And it really wouldn't work any other way.
Take, for example, the narrow road/street that runs the length of the 18th hole. During the Open Championship, metal barriers are put in place right down the middle. The fans with tickets enter on the side of the partition that's closest to the golf. Which only makes sense. But the thing is, folks who don't pay, or those who simply want to maybe shop in the stores to their left, can then stand literally 2 feet behind the ones who count in the daily ticket totals and have every bit as good of a view of Tiger Woods. Particularly if they're a little taller than me.
It's kind of unreal. I mean, where else could that happen? Where else would they even think about letting it happen? And yet no one seems bothered. Not in the least. They're all just in it together.
One of the truly great places to be in any sport, and you can do it for free. Without getting hassled.
Try getting away with that at your next U.S. Open.
Yet it's just St. Andrews being St. Andrews. There are no pretences.
The first time I saw the place, in 1995, one of my first images was Scott Simpson's two young kids playing in the infamous Road Hole bunker at dusk a few nights before the start of the tournament. Are you kidding me?
But the land, after all, is considered open ground. There's nothing private about it. A few minutes later, Phil Mickelson and his then-girlfriend Amy came walking hand-in-hand down the fairway, headed toward the Old Course Hotel. Just like they do at Augusta National, I'm sure. I'm not trying to pick on Augusta, I'm just saying.
This year, I got here on Sunday evening. So, naturally, the first thing I did was walk the 500 yards or so from the St. Salvatore's dormitory to the first tee. It didn't take me long to wander to the 18th tee, where Bo Van Pelt was finishing up his practice round. As he was preparing to cross the Swilcan Bridge, there were two men who didn't speak much, if any, English, trying to get their picture taken. No problem. Van Pelt took the camera, took his time and made their trip. What a touch. There was no doubt after that whom I was pulling for this week. Again, that's pretty much a St. Andrews thing. And moment.
The Old Course is closed every Sunday that a British Open isn't being held on it. And the home of golf, its most cherished piece of real estate, turns into a picnic. At least when the weather permits. And I do mean picnic. Kids frolic, dogs walk, and motor scooters have the right of way. Honest.
Yes, they know when to take the game very seriously over here. They also seem to remember that it's indeed a game, and not always the most important whatever in the daily grind.
It's an attitude worth sampling, cherishing and preserving.
And you don't even need a ticket to join in the good times. Unless maybe you're standing behind Too Tall Jones.
By the way, if this is their version of summer I don't want to experience the change of seasons. I'm thinking that even the sturdiest Gore-Tex would throw up a flag of surrender.
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