No doubt the day will come when even this golf nerd’s juices fail to be stirred or shaken by the prospect of the Open but it ain’t happening this year, not when it’s at St Andrews; not when it’s the 150th.
It was a real thrill for Mo and me to drive into town on a gloriously sunny, breezy Tuesday and start soaking up the atmosphere. We’d missed the Celebration of Champions on Monday but I bumped into Sam Torrance, who said it had been a wonderfully emotional occasion that was still bringing a tear to his eye. That’s the power of St Andrews – everybody is in awe and willing to forgive the place all its faults and idiosyncrasies.
Tiger Woods, more open, engaging and willing to voice his considered opinions than he ever was in his playing pomp – he was scathing about the LIV golf format and baffled by the younger players’ desire to join the circus – was thrilled to be playing with the ever vocal Lee Buck Trevino. Rory McIlroy and Georgia Hall made up the four and they all have photos and memories to treasure until the end of their days.It’s not just the players who have been posing for the photos of a lifetime and sharing their joy with anyone who asks. Fans from all over the world are making the most of a celebration like no other and if there’s a microphone available, so much the better. I was waiting for a friend outside the St Rule Club (blessed with a wonderful view of the 18th green and the 1st tee), watching the world go by when I heard somebody waxing lyrical – at some length and with some authority. It turned out to be a sports-mad farmer from New Zealand, his wife told me as she waited patiently and with some amusement for him to finish regaling the young man doing the vox pops.
Everywhere you looked there was colour (apart from those players wedded to their blacks and greys, with the odd splash of white) and pageantry. Jack Nicklaus was given honorary citizenship by the Royal Burgh of St Andrews and the university, founded in 1413, conferred honorary degrees on several players, including Catriona Matthew and Jose Maria Olazabal. There were plenty of tears and broad, broad smiles.Isabel, a member of the AGW, is attending her 30th Open (how did that happen, where did the years go?) and she opted for a week under canvas – or nylon, whatever tents are made of these days. Those of us who are less adventurous and lack camping skills stuck to bricks and mortar.
The days are long at an Open, so no one needs much rocking at night and at least the campsite is close to the action, cutting down on the tramping to and from the course. And there are lots of dramatic photo opps.Of course, some people find it hard to leave the press tent – more correctly, the media centre – and in these 24-hours-a-day, non-stop rolling news, social media times, when’s a person to sleep?
I had lots of notions about what I’d do in my short time in St Andrews – take my aged cashmere cardis back to Johnsons of Elgin for advice on restoring their joie de vivre and the invisible mending of moth holes; stock up on books in Toppings, one of the most dangerous shops in Scotland (easy to spend loads of time and money there); golf at lovely Crail; buy shoes; revamp my wardrobe; walk on the beach. Instead I did a lot of talking; even more gawping; took some happy snaps; drank a lot of coffee; did some more talking; drank some tea; attended the AGW dinner; talked some more; downed a few glasses of wine; made it to the AGW agm and Martin Slumbers’ state of golf address; and, suddenly, that was it; I was packing the cashmeres, still moth-eaten and heading home.
There’s still time for a few more snaps, not too much of a strain on the brain – yours or mine.
The Open is the pinnacle of the game but every pro has to start somewhere and many congrats to WHGC’s Ryan Brooks on his first PGA EuroPro Tour victory at the third hole of a play-off.