The game’s greatest players have all played St. Andrews at one point or another and it’s fascinating to see the stories each one has in developing respect for the birth place of golf.
In a Sports Illustrated interview in 1970, Jack Nicklaus knew what it took to fully understand the greatness of The Old Course:
A golfer must play [St. Andrews] at least a dozen times before he can expect to understand its subtleties. If a player becomes irritated at the bad bounces and unusual things that happen at St. Andrews, forget it.
Two of golf’s greatest players have made the mistake of becoming “irritated at the bad bounces and unusual things that happen at St. Andrews” and have paid for it mightily in pride and in the press.
Lee Westwood – “I wouldn’t put it in the top 100 courses in Fife.”
During an Alfred Dunhill Cup in the late nineties, Lee Westwood was asked by Mark James if St. Andrews was among his top 50 favorite golf courses. After he expressed his disapproval, Westwood added “I wouldn’t put it in the top 100 courses in Fife.”
A decade later, Westwood is still questioned by the media (2010) about his comments, “I regret saying that (to James) because it keeps being brought up every time St. Andrews is mentioned …But at the same time, it encouraged me to see the subtleties and grow to love it.”
Two years earlier, he stated: “I didn’t think it that poor a course and I certainly didn’t think the comment would continually be dragged up years later. My frustration lay in the fact I couldn’t see how to shoot a low score. I could see the birdies but I would play so aggressively that I would run up bogeys as well.’
Bobby Jones – ”I considered St. Andrews among the very worse courses I had ever seen.”
Bobby Jones’ most embarrassing moment ever on the golf course occurred during his first visit to the Old Course. The 19 year old Jones, picked up from the bunker on the 11th hole disqualifying himself from the tournament. He stated soon after, “I considered St. Andrews among the very worse courses I had ever seen.”
Obviously, his feelings towards the course changed drastically after he became a more complete golfer. The change was most clearly expressed during his Freedom of the City speech given in 1958 at St. Andrews University’s Younger Graduation Hall. 1700 people filled the Hall’s capacity as Bobby took the podium and offered a moving speech that included the following words:
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.
St. Andrews is one of the special places in golf where a unique relationship is built and cultivated with every golfer who plays it. You can see the evidence in stories from golfers of all skill levels and eras. So many stories, emotions, and relationships: what a great game.
Jon @ atruegolfer.com