by Ralph Routon
To readers: Bob Condron, longtime director of media services for the U.S. Olympic Committee and an excellent golfer, is attending the British Open this week and has volunteered to share "postcards" from the experience through Sunday. Here is his first installment:
St. Andrews, Scotland — If you have one sliver of golf fantasy in your life, use it to see St. Andrews as the sun ebbs from the day … a golden mist turning to shadow around 10 p.m. in these parts. The Scottish jewel that is the Birthplace of Golf is not a beautiful lady. But, she absolutely grabs your eyes, your thoughts, your soul … and you can’t get enough of her. She is hypnotic.
At first you don’t know what to think. There is nothing like it anywhere you’ve ever been. With a small number of spectators roaming the course on Tuesday, it was like magic to a new set of eyes. The sun was shining, the wind was a mere breeze at 20 mph. The wind was freshening, which basically meant you’d become numb if you left any body part without adequate cover. Whatever part of your brain exudes pleasure, that’s where it went when you saw this amazing lady for the first time.
I saw a green here today that might be bigger than Wales. At St. Andrews many of the greens share two holes. This one was a realtor’s dream … a combination of Nos. 6 and 13. It measured at a rough estimate 150 YARDS long. Maybe 50 yards wide.
There’s no way to mow it. You’d get through the part that you had mowed earlier … and it would have grown two inches.
If the pin were on the back and you were on the front, you couldn’t possibly two-putt. I asked one of the golfers who had just completed the 13th green if he could actually stroke a putt that could go from front to back. He said, “Sure, but you might break your wrist.”
The fairways are so tightly mowed that they look like a giant billiard table … with about 100,000 elephants buried in there. Eighteen fairways that resemble an Elephant Graveyard. Rolling, dipping, making you dizzy. There is NO level lie at St. Andrews. You’re either standing with your ball above your feet, or below, or up or down. Never level. And there is no gradation from billiard table to a little light rough. It goes right from billiard table to 2-foot-thick grass and weeds. And now and then there’s a 5-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep little pot bunker that you cannot get out of … they just suck up any joy you might ever have.
With the late afternoon sun you could see the undulations in the fairways, the greens. You hear about 20 languages. One could be English but it doesn’t sound like it over here. Scottish is another language, maybe the most beautiful ever.
Tiger Woods got a good welcome from the British fans. He arrived several days ago and played 18 holes in wind and rain so bad that one official said if it had been Thursday, they would've called off the round because it was too miserable for human beings. Tuesday has been milder. The forecast, though, is rain and wind … a pattern for 150 years of this event that makes every July in Great Britain special.