How Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy could differ off the tee at The Open
Judging by their pre-tournament comments, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods could have a very different approach to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The Scottish course is well dried out, with Tiger earlier this week remarking that the fairways are running faster than the greens. That can bring either a huge boost or a cause for concern off the tees, depending on which way you look at it.
Granted, it opens up new yardage possibilities - Tiger hit a three-iron 333 yards in practice - but it could also mean control becomes difficult on undulating links fairways.
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Rory, who has spoken of his desire to rediscover his fearless youth, argues that the conditions beg driver, and even hinted that the course lay-out backs up a loosening of the shackles on the tee-boxes, even on the 396-yard opening hole.
"I never even thought about hitting driver on the first before but if you bang it up the left you can get it on the green," he said on Monday. "The third, fifth, 15th and 17th are four holes where you are not going to hit driver. But if you get the third downwind, you can fly it right onto the green with a driver. For the two back pins, it is not a bad play.
"It all depends on how you are feeling on the day and the conditions but I think most players will try to be as aggressive as they can be."
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But for Tiger, 13 years McIlroy's senior, a more conservative approach may make up plan A.
That's not to say Tiger will be left behind - fans will recall his major success at Hoylake in 2006, when he famously used only one driver all week on route to lifting the Claret Jug.
"There's not a lot of opportunities to hit the driver just because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards," he said. "It's just hard to keep the ball in play. Even hitting sometimes four and five irons, they've been running 50, 60 yards.
"It's going to be an interesting test to see which clubs we're going to be using off the tees, and a lot of it is dependent on which way the wind blows.
"I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees. I hit a three iron down 18 and it went 333 (yards). It can get quick out here. Obviously, we had a little bit of rain since then, but if it just dries out a little bit and gets to where it was, then you're going to see a lot of guys hit the ball a long way with not a lot of club."
Padraig Harrington, in a typically thoughtful press conference, reckoned the secret to success might be a courageous attitude to the fairway bunkers that means more than trying to fly it over them.
"I'm hearing different people saying they're going to take driver and lash it out into the rough on every hole and play from there," he said. "But I was thinking it was going to suit the guys who thread the golf ball, who are very comfortable running a shot five yards left of a bunker. Other players who are a bit more cautious will be going, well, I don't want to reach the trouble and will end up playing the hole from 40 yards back.
"So I would be picking the guys who don't necessarily hit it that long, don't spin it that much, and just will thread it out there between the bunkers, and they'll end up playing a shorter course than some of the big hitters."
Belfast Telegraph Digital