|St Andrews - what memories|
My first exposure to St Andrews was in 1973 in my first caddying trip to Europe. I was caddying for Bob Shearer at the Scottish Open Championship, an event won that year by a man who I would work for in future years, Graham Marsh. Shearer finished 15th.
I had a pre conceived image of St Andrews in my mind born through exposure to the course via television (black and white) in events such as Jack Nicklaus’ 1970 Open Championship but on arrival it even exceeded my expectations. I immediately fell in love with the intimate and historic township which genuinely smelt of golf.
I would like to have had the knowledge then that I have now and embraced it even more but I have fond memories of my first experience there. I returned in later years but I still recall the moment I saw the Clubhouse and the first and 18th holes for the very first time. It was a near spiritual experience.
We (my caddie friend Duncan Lumsdaine and I) stayed in a bed and breakfast in Murray Park just around the corner from the course that year although to do so in the modern day at an Open Championship would no doubt cost significantly more than the £1.75 we paid in 1973 for a room and breakfast!!
Having been to Pinehurst in North Carolina for US Opens since, I liken St Andrews in many ways to the Pinehurst in that it is a Mecca for golfing fans and smells of golf and the history of the game. Admittedly St Andrews has a few years on Pinehurst but there are similarities in their place in the game.
At the age of 19 in 1973 there was fun to be had in the University town of St Andrews and no doubt there still is. When I was there for the Scottish Open that year the University was closed for the summer holidays but there was still a great atmosphere in the town. It felt like a fun place and was.
This year will see the Open Championship played at St Andrews for the 28th occasion. While I can recall who won in earlier years, my visual memory goes back to the 1970 Open Championship won by Jack Nicklaus.
The short missed putt of Doug Sanders in 1970 and Nicklaus launching his putter in the air when he defeated Sanders in a playoff sticks in the mind from that particular year.
New Zealander Simon Owen was leading with three holes to play in 1978 when an adrenalin charged sand iron to the 16th finished beyond the green, the resultant bogey costing him any chance of an historic victory. It remains my endearing memory of the 1978 Championship. Nicklaus won again that year over Owen, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Ray Floyd. It would be the last of Nicklaus' three Open Championship victories.
In 1984 it was Seve Ballesteros who endeared himself to all with his fist pumping response to the 72nd hole 10 foot birdie putt that allowed him to finish two ahead of Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson. The adrenalin charged response will remain as one of the long lasting memories of the magical Ballesteros.
In 1990 it was Nick Faldo who took apart Greg Norman and others en route to his victory. The tournament shaped as a potentially magnificent duel at the halfway stage with Norman and Faldo sharing the lead into the final 36 holes. As he did a few years later at Augusta, Faldo was clinical in the final two rounds, adding a 67 in round three to Norman’s 76. The Englishman went on to win his second Open Championship eventually by five over Payne Stewart and Mark McNulty.
John Daly’s 1995 triumph in a four hole playoff against Italian Constantino Rocca is remembered most by the unbelievable 50 foot putt through the Valley of Sin that Rocca holed to force the playoff after appearing to have blown any chance when he hit his initial approach fat at the final hole. That year would also signal the arrival of Michael Campbell on the world scene after the New Zealander had led into the final round and finished in a share of third.
2000 was Tiger Woods year. He won by eight but it was that he missed every one of the countless bunkers during his victory that was the talking point then and since.
In 2005 Woods would again win at what is now his favourite major championship venue. He was in an early battle in the final round with Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal before racing away to win by five shots.
What drama awaits in 2010? Will Woods continue his domination at St Andrews or will we have yet another new face and memory become etched in St Andrews history. I can’t wait.