The Open Championship, golf’s oldest and some say greatest major, marks its 150th anniversary in 2010 and there is no better or fitting place to host the Open then the Old Course at St. Andrews where golf began. This will be the 28th time the Open Championship has been contested at the Old Course. For those of you not comfortable with the official title of the event I will call it the “British Open” one time and then that is it. From now on it is The Open Championship. It needs no other name. The winner receives The Claret Jug as the trophy. As with everything else it has a storied past, having been awarded to every winner since 1873. Oh, its official name is The Golf Champion Trophy, but most people just use The Claret Jug.
To say there is history at St. Andrews is an understatement. Golf has been played at St. Andrews since around 1400 A.D. Yes, that is correct, for over 600 years. And remember, it is not a golf course, but links. The Old Course at St. Andrews originally had 22 holes, 11 out and 11 back. However in 1764 golfers decided that four of the holes were too short and they were combined into two holes thus shortening the course to 18 holes. And that is how 18 holes became the standard for all courses today. So as St. Andrews hosts The Open Championship for the 28th time it is appropriate to look back at some of the great tournaments held at the Old Course, which is the Home of Golf. http://www.standrews.org.uk/About-Us/History.aspx From 1873 to 2005 The Open Championship has been played at The Old Course at St. Andrews a total of 27 times. Let’s examine some of those tournaments for great moments from St. Andrews.
The last time the Open Championship was played at St. Andrews was the year Tiger Woods dominated the field by shooting rounds of 66,67,71 and 70 en route to a 274 and a 5 shot victory over Colin Montgomerie. It was Tiger’s second straight win at St. Andrews in the Open Championship. As I write this article Tiger has announced that he will play at St. Andrews in 2010 and will be going for his third straight Open Championship at the Old Course. The other highlight from 2005 was the final appearance of Jack Nicklaus in the Open Championship. As he closed out his career he made a birdie putt on the 18th hole on the final round and the Tom Morris clock on the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse showed the time to be six o’clock, a fitting and memorable way for the Golden Bear, the greatest player in the history of the game , to finish. As you will see as you continue to read Jack won titles at St. Andrews in 1970 and 1978 in consecutive trips to St. Andrews so this final appearance was an historic final appearance for the greatest player in the game on the original golf course. What a way to go out.
As mentioned above Tiger Woods was victorious in The Millennium Open, as it was called. This was the 24 year old Tiger, the dominant Tiger at the top of his game. He became only the third winner in Open history to shoot all four rounds in the 69s with scores of 67,66,67 and 69. He was tied for the lead at the end of round one, three shots ahead at the conclusion of the second round, six shots over the field at the end of Saturday’s third round and finished eight shots ahead of Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn at the conclusion of the tournament. It was really no contest as Tiger in his prime had no equal. Like Nicklaus before him Tiger had conquered the Old Course.
1995 John Daly
1990 Nick Faldo
1984 Seve Ballesteros
When the greatest venue in a sport intersects with the greatest athlete in a sport then you have the definition of greatness and a special moment in time. That was 1978 at St. Andrews. Looking back some 32 years and seeing Jack Nicklaus in a sweater walking the fairways is like looking at Babe Ruth or Muhammed Ali. It just evokes the great memories in sports and a time that is gone but never forgotten and never to be repeated. Jack shot a 281 to win by two strokes but the story was Nicklaus and St. Andrews. This would be his 15th major and his first in three years. By winning Nicklaus repeated his greatness from the last time the tournament was held at St. Andrews in 1970 when Jack won in a playoff with Doug Sanders. So back to back wins at St. Andrews for the greatest player ever.
1964 Tony Lema
Going back 50 years to the centenary Open the world really turned to the Open Championship due to the appearance of Arnold Palmer. Although he did not win, losing by one stroke to Kel Nagle, the appearance of the most golfer in the world at that time made this 100 year old tournament relevant all over the world and set the stage for the last 50 years leading up to this year’s 150 anniversary. Palmer paved the way for Nicklaus and Woods and made the Open Championship a mandatory appearance for the best players in the game from America.
So history continues to repeat itself. Sit back and watch it unfold again as golf returns to its beginning at the Old Course in St. Andrews.