Why is the opening hole at Royal Birkdale so tough?

Mark O’Meara had the job of getting the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale underway, but it didn’t quite go to plan as he sliced his opening drive over the fence and out of bounds.

And the former Open champion, who went on the card an eight, wasn’t the only one who struggled to find the first fairway. Fellow American, Bryson DeChambeau, touched down in the UK on Monday straight off the back of victory at the John Deere Classic, but racked up a seven at the devilish opener.

First Hole Horrors At Royal Birkdale, Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau struggles at the start of his Open Championship [Getty Images]

Meanwhile, there were triple-bogey sevens for Maverick McNealy and KT Kim. It wasn’t until Game 9 that the first birdie was made, that three coming from Sweden’s Alex Noren.

Alex Noren, Royal Birkdale

Alex Noren makes the first birdie at the difficult opening hole at Royal Birkdale [Getty Images]

Why so difficult?

The wind and rain has only made the 1st hole more difficult, but what makes this par-4 quite so demanding?

The fairway sweeps left past a bunker cut into the left-hand side of the landing area, before angling slightly right to a green partially hidden by a mound to the right. It’s also protected by bunkers on both sides.

Royal Birkdale Golf Club Pictures

Royal Birkdale – 1st hole

However, it’s the out of bounds down the right-hand side of the 1st that is causing the real damage – and the reason why a number of players are opting for an iron or hybrid, preferring to take their chances by coming up short and then chipping and putting for par.

The 1st at Royal Birkdale has been the second hardest hole on the course in each of the last two Championships. The signs are that this hole isn’t about to get any easier.