Postcard from St. Andrews: Sunday



You never know what might happen on the final day at St. Andrews.
  • Bob Condron
  • You never know what might happen on the final day at St. Andrews.

By Bob Condron

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — South African Louis Oosthuizen was breezing his way to winning The Open. He was shutting it down, starting the day with a four-shot lead and not giving an inch.

On No. 9, he virtually closed it down with a 25-foot eagle putt that shut the door on the rest of the field. Then his nearest competitor Paul Casey tripled the 12th hole and unless Oosthuizen strolled off the course into the Bay of Firth, he was going to win.

He just needed to play fairways and greens from then on and that’s just what he did. He was in slow motion.

I watched him eagle the 9th, par the 10th, then headed back toward the clubhouse from the far reaches of the course. St. Andrews is as basic as it gets. It goes out, then it comes back. It is a course that is two fairways deep.

Take a walk around the edges of the Old Course, and you might end up in dreamland.
  • Bob Condron
  • Take a walk around the edges of the Old Course, and you might end up in dreamland.

I spent a few moments at a concession stand at the absolute end of the great golf course, with the sea in view … then turned down a small path leading in the general direction of my way home. Then it happened.

For one moment a hole opened in the universe. A seam that allowed entry into a place that might, or might not, be real.

I emerged next to a fairway. It was The fairway the leaders were walking down. I walked through a space. There was no rope, no barriers, no guards. Others were doing the same thing. A few dozen people were in this dream. Surely it was some kind of dream because in real life you’re not walking beside a British Open champion on a fairway on the back nine of St. Friggin’ Andrews..

You don’t walk with Derek Jeter on his way out to shortstop. With Kobe to the center jump. You don’t jump out of the huddle with Jerry Rice, and go in motion as Joe Montana starts barking signals. At least I don’t.

But, there it all was, in front of me. Louis Oosthuizen picking a club. Paul Casey trying to figure out the wind. Caddies talking, marshals walking, TV color guys reporting back to the booth. What the heck … why was I here? Why were those other dozen or so people there. They didn’t know either. And nobody said anything … we didn’t want to wake up whoever got us in this dream.

I think we were chosen, but why? We were less than 30 yards from two guys battling for the Claret Jug. Nothing but short grass in between us. Could have been some kind of galactic typo.

Maybe that’s the way they do it here in Scotland.

It finally ended a hole later, but just because we ran out of space. We either had to stand on the green as they were putting or get back on the path. The seam closed in the heavens and we were again earthbound. Behind the ropes. But, for a moment we were in The Open. With sunbeams dancing on our heads.

While we were all shaking our heads and getting back to reality, we got another bizarre look at things. On No. 16, a streaker ran out onto the green. Not really a streaker exactly, but a guy with no top and no shoes. I think they call that kind of guy an idiot. Nothing even remotely intriguing. The security guys got him away, people didn’t even stare, the two golfers kept reading their putts and trying to figure the speed.

Reality again. Got to get used to it.

This was my first trip to St. Andrews, and to Scotland where my family got started on the road to America, and Texas and Colorado. Where in the early days Mel Gibson rallied a bunch of farmers and sheep herders to kick some enemy butt and told them that they would remember this day forever.

It’s the craggy and rugged land where they made Scotch Tape, drank Scotch Whiskey, where Scottish Terriers lifted their legs to the sky and marked their beloved areas.

The golf course is historic, and the surroundings are just as memorable.
  • Bob Condron
  • The golf course is historic, and the surroundings are just as memorable.

On a stroll to the course today I saw breathtaking beauty. A rugged beach with the tide out and the rocks bare on the sand. A stone jetty heading east into the wind of the choppy North Sea.

Hit a hard drive straight east off the beach by the course and you’ll hit Norway. Push it a bit and you’ll land in Denmark. Shank it and you’re in the Netherlands.

From the beauty of a nearby city park, St. Andrews emerges.
  • Bob Condron
  • From the beauty of a nearby city park, St. Andrews emerges.

I was not wanting to end this walk, but just when my senses couldn’t take it anymore a park, high above the city with flowers and plants and kids with grandmas, just emerged. In between two old buildings you could see the 18th fairway at the Old Course, with the players completing their rounds. Some cheers, then applause. This golf course is just a part of this village. A good part, but just a part of life.

In one moment you’ve got kids playing, grandmas walking and holding grandpas hands as they love each other. A young couple tweeting friends, friends drinking coffee on a Sunday. Dogs sniffing fire hydrants, each other.

Then 100 meters away they have the British Open at the most famous golf course in the world.

I sure hope this was real. But, maybe in a moment I’ll catch another seam or crack in the heavens and will be standing in the ring with Muhammad Ali, or breaking the tape with Jesse Owens. Or hitching up my pants with Arnold Palmer.

But it couldn’t be any better than Scotland.

Bob Condron is the director of media services for the U.S. Olympic Committee. For the past five days he has been sending back his thoughts on the British Open at St. Andrews.

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