The Open 2016: Can top golfers lick the Postage Stamp?

    Story highlights

    • Royal Troon set to host the 145th Open
    • Scottish course has held Open nine times
    • Troon is home of the famous par-three Postage Stamp eighth hole

    (CNN)When Tiger Woods faced down the famous "Postage Stamp" eighth hole on the final day of the 1997 Open Championship at Royal Troon, he did so with high hopes of challenging for the second major of his then fledgling career.

    The 21-year-old recent Masters champion, who had carded a course record-equaling seven-under-par 64 a day earlier, was looking to hunt down leaders Jesper Parnevik and Justin Leonard.
      Yet those ambitions soon lay in tatters as the American succumbed to one of links golf's most infamous par-three tests, recording a three-over-par six to drop back.
      'The Postage Stamp' eighth hole at Royal Troon.
      Although the shortest hole on the Open circuit at just 123 yards, many of the game's best have been unable to cope with the deep bunkers and unforgiving winds that often swirl around the narrow, tempting putting surface of the Postage Stamp.
      "There is no doubt, it is our signature hole," says Royal Troon captain Martin Cheyne. "People will sit in the bar here, sit in the clubhouse, and talk about how they played (it)."
      Other greats to stall here include Walter Hagen, who carded a final-round double bogey to finish one shot behind Arthur Havers in 1923.
      And as Greg Norman advanced to a playoff with eventual winner Mark Calcavecchia in the 1989 Open, the only place he dropped a shot on the final day was, of course, the eighth.
      Royal Troon will be the venue for the 2016 Open Championship.
      Yet there are a lucky few who can say they have licked the Postage Stamp.
      Gene Sarazen recorded an ace here at the 1973 championship, 50 years after he first graced the Open. Ernie Els also notched a hole-in-one here in 2004 -- although he ultimately fell just short that year, losing in a playoff to Todd Hamilton.

      'A test of links golf'

      At a meeting of golf writers earlier this year, Open organizer the R&A revealed it has the option of reducing the length of the Postage Stamp to as little as 99 yards when the championship returns to Royal Troon this week.
      A wire camera will also swoop between tee and hole enabling television viewers to see action unfold on the Postage Stamp like never before.
      But the 145th version of the world's oldest golf tournament will be about more than just the drama provided by a solitary par three on a course that is 7,175 yards long.
      According to Royal Troon head professional Kieron Stevenson, the wider course remains a "proper test of links golf."

      A photo posted by @eoghanmacguire on

      While agreeing the eighth is a challenge and an icon, Stevenson highlights the 490-yard, par-four 11th, The Railway, as another that can surprise players.
      And with the back nine generally played into the prevailing winds, he adds that players will be looking to hold onto their score as they head towards the clubhouse.
      "I think certainly around Troon you're required to hit it straight off the tee. The fairway bunkers are so severe and have such a big penalty that straightness off the tee is a real key," Stevenson continues.
      Relatively small, subtle greens also mean that approach shots will be important, he adds, while an ability to read the undulating putting surfaces could go a long way to deciding an eventual victor.
      "You have to be a very good reader of the greens and ... the wind blowing in the background ... makes it doubly difficult," Stevenson says.

      Betting on the weather

      With the last six winners of the British Open at Royal Troon having come from the U.S., betting men may do well to consider the challenge of the leading American players such as Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.
      However, prominent Europeans players such as Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson may have something to say about that, not to mention world No 1., Australian Jason Day.

      A photo posted by @eoghanmacguire on

      For Cheyne, however, staging a successful tournament is the primary factor dominating preparations.
      "First and foremost, we want a good competition," Cheyne says. "We need excitement. We need ... a number of people competing at the end. We need good weather.
      "This course does need some wind to make it the course it is," Cheyne continues. "And, ideally, getting some wind on moving day, on the Saturday, would be the best."
      Quite whether those looking down the Postage Stamp at the business end of the championship will agree is another matter.