SANDWICH, England — No other major championship requires as much good fortune as the British Open.
On no other links is that more true than at Royal St. George's.
Robert Allenby hit two tee shots on the 17th hole during a practice round, both drawing gently toward the middle of the fairway and landing in the same spot.
He found one of them in the left rough, the other in the right rough.
"Not even the best players in the world can keep it on every fairway — no chance," Allenby said. "You need a lot of luck. And I hope I'm the one who gets lucky."
Kenny Perry posed over a 5-iron struck to the center of the 12th green, then watched it take a hard hop to the left and roll toward a pot bunker.
"Oh, my gosh," Perry said. "That's not fair, is it?"
Colin Montgomerie read in the newspaper Wednesday that Greg Norman predicted only 20 percent of the players would be able to keep the ball in the first fairway.
Having played the previous afternoon, Monty could relate.
"I hit a shot down the left side with a bit of fade, which normally works," he said. "It missed the fairway on the right side. And the marshal said that was one of the good ones."
Three days of practice on the links just north of the English Channel are filled with tales of seemingly good shots taking turns for the worse as soon as they land on the brown, brittle turf of Royal St. George's.
Those shots start counting today, when Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and the rest of the field tee off in golf's oldest championship.
"Of all the Open courses, this could be the most penal," said Mark O'Meara, who has played all the British Open links in the modern rotation, and is one of only eight men to have competed three times at Royal St. George's.
"If the weather gets nasty, this course is brutal."
For once, the two most popular words at a major are not Tiger and Woods. They have been replaced by "moon" — used to describe the lunarlike links — and "bounces," which will test the resolve of the world's best players.
"Not too often do you hit the ball down the middle and end up in the bunker or the rough," Woods said. "That's just the way it is. You understand you're hitting good shots, you're going to get bad bounces; hit marginal shots and get great bounces.
"You have to be very patient because of that."
Woods remains the betting favorite — same as every major championship since he turned professional in 1996 — even though he arrived at this British Open without a major trophy for the first time since the 1999 PGA Championship.
He is coming off a five-stroke victory in the Western Open, his fourth win of the year. His practice rounds have been efficient, easy to do because he tees off before 6:30 a.m. each day and is gone by the time fans line up for a lunch of jellied eel or fish and chips.
A victory would allow Woods to join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the career Grand Slam at least twice.
Woods won the British Open three years ago at St. Andrews, where it was so dry and warm that the fairways were faster than the greens.
He didn't hit into a single bunker on the Old Course, a feat that will be difficult to repeat on a links with blind shots and warped fairways.
St. Andrews has subtle humps.
Royal St. George's has crevices.
"I thought I was on the moon," Perry said after playing the course for the first time. "I felt like I was on another planet — which I am."
Asked for the goofiest bounce he got all week, Charles Howell III said, "Hitting the curb with my left tire."
At least his car had brakes.
Get the ball rolling along the humps and bumps, and who knows where it will stop?
"The bounces are 20 yards in the air," Howell said. "You have to realize that's going to happen. I played three practice rounds with Tiger, and between us there were a lot of good shots that wound up in the rough. It's going to happen to everybody."
Still, a little luck goes a long way at any major.
David Toms hit a 5-wood at the 2001 PGA Championship that would have gone over the green if it had not struck the pin and dropped in for an ace. Lee Janzen thought he had a lost ball in the final round of the 1998 U.S. Open until it mysteriously dropped out of a tree.
Yes, there will be strange bounces. But shotmaking still counts.
There is a road map for playing Royal St. George's, which is why experience might count more here than on any other links.
"It doesn't matter if you hit the ball mediocre," Nick Price said. "One of the things I've learned over the years about playing links golf is it's not a question of playing pure shots all day long. It's how well you manage the golf course."
Give the edge to Els, who played here in 1993 at age 23 and shot four rounds in the 60s to tie for sixth. Price was also in contention that year, while Bernhard Langer was never worse than third in his three British Opens at Royal St. George's.