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Royal Troon 2020

A Tale of Two Nines


Statistics from Royal Troon

A greenkeeper clears away water on day two of the AIG Women

Royal Troon hosted its first ever AIG Women’s Open last week, and in tough conditions it provided a fantastic, fair test that received rave reviews from players.

But how did the course play, and what do the numbers behind Royal Troon’s brilliant layout tell us about the week? Here are some of the standout course statistics from a memorable AIG Women’s Open in 2020.

A Tale of Two Nines

The first and most immediately obvious statistic from last week is strangely somewhat of an anomaly. The front nine, generally speaking the easier nine holes at Royal Troon due to the usual prevailing wind, played over 1.5 shots harder than the back nine across the week, equating to half a shot more to par.

The first six holes played straight into an immensely powerful wind on Thursday and Friday, with gusts nearing 40mph on both days, and proved incredibly tough for the players. On Thursday, the average score for the entire field over the first six holes was three over par, and the front nine average of 39.62 was over 3.5 shots tougher than the back nine, which played mostly downwind.

Astonishingly, every hole on the front nine was ranked in the 10 most difficult holes for Thursday, with the par-4 12th the only back-nine hole to feature, ranking as the third-toughest hole in round one.

Troon’s usual wind, which plays down and slightly off the right for the majority of the front nine, only appeared on Sunday. It was no surprise, therefore, to see that round four was the only round in which the field was under par on average over the front nine.

The Postage Stamp shows its class

No analysis of Royal Troon's statistics would be complete without a closer look at the Postage Stamp. One of golf’s truly iconic holes, the par-3 eighth hole at Royal Troon is one of the shortest par-3s in championship golf, yet still plays as one of the trickiest.

This is no better exemplified than over the weekend. On moving day, the hole measured just 95 yards, a mere flick for even a mid-handicapper, but the beauty of its narrow, bunker-guarded design was evident as the world’s best players averaged exactly par. The 74 players who made the weekend shared 15 birdies, 46 pars, 11 bogeys and two doubles between them over the day for an average of 3.00 on the nose.

Even more incredibly, on Sunday, with next to no wind, the Postage Stamp was responsible for 10 of just 25 double bogeys or worse on the entire course all day. There were four triples on Sunday on the eighth, perhaps due in part to players attacking a fiendish pin position at the back of the narrow green, and only the 11th hole registered a single further triple on the rest of the course all day.

The result? On a day with very little wind, a 119-yard hole played as the toughest hole on Championship Sunday at Royal Troon. Genius.

The Postage Stamp green at Royal Troon
From the hardest to the easiest

The impact of wind in links golf can be summed up perfectly by a look at the scoring averages from the sixth hole during the championship.

The sixth is a straightaway par 5. Into the aforementioned winds on Thursday, it yielded an average score of 5.76 in round one, the hardest hole on any day all week by some distance.

Yet after playing as Thursday's toughest hole, it was Sunday's easiest hole, incredibly playing 1.15 strokes easier in round four than it did just three days earlier as the wind finally eased to leave a relatively straightforward test. Many players were reaching the green in two on the final day, while on Thursday some could not reach in three!

The Fox proves trickier than holes 10 and 11

Tying in with unusual narratives regarding the front and back nine last week, the par-4 12th hole proved to be the toughest hole of the championship. This is in large part again due to the extreme, volatile and uncommon wind directions across the four days of play.

The infamous 10th and 11th holes at Royal Troon are both among the toughest par-4s in the game of golf, but neither hole ever played into a strong headwind last week, meaning the oft-overlooked 12th hole, a wonderful dog-leg with trouble on both sides, ranked harder than both.

The hole known as The Fox, which measured as the shortest par 4 on the back nine and the fourth shortest on the course, averaged at nearly half a stroke over par for the four days, at 4.48.