HOYLAKE, England — For all the concern over the new par-3 17th at Royal Liverpool, the real headache was No. 18.
The par-5 finishing hole featuring a rare internal out-of-bounds running the entire right side and five bunkers surrounding the front of the green brought some of the world's best players to their knees at the British Open on Thursday.
Literally in the case of Rory McIlroy.
The tournament favorite's first round ended with the improbable sight of him standing with his right leg inside a bunker and his left knee on the downward slope beside it, before he splashed out to rescue par in his level-par 71. Moments earlier, up against the face of the bunker, he'd failed to hit the ball out sideways.
Justin Thomas could only dream of making par.
The two-time major champion drove out-of-bounds and later sent his ball from one greenside bunker to another, before blasting out through the green and winding up making 9 for an 11-over 82 — his highest round in a major.
Taichi Kho of Hong Kong somehow fared even worse.
He was coming off his first — and only — birdie of the round and drove it well enough on the 18th that he could go for the green.
And then the troubles began.
Kho left his first shot in the bunker left of the green. And then another. He finally blasted out sideways into high grass, only for his next shot to go back into the same bunker. Kho blasted that one out sideways toward the native grass. His eighth shot found the green, and he two-putted from 10 feet.
That added up to a 10, giving him a round-high 83.
The 18th was where Rickie Fowler ruined his good round with a triple bogey, giving him a 72. Ryan Fox ended his round of 78 with a triple, too, the same score at the hole made by Phil Mickelson and Jorge Campillo.
In 2014 when the Open was last staged at Royal Liverpool, there were 26 scores of double or worse over four rounds. In the first round alone this year, there were 19.
The hole is playing 50 yards longer — at 599 — this time and the out-of-bounds marker has been moved about 20 yards closer to the fairway. A white line runs virtually the length of the fairway, bringing OB into play for the first and second shots, then around and along the right of the fairway on No. 3. Out-of-bounds is also a factor on No. 4, though not quite to the fairway edge.
Inside the white lines are hospitality areas and merchandise tents at this British Open. Typically, that piece of land is used by the club as a practice range.
Brooks Koepka was asked ahead of the Open about the internal OB.
“It’s fine,” he said. “Just don’t hit it over there (and) you won’t have a problem, right?”
Many will have a different view after what transpired in the first round. The bunkers proved almost as penal as the OB.
“They’re proper penalty structures for the most part,” said Jon Rahm, who had to blast out sideways from the greenside sand on No. 18 and made bogey for a 74.
“It’s just when you hit it into these bunkers, you’re sort of riding your luck at that point and hoping it’s not up against one of those riveted faces,” he said. “Yeah, Jon and I didn’t have much of a shot with our thirds, so then you’re just hoping to make par somehow and get out of there.”