LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — A staggering 206 bunkers dot Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where the British Open begins today. The golfer who does the best job staying out of them could very well wind up with the claret jug in his grasp come Sunday evening.
"Rule No. 1, avoid the bunkers," Paul Casey said. "Rule No. 2, if you're in a bunker, just get it out. Don't go for the glory shot."
Though pot bunkers can be found at clubs around the world, they are a distinctive feature on links courses. What they lack in size they make up for in depth, leaving a much tougher escape route than the traps typically found on PGA Tour layouts.
The origins of the pot bunker supposedly go back centuries, when sheep burrowed into the ground seeking warmth and shelter from the notorious coastal weather. The modern version is created with layers of sod stacked atop each other, similar to bricklaying, which creates a menacing wall that usually leaves the offender with little chance of pulling off a decent shot.
cellphones allowed again: Tiger Woods' last win at the British Open was well-documented by thousands of cellphones used to take pictures at Royal Liverpool in 2006. The Royal & Ancient, the Open's organizer, was furious because of the distraction they caused.
But the Royal & Ancient is allowing cellphones again this year. Several signs across Royal Lytham & St. Annes tell spectators that phones are to remain on silent and no photos are allowed.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said he was more curious than nervous about how it would work.
"We banned mobile phones after the '06 Open with a pretty heavy heart, actually, because we do know that they're very useful tools for many people who have become entirely accustomed to having them alongside themselves," Dawson said.
"But we did have the bad experience at Hoylake, and that's what caused it. Now we're reversing that policy in as controlled a manner as we are able."
need for speed: Organizers said they are cracking down on slow play, calling the issue a scourge that is "killing" the game at amateur levels in particular. Three-balls are under orders to complete their first two rounds in 41/2 hours, with two-balls required to finish in 3 hours, 45 minutes. "We're putting slow play as priority," said Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee. "We would take whatever action is appropriate."
one out, none in: Robert Karlsson pulled out of the British Open, saying "some bad habits" have gotten into his game and he will take a few weeks off. He won't be replaced. The Open already was one player over the limit, so this withdrawal put the field at 156.