There are hidden pot bunkers, holes that share the same green and holes that share the same fairway. It's about nuances, which makes it somewhat of an acquired taste. Tiger Woods obviously must like it, since he has won the last two British Opens there by a combined 13 shots. But it is different. Which is probably one of the things that helps make it special.
You just won't find anything quite like it anywhere.
"The first time, I must have asked my caddie like 16 times, 'Where the hell's the fairway?' " Jim Furyk recalled. "I've played it maybe 10 times, and I'm still saying it six times [a round]. I'll look at Fluff [Cowan] and go, 'Where the hell do I hit it?' You're like, 'This is it?' Some love it, and some hate it. It is what it is. It's unique. You can hit it 40 yards off line and end up perfect, and you can hit it 5 yards wide and be dead. You can hit some great shots and get nothing. Just terrible results. Some people can't deal with that. I mean, you can be standing in a bunker on your nose."
Anything else you need to know? That's St. Andrews. But, it's St. Andrews.
Whatever you think, it has been described as a place where great golfers need to win to affirm their standing. And for the most part, they have, from Jones to Snead to Peter Thomson to Bobby Locke to Jack Nicklaus (twice) to Seve Ballesteros to Nick Faldo and now Woods. One notable exception was Tom Watson, who won five Claret Jugs elsewhere. His best opportunity at St. Andrews came in 1984, before he bogeyed the Road Hole (No. 17) on the final day, about the same time Ballesteros finished up with a birdie.
History happens here. Even if it meant Kel Nagle holding off Arnold Palmer by a stroke in 1960, when the King was coming off what would be his only U.S. Open win and entertained visions of a Grand Slam. While he didn't get it done, his presence did revitalize this championship forever.
St. Andrews also gave us John Daly in 1995. A lot of folks still wonder how the golf gods ever allowed that to take place. Borderline sacrilegious, to be honest. But who could ever forget the picture of Long John, sitting next to whatever wife it was at the time, nearly swallowing his cigarette when Costantino Rocca made that impossible putt to force a playoff? Some images are truly priceless.
It's the place where they filmed some scenes for the movie "Chariots of Fire" on the beach that lies just to the right of the opening hole. It's the place where the Royal & Ancient's clubhouse sits just behind the first tee/18th green. It's the place where your dreams can die in the Valley of Sin. It's the place where you might have to aim over a former railroad shed. Or maybe even a cloud.
It doesn't have to make perfect sense. Therein lies part of the beauty. And appeal.
So, is that all there is? You betcha. And that's sure plenty enough to celebrate every 5 years.
(non-World Cup division)
This major went without a playoff from 1976 to 1988. In that time, it switched from an 18-holer to a four-hole format completed the same day as the final round instead of the next morning. In '75 at Carnoustie, Watson won his first major by beating Jack Newton, who later lost his arm in an accident involving an airplane propeller.
In '89 at Royal Troon, Mark Calcavecchia beat Wayne Grady and Greg Norman, who, as you might recall, never finished his last hole. That's the lone time Norman, who won his only two majors at the British in 1986 (Turnberry) and '93 (Royal St. George's), finished runner-up in this tournament.
You already know about Daly over Rocca in '95. Three years later at Royal Birkdale, Mark O'Meara took out Brian Watts to get his second major of the season (and only two of his career). The following July at Carnoustie, Paul Lawrie outlasted Justin Leonard and Jean Van de Velde, who suffered the implosion by which all disasters will continue to be measured on the 72nd hole of regulation after suffering a triple-bogey 7.
Ernie Els was involved in the next two overtimers. One turned out better for him than the other. First, at Muirfield in 2002, he beat Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet, but not before he and the Frenchman had to go an extra sudden-death hole. Then, in '04 at Royal Troon, The Big Easy lost to Todd Hamilton.
In 2007 at Carnoustie, Padraig Harrington won the first of his three majors by taking out Sergio Garcia, despite the fact Harrington double-bogeyed the same 18th hole Van de Velde had tripled. But moments later, Garcia lipped a par putt there, and it all went bad for him. Which led the petulant Spaniard to declare that the whole world obviously was conspiring against him. He might have a point.
Finally, 12 months ago at Turnberry, Stewart Cink closed with a bird, 59-year-old Tom Watson closed with a bogey, and Cink won a very anticlimactic playoff. It wasn't his fault. It's just that the other story line would have been totally off the charts.
Did you know
*This is the 28th time St. Andrews has been the host venue. Prestwick is next, with 24, but hasn't been the tournamant site since 1925. The first playing at St. Andrews was 1873, when Tom Kidd beat Jamie Anderson by one. That was the 13th Open. The previous 12 were all at Prestwick.
* The notorious Road Hole (No. 17), which is either the toughest par 4 in the world or in essence the easiest par 5, has been lengthened for the first time in more than 100 years. It now measures 495 yards, an increase of 40. A new tee had to be constructed to accommodate the change, on a practice range. It had played the same way since 1900.
* Before losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink last July at Turnberry, Tom Watson, then 59, hadn't finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since 2002. The five-time champion has never lifted a Claret Jug at St. Andrews. In six previous Opens there, his best showing was the tie for second in 1984 behind hard-charging Seve Ballesteros. He also tied for 14th in 1978, missed the cut in 1990, tied for 31st in 1995, tied for 55th in 2000, and tied for 41st 5 years ago.
* Ernie Els, who was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open midway through the final round, has played in 18 consecutive Opens. He has finished outside of the top 30 twice. The first was in his 1989 debut, when he missed the cut by two shots. In 2005, he tied for 34th at St. Andrews. The 2002 champ also has 12 top-10s and eight top fives.
* Tiger Woods has finished outside the top 25 in only three British Opens, all in Scotland. He tied for 68th at St. Andrews as an amateur in his 1995 debut, tied for 28th at Muirfield in 2002 (when a storm derailed his Grand Slam chances in the third round) and missed the cut at Turnberry last July.
* Paul Lawrie, who took advantage of Jean Van de Velde's implosion to win in 1999 at Carnoustie, holed a 4-iron from 213 yards for a double-eagle 2 at the 536-yard par-5 7th hole a year ago. It was the sixth double-eagle at the British Open since 1982, and fifth in the last decade. The others were recorded by Bill Rogers (1983), Manny Zerman (2000), Greg Owen (2001), and Jeff Maggert and Gary Evans (2004).
* Tom Watson's opening 65 a year ago tied his lowest first round in 128 majors. It marked the eighth time in 443 major championship rounds he posted that score. Four came at Turnberry, where he won in 1977. He had two that year (rounds 3 and 4), and one in 1994 (the second; he finished tied for 11th).
British Open Data
The Old Course
No. 1: par 4, 376 yards
No. 2: par 4, 453 yards
No. 3: par 4, 397 yards
No. 4: par 4, 480 yards
No. 5: par 5, 568 yards
No. 6: par 4, 412 yards
No. 7: par 4, 371 yards
No. 8: par 3, 175 yards
No. 9: par 4, 352 yards
OUT: par 36, 3,584 yards
No. 10: par 4, 386 yards
No. 11: par 3, 174 yards
No. 12: par 4, 348 yards
No. 13: par 4, 465 yards
No. 14: par 5, 618 yards
No. 15: par 4, 455 yards
No. 16: par 4, 423 yards
No. 17: par 4, 495 yards
No. 18: par 4, 357 yards
IN: par 36, 3,721 yards
Total: par 72, 7,305 yards
Thursday and Friday: ESPN, 5 a.m.-3 p.m. (replay 7-10 p.m.)
Saturday: ESPN, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (replay 7-10 p.m.)
Sunday: ESPN, 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (replay 9 p.m.-midnight on ESPN2)
If thereis a playoff, a four-hole cumulative playoff (Nos. 1, 2, 17 and 18) will begin immediately. If it's still tied the format reverts to sudden-death, starting at the first.
ON THE WEB:
*Test your knowledge of the British Open and St. Andrews, with Mike Kern's multiple-choice quiz at: http://go.philly.com/golfquiz
* Log on to Philly.com for a live scoreboard from the British Open at: www.philly.com/golf
LAST FIVE WINNERS:
2005: Tiger Woods, St. Andrews
2006: Tiger Woods, Royal Liverpool
2007: Padraig Harrington, Carnoustie
2008: Padraig Harrington, Royal Birkdale
2009: Stewart Cink, Turnberry
2011: Royal St. George's, Sandwich, Kent, England
2012: Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Lancashire, England
2013: Muirfield, Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
2014: Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, Merseyside, England
REMAINING 2010 MAJOR:
PGA Championship: Aug. 12-15, Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wis.
Oct. 1-3, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, South Wales
Or, trying to size up some of the usual suspects . . .
*Tiger Woods (5-1): Just because it's St. Andrews. But he has to find his putter. And maybe his mind.
*Phil Mickelson (8-1): Has rarely distinguished himself in this major.
*Lee Westwood (10-1): Throw out the U.S. Open. He could have won this major last year.
*Ernie Els (12-1): He was in position to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and faded badly.
*Justin Rose (15-1): Didn't play here in 2000 or 2005. But who's playing better right now?
*Padraig Harrington (18-1): Two-time champ is not in best form. Didn't play here in 2005, tied for 20th in 2000.
*Rory McIlroy (20-1): Forget Pebble Beach. He could be a legit factor, even though he is only 21.
*Ian Poulter (22-1): Got worse as the week went on at U.S. Open. But he usually has some game, and grit.
*Paul Casey (25-1): Was in the mix early at Pebble.
*Graeme McDowell (28-1):*Geoff Ogilvy (30-1): Missed the cut at U.S. Open. Has missed cut in British Open last 3 years.
*Stewart Cink (33-1): Defending champ hasn't done much since then.
*Sergio Garcia (35-1): Has anyone put out an APB for him yet? Because he's been mostly MIA.
*Sean O'Hair (38-1): If his back and his putter cooperate, he's hitting it pretty well. Tied for 15th here in 2005 in his first major, week after winning first tournament.
*Ross Fisher (40-1) Just because you have to list at least one guy nobody really knows too well. He seemed as likely a candidate as any.
*Angel Cabrera (45-1): Why not? The two-time major winner can get it going when the mood strikes.
*Five others to ponder: Luke Donald, Nick Watney, Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi and Ryo Ishikawa.
THE DREADED PICK:
I have Tiger in a yearlong pool, so I'm not sure what to make of that. Still, I'll somewhat reluctantly stick with him, even if he's coming off a less than inspiring effort at the AT&T. If not now, then when? I'll toss Justin Rose into an exacta. And if you're looking for a little bigger payout to round out that trifecta box, how about Ryo Ishikawa? Just don't ask me to give you a reason, except I like his style. See you at next month's PGA from Whistling Straits. Enjoy those early TV times this weekend.