Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.When I walked out of The Dunvegan at 2:30 Monday morning, the sky over North Street in St. Andrews was already beginning to turn light blue with a hint that sunrise wasn't far off.
It doesn't stay dark for long here in Scotland these days — the sun is up for about 18 hours, though it never really dips too deep below the horizon — and with the spotlight of The Open Championship set to shine on this small town in just a few weeks, I'm wondering if I'll forget what darkness looks like. Nevertheless, it is starting to go a bit quiet at the moment.
Two months ago, The Dunvegan was packed and cheers went up all over the pub at key moments as we watched The Masters come down the stretch on Sunday afternoon. And while enough locals came through the pub to fill it up briefly around midnight this past Sunday, by the time Graeme McDowell tapped in for his victory at about 2 a.m. here, my friends Lindsay Allan and Luke Fotheringham — the bartenders who stayed late upon my request — a couple of other buddies and maybe half a dozen others sleepily looked on as the year's second major ended. (Of course, the contrast is partially due to The Masters finishing a little past 11 p.m. here, whereas the U.S. Open didn't exactly finish early even for Americans watching in the Central and East Coast time zones. Did it?)
So the sun came up almost before I went to bed, but I persevered and slept until mid-morning. When I finally crawled out of bed and headed for my usual coffee shop, the streets of St. Andrews definitely had a work-day feel. Everybody seemed to be diligently going about a normal Monday. With The Old Course closed for Open preparations, the flow of golf tourists has slowed to a trickle, thus taking away the town's usual holiday feel. My caddie friends are scarce too. Several of them hail from Ireland and told me last week they were headed home for a few days before they return for The Open.
This left me in an awkward position because I'm not sure what a work day for me is supposed to feel like these days. Pretty much all I do is play golf, hang out at the pub and talk to golfers and/or watch golf or football (meaning soccer) on the television.
But it was a sunny and warm day, so I played nine holes at Strathtyrum, then walked The Old Course, shooting video of key spots on the course. After watching the constant struggle that is U.S. Open golf, I have to say, I see easier days ahead in the next major. Compared to Pebble Beach, The Old Course didn't seem to bear menacingly sharp teeth. But then, The Old Lady never seems scary. But she manages to defend herself pretty well, especially if the wind blows off the North Sea.
It's been unusually warm at times the last several days and it hasn't rained much in the last couple of weeks. If those weather conditions hold up from now until mid-July, I'm guessing the fairways and greens will be hard and fast, but the rough won't be too dense. But when do prevailing weather conditions in Scotland ever last more than half an hour?
Either way, we're in full-scale get ready mode here in The Auld Grey Toon.