Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Love it or despise it, Old Course still sacred

AP
U.S. golfer Tiger Woods prepares to line up a putt on the 17th hole at the Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland, on Monday. Players continue their preparations for The Open golf championship which starts on Thursday.
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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland --- History oozes from every corner at St. Andrews. It touches a golfer's soul.

"I love the atmosphere of the venue and what it represents," Jim Furyk said as he stood in the shadow of the iconic R&A clubhouse behind the first tee of the Old Course. "But I wouldn't say I love the golf course. I like it."

The 150-year-old British Open Championship will commence this week on the sacred ground that spawned the game.

Very few venues generate the goose bumps upon first glance as the Old Course nestled into the corner of the Auld Gray Toon.

"I fell in love with it the first time I ever played it," Tiger Woods said of the place where he's won back-to-back claret jugs.

The Old Course, however, doesn't speak to everyone. Some lost souls cast their eyes on the place and grimace as if they've been offered haggis. They might never acquire the taste.

"Worst piece of mess I've ever played," Scott Hoch famously said and will say again if you bother to ask him. He deems the whole experience "Mickey Mouse."

Furyk understands the sentiment, even if he doesn't share it.

"You can like links golf and not like St. Andrews, and you can dislike links golf and love this place," Furyk said.

Sam Snead didn't quite like it even after he came over and won his only British Open appearance at St. Andrews in 1946. He first saw the grounds from the window of his train and told a fellow traveler, "That looks like an old, abandoned golf course."

"That, sir, is St. Andrews," came a haughty response.

"Champagne" Tony Lema wasn't exactly toasting the virtues of the links before he won the Open there in 1964.

In an interview with venerable ABC announcer Jim McKay, Lema said all the right things about "loving every second of it" when asked about his first impressions of the place.

Then Lema asked McKay whether the cameras were off.

"Isn't this the most god-awful place you've ever seen in your life?" Lema said.

Augusta National Golf Club co-founder Bobby Jones would not have been characterized as a fan on his first trip.

Jones famously quit after posting 46 on the front nine and taking 6 on the par-3 11th hole in the third round of the 1921 British Open, and some say he tore up his scorecard.

But that tantrum dissolved into an eventual love affair between golf's greatest amateur and St. Andrews.

Jones won the 1927 Open Championship there and the 1930 British Amateur during his Grand Slam season.

In 1958, Jones joined Ben Franklin as the only Americans to ever be given the Freedom of the City honor in St. Andrews.

"I could take out my life everything but my experiences here in St. Andrews, and I would still have had a rich and full life," Jones said at the ceremony.

Jack Nicklaus would concur, as he chose the Old Course to be his final British Open appearance in 2005. He played his way into the history books with a closing birdie on the 18th hole.

It's that general feeling that connects golfers to this place whether they fall in love with the rumpled old links or not. Most at some point or another hear the siren call to the home of golf.

Even Tom Watson -- arguably the greatest links golf player of the modern era -- doesn't claim the Old Course as his cup of tea. But he appreciates the lure of the place.

"When I first played St. Andrews in 1978, I didn't like it," said Watson, a five-time winner who was runner-up to Seve Ballesteros there in 1984. "But with its history it is the most important golf course we play."

And so the R&A will stage the British Open on the Old Course for the 29th time this week, raising the spirits again in a sesquicentennial celebration that will draw former champions from 1967 winner Roberto de Vicenzo to the freshly minted Stewart Cink in a four-hole Champions Challenge on Wednesday afternoon.

Love it or loathe it, the ghosts of St. Andrews will always live at golf's pre-eminent stage.

British Open tee times

Thursday-Friday (a-amateur)

1:30 a.m.-6:41 a.m. -- Paul Lawrie, Thomas Levet, Steve Marino

1:41 a.m.-6:52 a.m. -- Loren Roberts, Mathew Goggin, Marcel Siem

1:52 a.m.-7:03 a.m. -- Robert Rock, John Senden, Bill Haas

2:03 a.m.-7:14 a.m. -- Simon Dyson, Jason Dufner, Soren Hansen

2:14 a.m.-7:25 a.m. -- Todd Hamilton, Ryuichi Oda, Alexander Noren

2:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m. -- John Daly, Andrew Coltart, Seung-yul Noh

2:36 a.m.-7:47 a.m. -- Martin Laird, Nick Faldo, Soren Kjeldsen

2:47 a.m.-7:58 a.m. -- David Duval, Ross McGowan, Trevor Immelman

2:58 a.m.-8:09 a.m. -- Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ryan Moore, Charl Schwartzel

3:09 a.m.-8:20 a.m. -- Robert Allenby, Nick Watney, Oliver Wilson

3:20 a.m.-8:31 a.m. -- Lucas Glover, Rory McIlroy, Tim Clark

3:31 a.m.-8:42 a.m. -- Thomas Bjorn, Hunter Mahan, Shunsuke Sonoda

3:42 a.m.-8:53 a.m. -- Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Stewart Cink

3:58 a.m.-9:04 a.m. -- Sean O'Hair, Yuta Ikeda, Ross Fisher

4:09 a.m.-9:15 a.m. -- Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Camilo Villegas

4:20 a.m.-9:26 a.m. -- Padraig Harrington, Ryo Ishikawa, Tom Watson

4:31 a.m.-9:37 a.m. -- Henrik Stenson, a-Jin Jeong, Matt Kuchar

4:42 a.m.-9:48 a.m. -- Jason Day, Chris Wood, Kenny Perry

4:53 a.m.-9:59 a.m. -- Mike Weir, Darren Clarke, Davis Love III

5:04 a.m.-10:10 a.m. -- Thongchai Jaidee, Fredrik Andersson Hed, J.B. Holmes

5:15 a.m.-10:21 a.m. -- Mark O'Meara, a-Byeong-Hun An, Stephen Gallacher

5:26 a.m.-10:32 a.m. -- Alejandro Canizares, Michael Sim, Gregory Havret

5:37 a.m.-10:43 a.m. -- a-Zane Scotland, Tom Pernice Jr., a-Jamie Abbott

5:48 a.m.-10:54 a.m. -- Bo Van Pelt, Phillip Archer, Ewan Porter

5:59 a.m.-11:05 a.m. -- Cameron Percy, Tano Goya, Kyung-tae Kim

6:10 a.m.-11:16 a.m. -- Mark F. Haastrup, a-Steven Tiley, Tom Whitehouse

6:41 a.m.-1:30 a.m. -- Mark Calcavecchia, Peter Senior, Anders Hansen

6:52 a.m.-1:41 a.m. -- Louis Oosthuizen, Jeff Overton, Colm Moriarty

7:03 a.m.-1:52 a.m. -- Ignacio Garrido, Hirofumi Miyase, Shane Lowry

7:14 a.m.-2:03 a.m. -- Tom Lehman, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman

7:25 a.m.-2:14 a.m. -- Sandy Lyle, Bradley Dredge, Koumei Oda

7:36 a.m.-2:25 a.m. -- Simon Khan, Vijay Singh, Scott Verplank

7:47 a.m.-2:36 a.m. -- Luke Donald, Y.E. Yang, Ricky Barnes

7:58 a.m.-2:47 a.m. -- Toru Taniguchi, Robert Karlsson, Dustin Johnson

8:09 a.m.-2:58 a.m. -- Alvaro Quiros, Jerry Kelly, Katsumasa Miyamoto

8:20 a.m.-3:09 a.m. -- Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari, Ben Curtis

8:31 a.m.-3:20 a.m. -- Paul Casey, Angel Cabrera, Rickie Fowler

8:42 a.m.-3:31 a.m. -- Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott

8:53 a.m.-3:42 a.m. -- Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Ogilvy

9:09 a.m.-3:58 a.m. -- Hiroyuki Fujita, Steve Stricker, Sergio Garcia

9:20 a.m.-4:09 a.m. -- Colin Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen

9:31 a.m.-4:20 a.m. -- Rhys Davies, Edoardo Molinari, Justin Leonard

9:42 a.m.-4:31 a.m. -- Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer, a-Eric Chun

9:53 a.m.-4:42 a.m. -- K.J. Choi, Bubba Watson, a-Victor Dubuisson

10:04 a.m.-4:53 a.m. -- Ben Crane, Richard S. Johnson, Thomas Aiken

10:15 a.m.-5:04 a.m. -- Jason Bohn, Kurt Barnes, a-Laurie Canter

10:26 a.m.-5:15 a.m. -- Darren Fichardt, Jose Manual Lara, Heath Slocum

10:37 a.m.-5:26 a.m. -- Paul Streeter, Brian Gay, Gareth Maybin

10:48 a.m.-5:37 a.m. -- Tim Petrovic, Paul Goydos, Jean Hugo

10:59 a.m.-5:48 a.m. -- Gary Clark, D.A. Points, Danny Chia

11:10 a.m.-5:59 a.m. -- Glen Day, Josh Cunliffe, a-Tyrell Hatton

11:21 a.m.-6:10 a.m. -- Jae-Bum Park, Geroge McNeill, Simon Edwards

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Boogaloo
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Boogaloo 07/12/10 - 06:11 pm
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I love to watch The Open when

I love to watch The Open when it is played at St Andrews. I also love playing the Patch when I am in town because that is where I learned to play and the first golf course I had ever been on. Conditions at the Patch are sometimes not unlike the ones at the Old Course.

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