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Royal Liverpool golf Club, or Hoylake, teems with history. Memories of 11 previous Open Championships haunt the fairways of this 145-year-old course in northwest England. Past champions here include Hagen, Jones and Woods, who in 2006 displayed all the skills and strategies that links golf demands. Virtually abandoning driver, Tiger moved his ball around the course like a grandmaster moves his chess pieces. He had to. Hoylake tests one's brain more than brawn -- not to mention one's ability to gauge the gales. (After one wind-whipped round at Royal Liverpool, Nick Faldo said, "We were aiming at adjoining fairways.") With Tiger from 2006 as our guide, here are three holes certain to test the best.
12th: 448 YARDS PAR 4 "DEE"
Ranked as the toughest hole during the 2006 Open and the 33rd most difficult hole on the PGA Tour that year, this dogleg left heads into the heart of Hoylake's most attractive stretch amid the sand dunes edging the Dee Estuary. Three bunkers patrol the outside elbow, tempting players to blast away down the left side in order to shorten the journey. But a new patch of "broken ground" (chopped-up rough) on the left side could dissuade shortcut-takers. An elevated green demands an aerial approach, which brings the wind more into play, and the green's back-to-front slope creates a target so demanding there is no need for bunkers to guard it. A brutal up and down awaits those who carry the approach too far, especially if the hole is cut middle or back. By far the worst second shot is one yanked to the left, where it might find a deep ravine cut into the sandhills.
HOW TIGER PLAYED IT IN 2006
ROUND 1: PAR
ROUND 2: PAR
ROUND 3: PAR
ROUND 4: BOGEY
HIS GAME PLAN: Woods never deviated from his strategy. Take the second round. From the tee he hit a long iron short of the fairway bunkers. From there, he said in 2006, "I had 190 yards and hit a nice little 4-iron up on the green." Eventually, he two-putted for a stress-free par. In explaining his disciplined approach of laying back on many holes, Woods said, "It all depends what I feel the golf course gives me. If I feel like I can fly those bunkers, then I will. And if I feel like I can't, I'll lay short of them and go ahead and just hit my 3-, 4- and 5-irons into the green and move on."
To avoid the three bunkers on the outside of the dogleg, players will try to cut the corner and hug the left side of the fairway. But a new "broken ground" area to the left will punish way-ward hooks.
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