July 17, 2018 / 5:13 PM / 4 months ago

Golf: Koepka and Johnson plot aggressive Carnoustie strategy

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Americans Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson head a group of long hitters ready to take on Carnoustie with an aggressive strategy at the British Open starting on Thursday.

Jul 17, 2018; Carnoustie, Angus, SCT; Dustin Johnson watches his tee shot at the 15th hole with Brooks Koepka (behind) during a practice round of The Open Championship golf tournament at Carnoustie Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

While many players have spoken about how infrequently, if at all, they will use their drivers on the ultra-firm and fast layout, Koepka and Johnson subscribe to a grip it and rip it philosophy.

Koepka said on Tuesday that he might hit his driver eight or nine times a round, a strategy he thinks will allow him to fly his tee shots over the many penal bunkers dotting the links layout.

“Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” the reigning U.S. Open champion said.

“Coming here, I knew it was a very warm summer, not much rain but I still thought you play this course with a lot of irons off the tee, lay back to the bunkers.

“But sometimes we can just take all the bunkers out by hitting driver.”

With the rough wispier than normal, Koepka says that even wayward tee shots should not often cause too many problems.

“If you can get within 40 yards of the green, why not (hit driver)?” he said. “There’s no reason not to take advantage of that, especially with the rough being not so thick.”

Johnson agreed that the driver could yield rewards.

“If I can hit driver and take the bunkers out of play, (I’m) absolutely going to do that,” said the world number one.

“If you hit it in the bunkers it’s a penalty shot. I haven’t seen one yet that I’ve hit in that I could actually hit it on the green out of the bunker.

“So a lot of times, yeah, I’m going to hit driver.”

A fascinating thing about Carnoustie this week is that there is seemingly not a right or a wrong way to plot your way around, and for every Koepka and Johnson, there is also a player with a different plan.

Justin Thomas, though no slouch in the long driving department, is not as confident as Koepka of flying his driver beyond the bunkers.

“A lot of these holes have a bunker in play and that’s causing me to not want to hit driver, because the bunkers are truly a water hazard,” world number two Thomas said.

“If the rough was very, very thick I think you would see everybody playing the exact same way, but because it is as thin as it is I think guys are going to play very differently.”

Masters champion Patrick Reed was keen to emphasise the many different ways of playing the course.

“There’s 5000 different ways for me to play these holes out here,” he said.

“I have a game plan for soft conditions, firm conditions, into the winds, downwinds, side winds on every hole.”

Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis

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