LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Keegan Bradley thought the closest water hazard at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was the Irish Sea about a mile away.
He found one Friday on the 15th hole.
Any other day, this would be called a pot bunker. But after a summer of endless rain in England that pushed the water table to its limit, it only took about a half-inch of rain overnight to fill the bottom of bunkers and turn dozens of them into small ponds at the British Open.
“I had no choice but to play it,” Bradley said.
He wasn’t alone.
Phil Mickelson had to take relief from a bunker just short of the first green. Rory McIlroy’s ball was submerged.
“I guess you just have to treat them as if they’ve got stakes around them,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who hit into a few pot bunkers in the fairway that were relatively dry.
“You probably should treat them like that, anyway, because they’re pretty much a one-shot penalty, anyway.”
Bunkers are considered hazards, so Bradley’s only other options were to take a drop from casual water no closer to the hole – this would have taken him to the back edge of the sand and hit a shot with his feet outside the bunker – or take full relief on the grass short of the bunker with a one-shot penalty.
He felt as though his best chance was to blast away at the half-submerged ball. Bradley did well to splash it out to about 20 feet to escape with a bogey.
Ogilvy said the worst of the bunkers was along the closing stretch, which is the closest to sea levels. Tom Watson, playing in his 35th British Open, knows these links courses better than anyone else in the field. Lytham always has been a little different.
“I don’t see this piece of property being 40 feet of sand, like some of the other links courses and links land that we play on,” Watson said. “You see a lot of mud out in the compounds over there. So it’s not as sandy as other courses, therefore it doesn’t drain very well in certain places. It doesn’t surprise me. Some bunkers are fine. They drained some of the bunkers, and some of the bunkers they didn’t.”