Across 11 hours of wind-blown action involving 73 players and 1,314 holes, links golf in all its glory and confoundment shined through in one sequence of shots at a ribbon of Turnberry turf where the view is breathtaking and the challenge massive.
Roon the ben’.
That is the name given to the par-5 seventh hole, a 538-yarder that bends sharply right-to-left but begins with a daunting tee shot high on a bluff overlooking the Irish Sea.
Jim Furyk could probably come up with a more compelling name for it, but for now, he’ll simply be glad that he’s done with it for another day. Ditto Angel Cabrera, his playing competitor, because the two of them traveled in vastly different directions to take us on bumpy, but fun, rides.
How wild was it?
Consider that Furyk dropped his first shot of the day, yet managed a smile. “It was,” he said, “a good bogey.”
On the other hand, Cabrera’s par did not leave him smiling, for it’s a hole he should command with his ferocious length.
Ah, but we bring you to the top of that bluff and drives that set the hole in motion. Furyk’s was an ugly snipe dead left, Cabrera’s a high bomb that got up in a wind whipping in off the water and rode wide right.
Furyk was so concerned about his drive that he hit a provisional, but as he walked off the tee and down through tall, wispy grass, a marshall pointed to a white ball in a burn.
“Just an awful drive,” Furyk said. “I don’t know, it went what, about 210 yards?”
He immediately brought in the rules official to determine the drop, while Mike “Fluff” Cowan walked about 100 yards ahead to figure out some sort of yardage.
Sitting 1-under and just four off the lead at the time, it was a tense moment, but Furyk never is far from a sense of levity. As a marshall headed down a very steep embankment, intending to try and reach for Furyk’s sunken ball, the player waved him off.
“Sir,” Furyk said, “I don’t want that ball. I’d rather you get out of there.”
The man appeared genuinely relieved and scampered back up the hill. Meanwhile, Furyk put several people in motion. Another marshal marked the spot at the burn the player had to keep in line with and the rules official directed Furyk left, then right, then gave him the OK that he was free to drop.
By then, Furyk had probably gone back 60 yards from the burn and was approximately just 150 or so from the tee. He dropped in a 3-foot grass path cut through the tall, brown, wispy stuff, then waited for Cowan. The faithful caddie had marched in one direction, then all the way back to where Furyk now stood.
Together, they got out yardage books, gazed into the distance and tried to make sense of it all.
“Honestly, we had no idea,” Furyk said. “We were guessing.”
All the while, some 150 yards up the fairway and to the right, Cabrera stared in disbelief at his ball. It had hit the hill and rolled back, coming to rest at the far side of a bunker. To play it right-handed, Cabrera would have to stand in a 4-foot bunker and that was out of the question.
He shook his head, then turned back to watch Furyk, who by now had settled on a club (a hybrid) and a line. “We picked out a yellow stick as a target,” he said. “But again, we weren’t sure.”
That shot carried a big mound of rough down the left, hit the fairway and scooted into rough on the right side.
Finally, after a 15-minute wait, Cabrera played — from the lefthand side.
“Took a mighty whack, too,” said a marshal in disbelief after watching Cabrera turn an iron around and slam it perhaps 150 yards forward, but further right.
Furyk’s fourth shot, a 6-iron, hit short and bounded through the green into rough.
Cabrera’s third caught a piece of the green and settled within 30 feet. Though Cabrera two-putted for a five, it was the man who made six who seemed happier.
“You can resolve most sins with the putter,” said Furyk, who got it up-and-down from the back of the green with a 12-foot putt.
Cowan called it “the most important putt of the day,” and it was hard to argue with him. His player hadn’t lost two strokes — he had maintained a semblance of momentum and when a birdie, par finish secured a share of sixth at 1-under, they all felt the work at the par-5 seventh had been the key.
And, no, it didn’t bother Cowan that he had walked perhaps 750 yards at the 538-yarder.
It was all in a day’s work. Links work.