At the 150th British Open in St. Andrews, history has the tee


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — If history may be lurking in the air in some places, it’s lurking in the air so much here this week that it’s a wonder the air isn’t collapsing. It’s everywhere and everything, or as golf philosopher Eldrick T. Woods said, “It seems more historic than usual, and it’s hard to believe.”

It’s heavy and sacred to “arguably our biggest event ever” in golf, in the words of English golfer and frequent major competitor Tommy Fleetwood during a British Open broadcast.

It hovers above St Andrews Cemetery, where increasingly distant people stroll and pay their respects to ‘Old Tom’ Morris (1821-1908) and ‘Young Tom’ Morris (1851-1875), the father and the son who won the British Open Nos 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, four titles each. Now that The Open has reached number 150, its famous one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, it is more evocative than ever to see the grave of “Young Tom”, a sculpture of which stands ready to hit a ball that seems somewhat buried.

Maybe it’s hard to have a guy deal with a bad lie in eternity, or maybe it’s gratifying to know he could handle it with aplomb.

In the pretty stony gumball of a city founded around 1140, which makes it older than, say, Dallas, there is history in the store windows, from which the late and magnificent Seve Ballesteros radiates at times, his famous 1984 12-foot putt coaxing his famous fist pump plus description as “the happiest shot of my life”. History breathes – and perhaps even sips – a block from the golf course, at the restaurant and bar of the equally famous Dunvegan Hotel, where the ambitious sign in the window reads: “Good food fresh served where you can eat with the Ghosts of former Open champions.

People hang out there on these open days, and the place seems to serve alcoholic drinks.

The Open is back here, and the city of 16,800 with its university students from around the world and rugged golfers from the surrounding area has entered into a mighty festival. “150” logos shout from T-shirts, bark from caps and scream from painted chairs to do “150” in the stands. Otherwise, it might not look much different from previous Opens here, with 2015 the most recent, but it certainly looks like a whole lot more.

The ever-impressive 10 p.m. daylight at latitude 56 North looks a bit happier this week. When the sun comes up and the TV presenters describe it with the obligatory adjective “glorious”, everyone can nod. Now and then and here and there there is singing in the distance, perhaps from a pub. “EVERYTHING LEADED TO THIS,” say the signs on the grandstand at No 18, and it’s all a lot, on a course founded in 1754 and legendary ever since.

Visitor to “The Road Hole”, No. 17: “I heard it’s famous. »

Marshal, with a quick wit: “Some would say infamous.”

The past lives on in the chatter, the story, like when Jon Rahm recounts how huge Ballesteros’ putt was in Spain or when four men walk along No 18 while one says: “Rocca had just make the putt in ’95”, which means Costantino Rocca’s 60-footer from the depths of the green known as the Valley of Sin to force a playoff with John Daly, who went on to win in a commendable display of strength of mind .

They walk with history here on the east coast near St. Andrews Bay and the North Sea, along a route known for that wind among the winds, the Scottish Wind. “I can see how the course can play out a million different ways, depending on the weather,” said defending Open champion Collin Morikawa, making his St. Andrews debut. It’s with the blind tee shots, like in #3, where the vegetation in front of you stares at you like a horror movie in which the director has already conditioned you that something might jump out of there.

A marshal, David Roberts, explains where to aim.

Aim for tower #15 up there.

He’s from nearby Lundin – not that other London – and because local clubs such as Crail and Leven run some holes, members of the Lundin Links club will be keeping things healthy this week at No 3. He tells the show of light they had last spring, with around 6,000 people in attendance, where a film about the history of The Open was shown on the walls of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse.

“It wasn’t long after that,” he said, “that the bleachers got up. People who live locally have seen it get bigger and bigger. And: “And it’s been building since the beginning of the year.” They even had the roads redone, which should take quite a while.

The 156 entries, up from eight in 1860, now try out the odd, ancient course just a shout out of town – as they do in Scotland – without trees or water, with 14 of its holes sharing seven greens, with the occasional purple flower and the frequent carnivorous bunker.

“I had heard rumors,” said Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion and world number one player, “but seeing it firsthand is definitely a lot different. What surprised me the most was all the space off the tee where you try to play other fairways or just weird stuff like that.

With fairways “like a highway”, as Fleetwood said on The Open – “I’ve never seen it so firm and fast” – suddenly a course renowned for its inviting width “become incredibly tight “.

“I can kind of see history and how golf was designed to be played hundreds of years ago,” Scheffler said.

“Once you get it, you don’t,” said Will Zalatoris, the 25-year-old phenom who finished second at the PGA Championship and the US Open.

“It’s so bad out there,” Scheffler said of the iconic No.17 bunker, after trying it out in training.

There is certainly history in the feeling that strikes the eye upon seeing the course, a feeling that could reach many of the 290,000 people in attendance who this week are among the 1.3 million who applied for tickets. Exited at #13 not far from the little marsh with mud and gulls next to tee #12, the marshals come from Ladybank, about 20 minutes away.

“You think what this land was like,” Field Marshal Steve Patrick said, “and things like King [James II] ban people from playing golf here [in 1457] because they played golf and did not practice archery. Patrick, too, remembers the light show as the kickoff to that “great buildup”, and he and Ladybank are excited even beyond Sunday. Gary Nicklaus will play the Senior British Open qualifier on Monday, and Patrick said: “We hope Jack goes there too and sees his son.”

There’s history there, of course – Nicklaus won here twice, in 1970 and 1978 – just as there’s history everywhere except perhaps the “glampground” near the course, with the relatively new “glamping”. Otherwise, it all goes back to Allan Robertson, whose death in 1859 led to the birth of the open concept from 1860. His tall tombstone, back near the Morrises, remains fitted with crossed clubs and three golf balls in case where he would like to return to play in a place where, this week more than ever, ghosts are welcome.

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