This year’s AIG Women’s Open will draw to a conclusion on one of the most famous and challenging holes in golf, the fearsome 18th at Carnoustie Golf Links.
The scene of considerable drama over the years, not least in 1999 when Jean van de Velde famously climbed into the Barry Burn as he relinquished his grip on The Open in spectacular fashion, Carnoustie’s closing par-4 certainly poses a stern test for even the very best.
Ahead of the AIG Women’s Open, Iona Stephen took a trip down the 18th with someone who knows exactly what it takes to win the Championship, Catriona Matthew.
The Champion of 2009 – who finished tied-fifth when Carnoustie last hosted the AIG Women’s Open 10 years ago - discussed the different ways the hole can be approached and the hazards that make it so tricky to negotiate.
PICKING YOUR LINE FROM THE TEE
If the Championship is on the line for a player as they reach the 72nd hole, the first challenge comes in deciding how bold you want to be from the tee.
“An awful lot would depend on the situation,” Matthew explained.
“I think if I had a two-shot lead I would just be hitting something that kept me short of the bunkers on the right, and then potentially depending on the wind direction, even potentially laying up (with the second shot).
“But if you were one behind, I think you would have to go out with your driver and try and hit down the left side and give yourself a shorter shot to the green.
“So I think a lot is dependent on obviously the weather conditions, the wind conditions, and how you’re sitting in the tournament.”
NO ROOM FOR ERROR WITH APPROACH
The iconic Barry Burn cuts across Carnoustie’s final hole on two occasions, threatening to catch a player’s tee shot and also their approach.
Matthew is well aware that the second shot on 18 is arguably even more demanding than the first, with the burn far from the only hazard in play.
“Even once you’ve hit the fairway on 18 it’s no easy second shot, with that out of bounds tight on the left and no bail-out (on the) right with the stands up during the tournament,” she added.
“It’s just a tough golf hole. You’ve got to hit two good shots.”
AIMING FOR A GREENSIDE BUNKER?
As she played the 18th in the company of Matthew, Stephen found the front-right greenside bunker with her second shot.
And Matthew would not be surprised to see the trap become a popular spot in the week of the Championship.
After Stephen almost holed out from the sand, Matthew said: “You can see how that bunker really isn’t that bad, to that pin. Obviously if it’s a tight pin it’s a lot more difficult.”
Asked if players could aim for the bunker with their second shot given the other dangers lurking, Matthew replied: “Without a doubt.”
A WALK TO REMEMBER
Everyone in this year’s AIG Women’s Open field will hope to reach Carnoustie’s 18th on Sunday in a similar position to the one Matthew found herself in at Royal Lytham & St Annes 12 years ago.
“I was very fortunate in that I’d hit the fairway, hit a 6-iron onto the middle of the green and I had a a three-shot lead, so I knew I’d won it,” said Europe’s Solheim Cup captain.
“It was an amazing experience, walking up (the fairway), the crowd on both sides. I had Graeme, my husband, caddying … I think the Scottish Girls’ team were there with their faces painted with the Saltire. It was just one of those things you really never forget.
“Obviously it would be a dream come true to win it again. I think we’ll have a strong British contingent regardless.”