TIGER Woods has been in and out of love a lot in recent years, but his love and respect for the Old Course at St Andrews, host of this month’s Open Championship, has never waned.
Why would it?
Tiger has won the Claret Jug at St Andrews twice – in 2000 and 2005.
“I love St Andrews,” Woods has said.
“The conditions vary so dramatically and you have so many options with almost every shot. In the US, the game is exact numbers.
“At St Andrews you can play from 140 yards with a 5-iron or 7-iron – you can even putt it if you want to.
“That’s one of the beauties of links golf. It gives you so many options.”
Still, not everyone shares Tiger’s love and enthusiasm for the Home of Golf.
Scott Hoch, the controversial American, once described St Andrews as “the worst piece of mess I’ve ever seen”. He was in the top-50 at the time and chose not to play there.
Another is Englishman Russell Claydon. In the early 1990s, Claydon was supposed to be the next great hope of British golf but he only won once on the European Tour before faded faster than my mate Pedro’s tee shots.
“It (St Andrews) is a silly course,” Claydon once said. “You can stand on the tee and hit it anywhere you want as hard as you want.”
Is that how John Daly won there in 1995?
Don’t know, but what I do know is five-time Open champion Peter Thomson tipped Long John Daly that year.
Who will win in 2015?
Can Louis Oosthuizen do a Tiger Woods and win his second successive Open at St Andrews? Not if he doesn’t lift his game … soon.
With Rory McIlroy out, perhaps Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia or Tiger will rise to the occasion.
Interestingly, only four players have successfully completed 72 holes in each of the last three Opens at St Andrews.
Form figures of Top performers at St Andrews:
Phil Mickelson T11-T60-T48
Tiger Woods 1st-1st-T23
Sergio Garcia T35-T5-T14
Ian Poulter T60-T11-T60
Form figures of other big names
Henrik Stenson DNP-T34-T3
Adam Scott MC-T34-T27
Jason Day DNP-DNP-T60
Jordan Spieth DNP-DNP-DNP
Bubba Watson DNP-DNP-MC
Jim Furyk T41-MC-MC
Justin Rose DNP-DNP-MC
Rickie Fowler DNP-DNP-T14
Dustin Johnson DNP-DNP-T14
Martin Kaymer DNP-DNP-T7
Louis Oosthuizen DNP-DNP-1st
Lee Westwood T64-MC-2nd
Paul Casey DNP-MC-T3
Graham McDowell DNP-T11-T23
Luke Donald MC-T52-T11
Ernie Els T2-T34-MC
Tiger could be inspired at the scene of two of his greatest victories. He seems to be getting his mojo back, but he is not the player, physically and mentally, he once was.
If you’re looking for recent Open Championship form, Scott has finished runner-up, T3 and T5 in his last three Open appearances.
Rickie was runner-up last year and Sergio and Dustin Johnson tied for third.
Phil won in 2013 when he edged out Stenson with Poulter and Scott tied third. And in 2012 Scott gifted Ernie Els the trophy. Tiger and Brandt Snedeker tied third.
Masters champion Spieth finished T44 and T36 in his last two Opens, Bubba is inconsistent.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama could challenge. He finished fifth at the Masters and T6 and T39 at the past two Open Championships.
No doubt, the locals will be cheering on Scot Stephen Gallacher, who is ranked 45th in the world. He finished T23 at St Andrews in 2010 and T21 and T15 in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
I can’t tip two-time Open winner Padraig Harrington (2007-08) although he did win the Honda Classic in March.
Don’t know about you, but I will be putting some of my hard-earned Johnson, Stenson, Rickie and maybe longish-shot Tiger.
What about Scott and Day, I hear you ask.
Hate to mention it, but Scott’s flat-stick is colder than a Scottish winter while Day’s best result in four Opens contested is a tie for 32nd. But anything can happen.
For more information visit TheOpen.com.
First Open champ at St Andrews?
THE last player to win the Open Championship at the St Andrews, the Home of Golf, was South African Louis Oosthuizen, but who was the first?
It was Christopher Thomas Kidd.
He won the Open in 1873 – 13 years after the inaugural Open at Prestwick.
He was a caddie from St Andrews and was known as Tom Kidd or Young Tom Kidd to distinguish himself from his father Tom Kidd.
Young Tom’s winning score was 179 – the highest in any Open Championship played over 36 holes. His cash prize was £11.
Unfortunately, he died of a heart problem in 1884 aged 35.
So, what became of Kidd’s clubs and winning medal?
At a court for the renewal of drink licences in St Andrews in April 1884, the inspector of police said that the licensee of the Golf Inn, George Leslie, illegally bought clubs and similar items for drinks.
After Kidd’s death his cleek and iron were found in Leslie’s possession together with the gold medal for winning the Open.
Leslie had paid 2 shillings each for the club and 10 shillings for the gold medal.
Later, the three items were bought by a third party and the gold medal returned to Kidd’s widow. Leslie denied the allegation stating that he had bought the clubs but not the medal.
The medal had been taken as surety for a 10 shilling loan. He claimed that, at the time Kidd was a member of Good Templar, a powerful Christian military order during the time of the Crusades, and “not a shilling” of the money had been spent in the inn.
It was considered a “very suspicious case” but after an adjournment the licence was granted.
Open Championship walkover
IN 1876, Bob Martin became the second man to win at St Andrews – in a “walkover”.
With two holes to play, David Strath needed two 5s to win and on the 17th, thinking he was out of range, played to the green while players ahead were putting out.
Strath’s ball hit someone on the green preventing it from going on the road, however, on the last he took a six and tied with Martin.
There was a protest about the incident on the 17th and the committee decided that an 18-hole playoff be played “under protest”.
Strath refused to play because of the rules dispute and wanted the matter settle immediately.
He kept his word and the next day Martin walked the course and became champion.
Strath’s brother Andrew, a clubmaker, had more success winning the Open Championship in 1865 and breaking the domination of the event by Willie Park Sr and Tom Morris and his son Young Tom Morris.
David and Andrew Strath’s brother George was also a golfer and served as the first professional at Royal Troon before moving to the US.
Champion dies in poorhouse
MUNGO Park. What a great name for an Open champion.
Born in 1835, Mungo was a member of a famous family of Scottish golfers. He learnt to play at Musselburgh Links, recognised as the oldest golf course in the world.
Mungo then spent 20 years as a seaman before returning in the early 1870s and won the Open Championship in 1874.
He spent his later life working as a teacher, golf course designer and clubmaker.
Unfortunately, Mungo died in 1904 in a poorhouse, which provided accommodation for the destitute and poor in Scotland.
His brother Willie and his nephew Willie Park Jnr both won the Open Championship.
Willie Snr won the inaugural Open Championship in 1860 and again in 1863-’66-’75. Willie Jnr won it in 1887 and 1889.