I suppose we’re only getting started in the conflict that has been brewing between the Saudi backed LIV Golf series and the established American and European tours. The first punches and counter punches have been thrown and the opening salvos of litigation have been fired by Ian Poulter, amongst others.
Against this backdrop of discontent it was more than refreshing to tune in to the JP McManus pro-am being played at Adare Manor at the start of the week. JP and his wife Noreen are arguably Ireland’s greatest philanthropists and over the years JP’s pro-am has raised millions and millions of euros for charities in Ireland. Once again a world-class field – in this instance ten of the top twelve in the world were playing – plus a host of A-list celebrities. Many consider it a badge of honour to receive an invitation – and not a penny piece was paid in appearance money.Adare Manor, venue for the 2027 Ryder Cup, was looking magnificent but even more magnificent were the 40,000 fans that attended on each of the two days. Jay Townsend, one of the Sky Sports commentators summed it up beautifully when he said the players “came to play a pro-am and a major championship crowd showed up.” Jordan Spieth was in full agreement when he said, “I’ve never played in a pro-am like this before, that’s for sure.”
For the McManuses it’s all about community and giving back. In the current golfing climate that does rather help restore your faith in the human race.I know you shouldn’t wish your life away but I’m really looking forward to Monday when Patricia and I set off for a couple of days at the 150th Open at St Andrews. We’re staying with a couple of pals on the way up and plan to arrive on Tuesday morning when I’ll be meeting up with some of my American broadcasting colleagues, none of whom I’ve seen in the flesh since the Portrush Open in 2019. Amazing how the time flies by. Covid, then travel restrictions and then my subsequent tussle with ill health since catching the virus last November have meant I’ve been unable to work with them at any majors for what seems like an awfully long time. This won’t be a working week for me either – just a chance to dip a toe in the water and see how I cope with three days away and a full social diary – which will probably be more busy than the whole of the last eight months put together!
Aside from the golf (and it’s a big aside) it’s never a hardship going to St Andrews, my old alma mater. I spent a very happy year and a half there at university before transferring to the States to take up a golf scholarship and finish my studies out there. I did love my time in America and there’s no doubt it changed the course of my life but, deep down, I still have a sneaking regret I didn’t get the four years at the home of golf that I was expecting. Totally pointless, I know, regretting something that didn’t happen almost half a century ago but it has made every visit since to the Fife town all the more special.
This will be my fifth attendance at a St Andrews Open. In 2000 it was Tiger’s dominance that was the most enduring memory with an eight-shot victory and the completion of the career grand slam – the youngest ever to do so. In 2005 it was Tiger again but it was also Jack Nicklaus’ final major and his birdie on the final hole of his final major will live long in the memory. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen had the week of his life winning in 2010 by seven shots. His secret weapon was a bright red dot painted on his golf glove which served to remind him to keep bringing his attention and focus to the present.
In 2015 Tom Watson took his final major championship bow at the Old Course; there was a Monday finish and an enthralling spectacle as Jordan Spieth, winner of the Masters and the US Open that year tried to add the third leg of the calendar grand slam to his resume. He failed by a shot to join the play-off of Oosthuizen (that man again), Marc Leishman and Zach Johnson, the latter triumphing in the four-hole play-off.
My own last playing visit to St Andrews was in 2017 and, of course, you just have to do what all the great players down the years have done before you ……… and get your photo taken on the Swilcan/Swilken bridge after teeing off on the final hole. It’s a bucket-list item no matter how many rounds you play at the Old Course.
I just wonder who will be there on that iconic bridge in ten days’ time clutching the Claret Jug.