The traditionalists will undoubtedly be horrified at the notion, but Pete Cowen believes it is now time for The Open to move to a two-tee start to counter the “unfairness” of the current draw system.
Cowen is coach to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter, and his word has sway. The former European Tour pro has yet again watched a section of the field be put at a disadvantage because of the weather and he feels that the R&A should now act and at least try to make it as equitable as possible.
“Of course, it can never be perfect and I understand that links golf is all about coping with the conditions put in front of you,” the Yorkshireman said. “But there is too much at stake in Open week, in my opinion, to risk such a big anomaly. The R&A should follow the lead of the US Open and do a two-tee start for the first two days.”
Cowen pointed at the halfway leaderboard here as evidence. Of the players who were out after noon on Thursday and then before noon on Friday, only Collin Morikawa was in the top four after two rounds. In fact, only three of this wave were in the top 16.
“The chat on the range has been all about the unfairness and luck, or rather lack of it, of the draw,” Cowen said. An early then late start in the first and second rounds had the players on the right side, and they perhaps got a 1.5-stroke advantage.
“The thing with a two-tee start is that the spread of discrepancies would be less and the players wouldn’t get so shafted. The field would only be competing from say 7.30am to 7pm, instead of from 6.35am to 9.15pm. That’s a big difference.”
Cowen is adamant the majority of pros would agree, but a number might be in two minds. Jordan Spieth understands how harsh it can be if you are the wrong side – and how much easier it can be on the right side.
“I’m not saying it’s easy based on competition or anything like that, I’m strictly saying that because a lot of the time some of the field is thrown out and you’re actually playing against a smaller field, your percentage goes up,” Spieth said.
“Most of the time there’s at least a group that gets the worst weather. And it’s almost impossible to win in that circumstance. So nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down, play as well as you can, and see what happens after two days.”
In 2016, at Royal Troon, Spieth played in the worst conditions of the week that resulted in a second-round 75 and a 30th-place finish. “It was very frustrating, especially when you feel like you’re in form and it really makes that much of a difference, because it’s that much harder,” he said.
“If it’s an afternoon round and the other side has already played the morning, that’s when it’s tough. Because you’re like, ‘I can’t shoot these scores. It’s not possible’. But it’s the nature of it, and I plan on playing 30 of these, and I guarantee you it will end up being 15 and 15 at the end of the day.