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Hole 17 on road to nowhere if strong winds return

By Tony Jimenez

ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - British Open organizers will scrap the planned changes to the revered 17th 'Road Hole' if there is a repeat of the strong winds that battered St Andrews at the weekend.

Gusts of up to 50-mph disrupted practice on Sunday and more blustery and showery conditions are expected during the 150th anniversary championship that starts on Thursday, although the forecast is for less severe winds.

The Royal & Ancient (R&A) organizers had already decided to lengthen the 'toughest par four in championship golf' by 40 yards but the weather may prompt a rethink.

"We've retained the option of going forward if we get a very severe and strong wind again which would make the back tee (on 17) unplayable," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told reporters as the Old Course was lashed by stair-rod rain on Wednesday.

"You can always go left from the back tee but there is every chance we come forward if the wind is such ... (however) one thing I've noticed in the last few days is forecasts are not always right so we'll just have to wait and see."

Michael Brown, chairman of the championship committee, said the forecast for more inclement weather would make the third major of the season even more thrilling.

"With what's going on outside I hardly know whether to laugh or cry at the moment," said Brown.

"St Andrews Opens are always exciting ... so there is a bit of added extra spice this year. I think everyone, in spite of the weather, is wearing a smile going into the championship."

(Editing by Miles Evans. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)