LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND - Stephen Ames took a look around Royal Lytham & St. Annes Wednesday and wondered where he was.
"This feels more like the U.S. Open than the U.S. Open does," said the Calgary-based veteran, who's the only player with a Maple Leaf beside his name in the field this week.
He feels that way because of the rough, which is deep and lush thanks to the soggier-than-normal British summer.
"It's horrendous. It is. It is really tough," Ames said of the hay. "I would say off the tee it is definitely, without a doubt, three to four more shots more penal than it was when we played at Olympic."
At the Olympic Club in San Francisco, only one bunker was in play off the tee at the U.S. Open, compared with 100 or more of the 206 that lie in wait here. You can see the bunkers off the tees -- unlike many links courses, where the hazards are more like sewers without the manhole covers -- so the players have that going for them.
"That's the beauty of it. You can see these bunkers. Well, that one (at Olympic), you could see it, too. There was only one. You couldn't miss it. It was on a weird hole, too. It's different. Much different."
Ames' best finish this season is a tie of 16th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which was held opposite the Masters in April. He's missed the cut in nine of 15 events, including five of his last six. He opened with rounds of 74 and 73 at Olympic to make the cut and wound up tied for 68th. Of his 42 rounds this year, he has broken 70 just nine times.
After a session on the range Wednesday with long-time coach Sean Foley, Ames sounded optimistic when asked about how he feels about his game right now.
"Not bad, actually," Ames said. "Not bad. I'm looking forward to playing here this week. It should be nice and tough."
That said, Ames is not a fan of the soft conditions here.
"I prefer them firmer and faster. This kind of puts other players in there that necessarily shouldn't be in there. It almost feels like a normal PGA Tour event, in other words. The running golf ball is gone, so the guy who is a little off line is going to hit and stop. The guy who is off line and running, it's going to run into the trouble. It's a different game, completely," he said.
He said accurate driving will be more of a key this week than it usually is at a British Open because of the lush rough, but staying away from the bunkers will be the usual priority.
"It's always the same for British Open. You hit it in the bunkers and you're always going sideways or hitting lob wedge just to get it out. Typical. It's a good test. It's going to be a really good test. It's not running, so it's going to play even longer. You have to hit the drivers and the 3-woods. The last time I played here in '96, it was so dry, every iron shot we hit off the fairway there was a cloud of dust coming out. Now this year, it's like perfect divots flying off the fairway. It's unusual for the British, but then again they have had unusual weather here for two months, sorry, the last year and half."
He said the wet conditions will make bunker play more difficult, too.
"The sand is really heavy which is what happens with this sand when it gets water in it. It gets really heavy. Getting height out of the traps is tougher because you can't get your clubhead through the ball to get the loft out of it. More skill involved there," he said. "With it being as heavy, when it rolls down, it doesn't roll all the way to the bottom, it actually stays closer to the lip so that makes for a lot of different scenarios, shall we say. It'll be interesting to see what the scores are going to be like."
Ames, who, at 48 is just a couple of years away from being eligible for the Champions Tour, has been enjoying himself here with his son, Ryan, whom he said developed a quick infatuation with links golf.
Ames played at Royal Birkdale Saturday.
NO PREFERRED LIES AT ROYAL LYTHAM
Despite the soggy conditions on the course, the Royal and Ancient Golf Association is not considering allowing players to lift, clean and place their balls during the British Open.
"Based on the course conditions, we're not intending to play preferred lies of lift, clean and place," Jim McArthur, the chairman of the championship committee, said. "It will be a last resort for us. We'll need to look at the conditions and see how they develop but, at the moment, we're not anticipating having to go anywhere near there."
The forecast is for clearing skies Thursday with only a 10% chance of a shower in the afternoon.
A wet few months have left the normally firm and fast Royal Lytham & St. Annes soggy. Paths where spectators were walking had turned to mud Wednesday.
"We'll have some issues off the golf course with spectator walkways, which we're dealing with at the moment and those are gradually improving," McArthur said. "We're really hoping that the improving weather forecast which we've been promised will take some of the pressure off."