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With benign forecast, could Old Course be overmatched? Slumbers not concerned

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Even with a benign weather forecast this week, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers isn’t concerned about St. Andrews getting overmatched by the game’s best players.

Many around the game have wondered how the Old Course – a par 72 and just 7,300 yards on the card, short by today’s standards – will stand up to modern equipment and players who are longer and stronger than even the last time the Open was held here, in 2015, when 15 under par played off but the event was prolonged a day because of high winds.

Slumbers admitted that “luck with Mother Nature” is a crucial piece in staging an Open at the ancient links, and the early forecast calls for mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine and winds that aren’t expected to gust more than 25 mph in any round.

“Mother Nature at the moment is not destined to give us any rain and probably not going to give us as much wind as we like,” he said. “But we’ve got other ways of being able to set up the golf course.”

As many players have noted, the fairways on the Old Course are firmer and running faster than the putting surfaces at the moment, and that’s by design. Slumbers said that they’ve been “holding the greens back” because of warm weather at the start of tournament week and that they wanted to ensure the putting surfaces were still smooth come the final round.

“The golf course is exactly where we want it to be,” Slumbers said.

Responding to some of the predictions that St. Andrews could be at the mercy of the long hitters – three-time Open champion Nick Faldo warned there could even be a few runs at 59 – Slumbers said that he wasn’t concerned about the links’ viability.

“A 59 is 13 under par around this golf course,” he said. “There’s 7,300 yards. It’s got greens that are running at 10 ½ to 11 [on the Stimpmeter]. It’s got fairways where the ball is bouncing 50 yards if it’s hit, and more if it catches the downslope.

“13 under par around that, I’ll tell you what, if someone shoots that, I will be the first person on the 18th green to shake their hand, because they have played outstanding golf.”

The lowest score in major-championship history is 62, shot by Branden Grace at the 2017 Open. The course record at the Old Course is Ross Fisher’s 61 at the 2017 Dunhill Links. There have been a pair of 63s shot at a St. Andrews Open, including by Rory McIlroy to begin the 2010 championship.