Thursday, July 08, 2010

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.After his practice round on The Old Course on Friday, Camilo Villegas sat in The Dunvegan pub while he watched the Brazil-Holland World Cup semifinal, though not necessarily with the same intensity which he employs to read putts.  It was supposedly Villegas's first-ever round on The Old Course, but I didn't ask him. We were both there to watch soccer, not conduct an interview. I did, however, mention that it seemed like the golf course was going to play awfully hard and fast when The Open Championship begins in just a few days. Villegas agreed.StandrewsBut that forecast doesn't seem as likely as it did 10 days ago. Alec Howie, a St. Andrews resident who served as Villegas' course guide, said rain on Friday morning softened the course a tad. Then downpours swept through St. Andrews with a stiff breeze on three separate occasions on Sunday afternoon. When I played The New Course at the end of June — about as close an indicator as a non-pro like me can get these days — the weather had been warm and dry for most of the last two weeks, so any ball that wasn't in the middle of the fairway was in danger of running into knee-high cat-tail grass in the rough. Anymore rain like we had on Sunday and The Old Course might be more golfer-friendly. Still, considering the fact that I counted nine tractors on the 17th fairway today, it's probably still going to be a pretty darn fast track.Everything in St. Andrews this week — from the nervous bar managers awaiting a jam-packed week to the guys adding a coat of paint to a building near the pro's practice tee — screams that The Open is only days away. For one weekend at least, you were more likely to have a pint with a tour caddie than Jim Bob from Tallahassee. While my friends and I hacked around The New Course on a fiercely windy Saturday afternoon last weekend, a helicopter meticulously flew over each hole of The Old Course shooting fly-overs to be used during the television broadcast.And the frantic preparations as The Open draws within view come with a rising anticipation that something special is about to happen. St. Andrews is a place where golf's great champions and huge personalities (See: Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, John Daly, Tiger Woods) rise to the challenge. So there's little doubt around here that it will continue during the 150th anniversary of the first professional golf tournament that Old Tom Morris organized in Prestwick in 1860. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure the spirit of Old Tom isn't controlling the weather. Consider this: I've been here 14 Sundays now and I believe it's rained on 10 of them; and Old Tom always insisted that the golf course be closed on Sundays.My friend McHugh, a St. Andrews resident and caddie on the European PGA Tour, was pumped on Sunday night when he told me he'd acquired a bag for The Open. He walked the course earlier in the day and specifically mentioned the high rough on the 13th hole. Mostly, though, he just seemed excited to be a part of the tournament.That goes for all of us here in The Auld Grey Toon.

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