Padraig Harrington warned us. As he does most weeks nowadays, the earnest Irishman filmed a short preview video ahead of this week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour, and these were among the words he used to describe the fairways at Al Hamra Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates:
Very, very narrow.
He was spot-on — as his and 130 other pros’ tee shots have not been.
“As I said in my preview, the narrowest fairways I’ve ever seen, doglegs, a few slopes, heavy rough and firm,” Harrington wrote on Twitter on Friday after his second round. “At least it’s not blowing.
“Eventually you give up trying to hit them and just lash away.”
Indeed. Through 36 holes, the stats are wild:
— Only two players — Jack Senior and Grant Forrest — have hit half of the 28 fairways in play. And no one has hit more.
— Six players have hit 13 fairways (46.43 percent); four players have hit 12 (42.86); 15 players have hit 11 (39.29); 18 players have hit 10 (35.71); 15 players have hit nine (32.14); 28 players have hit eight (28.57); 20 players have hit seven (25); nine players have hit six (21.43); 10 players have hit five (17.86); and three players have hit four (14.29).
— And then there’s Adri Arnaus. He’s hit just two fairways in 28 chances — the 1st hole during the first round, and the 5th hole during the second round, when he drove the green.
In short, Al Hamra is tight. After all, if you look at last year’s season-long statistics on the DP World Tour, where 177 players were measured, only 27 hit less than 50 percent of their fairways. And last year saw much of the same at the UAB track — of the 72 players who made the cut, only three hit 50 percent of the fairways or better.
Still, these are the best players in the world, and this is the bomb-and-gauge era. Leaders Rasmus Hojgaard, David Law and Adrian Meronk? They’ve combined to hit 20 of the 28 fairways — Hojgaard has hit five, Law seven and Meronk eight. The DP World Tour even shared one of Hojgaard’s misses over its social media channels — on the par-4 17th, he hooked his tee shot left, it hit a light pole, and his ball ricocheted back into play, though in the rough.
And Arnaus, the player who has hit only two fairways? He’s tied for 19th and five strokes back. Meanwhile, Senior and Forrest, the two players who lead in fairways hit (at 50 percent), are tied for 33rd and tied for 57th, respectively.
Your takeaway? If you like your scrambling — and/or if you like your pros playing from the thick stuff like most of us do during the weekend — this is your tournament.
“Still trying to figure out how to hit fairways,” tweeted Ross Fisher, who has five of them.
He then added a laughing emoji.