 and in HSBC’s first year as Patron of the Open Championship, we wanted to do something to celebrate one of the unique features of the event which include the wonderful group of links courses on which the Championship is played. Just imagine a round of golf that includes The Postage Stamp, Barry Burn and the Road Hole – sounds good, doesn’t it? We hope that golf fans everywhere will enjoy the HSBC Ultimate Open.”
The selection is certain to spark debate among professionals and amateurs alike.