The following is an excerpt from THE OPEN: Golf’s Oldest Major, a pictorial history of the championship that includes overview texts. To enter a free drawing for a copy of the hardcover book, email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Donald Steel
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
© 2009 R&A Championships Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
MOST GOLFERS’ IDEA OF HEAVEN is an Open at St. Andrews. For the players, there is certainly nothing to compare with victory over the Old Course—Jack Nicklaus maintains that “if you want to be remembered, you have to win at St. Andrews.”
There have been suggestions that every Open Championship should be held there so it is no surprise that it has housed more than any other venue. It is no surprise either that, of the three original courses used for The Open, it is the sole survivor. Recently, it has played host ever fifth year.
No course is more public than the Old in the sense that so much is visible of the start and finish from adjacent streets and buildings. The 18th green gives the feeling of being part of the town and, at the climax of an Open, is overlooked by thousands who have paid and a good few hundred who haven’t. Necks are strained from many a window. In the playing sense, it is the course of double fairways, double greens, pot bunkers, and the Road Hole—the most infamous in the world, a combination that golf course architects regard as the blueprint of their art for all students to follow and revere. Not that everyone has stood in awe.
Harry Vardon claimed that the Old is “a good course, but its bunkers are badly placed,” which may explain why none of his six Open victories took place there. George Duncan, on the other hand, remarked, “What I like about the Old Course, is that you play a very good shot and find yourself in a very bad place.” Tiger Woods’s reaction in 2000 was to avoid the bunkers altogether in all four rounds, a forerunner to victory by eight strokes that equaled St. Andrews’ biggest winning margin by J.H. Taylor exactly a hundred years earlier.
Taylor and Woods share with Jack Nicklaus, James Braid and Bob Martin the honour of winning two Opens over the Old Course but two other memories stand out. St. Andrews marked the first and last appearances of Arnold Palmer and the victory in 1964 of Tony Lema, with Palmer’s caddie on loan—one of the most remarkable of all.
Open Championships played at St. Andrews:
1873 / 1876 / 1879 / 1882 / 1885 / 1888 / 1891 / 1895 / 1900 / 1905 / 1910 / 1921 / 1927 / 1933 / 1939 / 1946 / 1955 / 1957 / 1960 / 1964 / 1970 / 1978 / 1984 / 1990 / 1995 / 2000 / 2005 / 2010