Final two Open Championship holes baffling pros at Royal Liverpool: ‘Unfair to everybody’

Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and more dealt with treacherous bunkers and wicked out of bounds areas

Many storylines, including an amateur Christo Lamprecht tied for the lead, at The Open Championship from Royal Liverpool have come from Day One of the historic tournament. 

But one thing is for sure: Holes 17 and 18 at Royal Liverpool are a "monstrosity," according to Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddie, Billy Foster. 

When the tournament teed off on Thursday, the course’s final two holes were a nightmare for many golfers, as treacherous bunkers around the green took victims left and right


Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas of the United States reacts on the 14th hole on Day One of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England.  (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The first on 17 -- a brand new, short par-3 at 138 yards -- calls for a precise tee shot that has a direct line to the pin. If not, the golfer will likely find themselves in one of the bunkers stationed around the intended target. 

Of course, with winds swirling around Hoylake, it’s hard to be as precise as the golfer wants. 

Then, it’s time for the driver with a 599-yard 18th and final hole for the round. There’s multiple out of bounds areas to deal with off the tee. More bunkers await the golfer on their approach shots as well. 


"I would say it’s fair, because it’s unfair to everybody,’’ Jon Rahm said via Yahoo! Sports prior to the tournament. "Like it’s golf, and it’s life. Simple as that. We all have to play the same holes. If you hit a good shot, you’ll definitely most likely have a birdie chance. If not, you’ll deal with it. I get you’re going for that on a championship Sunday. 

"You have a one-shot lead, that hole can be pivotal."

placeholderLucas Herbert learned quickly at Hole 17 how hard those bunkers are to escape after he aired his tee shot over the green, saying it was "pretty hard to feel the wind." He ended up with a triple bogey after his first attempt out of the sand went awry, and he came into the hole with the lead at 3-under. 

Phil Mickelson was another who struggled at the 17th, finding it hard to get out of the bunker on his first try as well. 

For Brooks Koepka, though, he doesn’t mind the challenge and thinks the 17th is actually quite fun. 

Rickie Fowler hits out of bunker

Rickie Fowler of The United States plays his third shot on the eighth hole during the first round of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

"I like it," he told Yahoo! Sports. "I’m a big believer in the short par-3s — make it difficult, exactly like that. I think all the best par 3s in the world that have ever been designed are 165 yards or shorter.

"Just don’t hit it over there, and you won’t have a problem, right?"

But the 18th saw some brutal tee shots and lies in the greenside bunkers from numerous golfers, including Rickie Fowler. Hospitality tents and room for spectators makes it a narrow tee shot, and Fowler found himself out of bounds not once, but twice. He would finish his round with a triple bogey to go 1-over on the day. 

There was also Justin Thomas’s implosion, as his recent play continues to falter at majors. He scored a wicked quadruple bogey after he couldn’t stay out of the bunkers, hitting out from one to the other and even duffing a pitch shot back in. 


He’s in danger to miss another major cut with an 82 posted in his first round. 

Rory McIlroy almost suffered the same fate as his peers when he was trapped in the bunker at 18. He tried to hit it out the first time and failed, but with one leg in and one leg laid on the grass outside, he managed to get his ball close to the hole with a chance to save par. 

A fist pump came out after he knocked in his par putt, finishing even on the day. 

Normally, you don’t see reactions like that on the first day of any tournament, but that fist pump shows how hard it is for these golfers to get the job done. 

Rory McIlroy reacts

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts on the 12th green on Day One of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

These two finishing holes will continue to pester these pros and amateurs for the next three days. But, like Rahm said, it’s for everybody to endure. 

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