Mike Sorensen: St. Andrews is as good as golf gets

first_img Golf tournament Friday for children Related Forecast calling for rain at The Open Norman notches 15th hole in one McIlroy ties record, takes lead As much as I love the Masters, the ultimate tournament in golf to me is the British Open Championship when it is played at The Old Course at St. Andrews.The tournament starts today at the venerable old course on the northeast coast of Scotland as it is every five years in the British Open rota (USGA officials should learn from the British and play the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach every five years).I was fortunate to attend the 1978 Open at St. Andrews with my father, the year Jack Nicklaus won his third Claret Jug. Thirty years later I was able to experience another Open with my son at Royal Birkdale in north England.As a kid, I used to watch the British Open on television when it was on tape delay and finished on Saturday. The only one I remember specifically was the 1970 Open because my favorite golfer at the time, Doug Sanders, missed a 3-foot putt on the final hole at St. Andrews that would have won the title. Instead he had to come back the next day and play Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff. You can guess who won.However, I didn’t appreciate the real significance of the tournament until ’78 when, after attending Wimbledon the week before, I told some British folks in northern England that I was heading up to the British Open. I got some puzzled looks before one chap finally said, “Ohhhhhh, you mean,” and he said this in almost reverential tones, “The Open.”Yes, The Open.That’s how it is referred to in Great Britain and throughout much of the world. The Open Championship, actually.This isn’t any old Open. It’s not the U.S. Open, the Irish Open, the Canadian Open, the Australian Open or the Waste Management Phoenix Open.The Open Championship is the oldest golf championship in the world, dating back to 1860 when it was played at Prestwick in Scotland. It rotates among nine courses, with St. Andrews going every five years.When I took my son to Royal Birkdale in Southport two years ago, the two things I noticed hadn’t changed from 30 years earlier were the bright yellow, manually-operated scoreboards and the weather.In ’78, I remember wearing a sweater the entire week and often a jacket as well. In ’08, the weather was even worse, with rain and an incessant wind coming off the Irish Sea.I remember a frustrated Mike Weir saying, “It doesn’t even die down at night. It blows seven straight days, nonstop, doesn’t slow down. I’ve never seen anything like it.”In 2008 after the Open at Birkdale, my son and I drove north to visit St. Andrews. It happened to be a Sunday, which is the best time to visit if you’re not playing. That’s because the course is closed every Sunday and is open as a city park.We were able to stroll around the course, get our pictures taken on the famous Swilican Bridge, check out the infamous Road Hole, where your tee shot must fly over the sheds by the Old Course Hotel, and walk on the double greens. It was sunny and must have been warm because the pictures from that day show us in shirtsleeves.However, it looks like more typical Open Championship weather this week. The scheduled “Champions Challenge,” featuring 26 former champions playing four holes, was wiped out by the “frightful” weather on Wednesday. Wind and rain is predicted for the rest of the week, and the scores may soar.So who is going to win this week?St. Andrews always seems to produce a worthy champion, no one-hit wonders such as Paul Lawrie, Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis.The last seven Opens at St. Andrews have been won by Tiger Woods (in 2000 and 2005), John Daly (1995), Nick Faldo (1990), Seve Ballesteros (1984) and Nicklaus (1978 and 1970).Because this seems to be the summer of Spain, with Rafael Nadal winning Wimbledon, Spain winning the World Cup and four Spaniards in the Top 10 at the Tour de France, including two of the top three, I’m going with Sergio Garcia.Whatever happens, I’ll be watching and wishing I was there, even if I was walking around in my sweaters and rain gear. After all, it is The Open.e-mail: sor@desnews.com Weir wants better finish at The Open Blair exits Public Links in first round 3 keys to claiming Claret Juglast_img

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