While many casual golf fans gush about the greenery and flowers of Augusta National — one reason why The Masters is annually the highest-rated golf tournament on TV — golf purists and historians will be in heaven this week.
Those passionate about the game and its history know there’s absolutely no place on Earth like the Old Course at St. Andrews, site of this week’s British Open, or as they call it in the United Kingdom, The Open.
St. Andrews is the birthplace of golf, has some of the world’s most iconic holes (the 17th hole, known as the ‘Road Hole,’ might be the most famous and challenging par-4 on the planet) and landmarks, and has seen the world’s best golfers come through its hallowed grounds since the 15th century.
It’s almost as if there are ghosts of golfing greats there watching the current players tee it up.
Tiger Woods even has repeatedly said it’s his favorite course in the world.
The Old Course at St. Andrews is to golf what the Mona Lisa is to art or the Holy Grail is to archeologists, and thousands of tourists around the world try to book a round each year at the home of golf.
But this week, it’s all about the professionals who will get to play the Old Course in an attempt to win the 150th version of the British Open, the first time it’s been held at St. Andrews since 2015.
It’s not hyberbole to say this might be the biggest major in golf of all-time up to this point.
Here are five reasons why.
1. Players don’t get a chance to win at St. Andrews every year.
The British Open is on a rotation of courses that host the event each year, so it comes to St. Andrews typically every five to six years. It’s seven this year due to the 2020 event being cancelled.
With that in mind, it’s not every year players get a chance to say they won golf’s oldest major at St. Andrews.
After making a putt to win the 1970 event at St. Andrews, the normally stoic and reserved Jack Nicklaus threw his putter in the air in celebration because it was such a thrill to win on the Old Course.
“(Golfing legend Bobby) Jones always said that a golfer’s resume is not complete unless he’s won at St. Andrews,” Nicklaus told reporters this week while in attendance for a celebration of past champions and to be made an honorary citizen of St. Andrews.
2. There’s only ONE chance to win the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews.
As mentioned above, as special as it is to win a British Open, it’s even more so to do so at St. Andrews. But add the fact this is the 150th playing of golf’s oldest championship, and whoever wins will have a feather like no other in his cap forever.
No doubt, the players in the field have been circling this opportunity for months, if not years. They always want to win. But given the special circumstances, they REALLY want to win this one.
3. Growing animosity between players on the LIV Tour and the PGA Tour.
Since the Saudi-backed LIV Tour became a thing and began poaching players from the PGA Tour such as Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, the criticism and bickering from some on the PGA Tour has been rampant.
This is the biggest stage to date where the key figures on both tours will be competing on the same course, let alone one as revered as St. Andrews.
It should ratchet up the intensity even more.
4. It’s a chance to beat a worldwide field.
Typically, the British Open stands out from other majors in that it has the true feel of a world championship with a diverse field of international players.
You get your typical stars from the PGA Tour or European Tour, but opportunities are also made for golfers in Asia, Australia, or South Africa.
Given that and how badly golfers around the world wanted to qualify for the chance to play at St. Andrews, the winner will truly feel like the “Champion Golfer of the Year,” which is the designation of whoever takes home the Claret Jug.
5. It’s the season’s last major.
With the PGA Championship now played in May after it was moved from August a few years ago, this will be it for golfers hungry to win their first major.
The next chance will be nine months from now at the 2023 Masters.