What's buzzing:

Irons takes on added importance at British Open

AP - Sports
Irons takes on added importance at British Open

View gallery

Tiger Woods of the US watches his shot off the 5th tee during a practice round ahead of the British Open …

HOYLAKE, England (AP) -- When Tom Watson remembers his favorite shots from the British Open - and, given he's a five-time champion, there are plenty - one stands above all the others.

That 2-iron on the 72nd hole at Birkdale, locking up the last of his major titles in 1983.

Anyone who fancies a chance of hoisting the claret jug at Royal Liverpool would be well advised to practice the same sort of shot.

''That's where you beat your competitors, if you're a good long-iron player,'' Watson said. ''You hit the shots where you're supposed to when you're a long way from the green.''

Tiger Woods proved that in 2006, the last time the Open was played at this course in northwest England. He pulled out his driver only once all week, sticking almost entirely with his irons on the way to an 18-under score and two-stroke victory.

That week, the links course was so dried out it looked like nothing more than a cow pasture from the aerial camera shots. It was hard as a pool table, meaning Woods could get plenty of distance by keeping the ball low and letting it roll, the sort of shot the 2-iron was made for.

The conditions are much different this time around.

Royal Liverpool is greener and softer, the result of a cooler, wetter summer. Still, the 2-iron - heck, all the irons - will be of vital importance in controlling the ball and staying out of the devilish pot bunkers that serve essentially as an automatic penalty to anyone who strays in their direction.

Justin Rose pointed out that he won last week's Scottish Open while hitting nothing longer than a 6-iron off the tee on the final six holes.

''That's all based upon keeping it out of the bunkers,'' Rose said. ''You can't play links golf from pot bunkers. They are true penalties. So whatever the club is, if it's a 2-iron or 3-iron or 4-iron or 5-iron, that's why they are important clubs to keep it in the fairway.''

Defending champion Phil Mickelson feels like he is driving the ball as good as he ever has, but he'll be pulling a 2-iron out of his bag this week. It's one of two clubs he rarely uses at any other tournament, the other being a 64-degree wedge that helps him keep the ball from bouncing.

He described the 2-iron as being ''very important and instrumental in my success here.''

''I will carry a driver,'' Mickelson said. ''But it will be very situational depending on the wind, pin placement and how I'm feeling at the given moment.''

The world's top-ranked player, Adam Scott, always has a 2-iron in his bag.

He's really looking forward to using it at the Open.

''For here, it's perfect,'' he said. ''I don't have to do anything with it, other than swing.''

Depending on the wind, Rory McIlroy figures he'll divvy up his tee shots between the driver and the 2-iron. While the par 5s present the best chance for birdies - and will likely bring out the driver - the two-time major champion knows he can't get too reckless with his big club.

''I usually carry a 5-wood instead of a 2-iron,'' McIlroy said. ''I just think for this terrain and the conditions and the wind, the 2-iron just goes a little bit lower, and there's a bit of a better flight on it, which is obviously better for these conditions.''

Even when one hits a booming shot with the driver, that doesn't mean it will turn out well on a links course.

''Very often, they are so well designed that there's the next set of bunkers, at 280, 290, 300 yards,'' Rose said. ''So your decision is to take all the bunkers out (of play), normally.''

While no one expects a Woods-like performance this year, the 2-iron will almost surely be a vitally important club for whoever emerges as the champion on Sunday evening.

''I understand how Tiger won in 2006 here,'' Watson said. ''Very simply, he was the best iron player by far during that tournament. By far. His iron play was spot on.''

Who knows? Maybe it will come down to the sort of shot Watson pulled off more than three decades ago.

He still summons up with the details like it happened yesterday.

''As soon as I hit the ball, I knew I hit it dead flush,'' he recalled. ''There was a left-to-right wind and the ball started just right of the flag and hooked off the flag.''

His caddie, Alfie Fyles, shouted, ''Stop hooking.''

''Alf,'' Watson replied, ''don't worry.'

The ball wound up 15 feet from the hole.

Two putts later, Watson had his fifth Open title.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

View Comments (0)
  • Brady blasts NFL 'Deflategate' suspension, denies wrongdoing

    (Refiles to delete repetitious paragraph on ball inflation) By Steve Ginsburg July 29 (Reuters) - New England Patriots football star Tom Brady denied on Wednesday he had destroyed his cell phone to avoid giving it to NFL investigators, saying the … More »

    Reuters - 3 minutes 50 seconds ago
  • Five-run inning lifts Giants past Brewers

    Five-run inning lifts Giants past Brewers

    A day after making a wild throw from the outfield, Hunter Pence certainly wasn't surprised to see the Milwaukee Brewers try to test his arm again. This time the San Francisco Giants outfielder made the Brewers pay with one of the two sparkling … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 minutes 19 seconds ago
  • Baseball-Highlights of Wednesday's MLB games

    Highlights of Wedenesday's Major League Baseball games: - - - - Tigers 2, Rays 1 Detroit took advantage in the seventh of two misplays by Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to score two unearned runs and record a 2-1 victory. Cabrera committed an … More »

    Reuters - 4 minutes 20 seconds ago
  • With new hip, Jerry Jones sees pep in step of his Cowboys

    With new hip, Jerry Jones sees pep in step of his Cowboys

    Barely a week removed from hip replacement surgery, Jerry Jones eased into a chair for the training camp tradition he didn't want to miss: the Dallas owner's annual overview of the Cowboys. Just a few minutes later on the eve of the first camp … More »

    AP - Sports - 8 minutes ago
  • Pumas prop Herrera needs knee surgery, could miss World Cup

    Tighthead Herrera was injured during last weekend's 34-9 loss to Australia in their Rugby Championship test in Mendoza that leaves Argentina bottom of the standings with no points. "Ramiro Herrera suffered a rupture of the internal ligament and … More »

    Reuters - 19 minutes ago