Sam Torrance on The Open 2015: Subtleties of St Andrews take players a short while to notice but far longer to truly master

Sam Torrance
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Jordan Spieth has played St Andrews only once before (Source: Getty)
It may be the Home of Golf and one of the most iconic settings in sport, but St Andrews is actually not the toughest course on which to make a reasonable score.
The Old Course is no Royal Birkdale; you can hook the ball 100 yards off each tee and still make the fairway, and the greens aren’t too difficult to locate either.
Long hitters such as Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson should find they are very well suited. Watson likes to shape the ball too, which is also a useful quality on these links.
But while St Andrews is not the hardest course to play, it is far more testing to master, and it takes most golfers a long time to learn its subtleties and intricacies.
That is why it would be extremely rare to see someone very unaccustomed to playing here lifting the Claret Jug on Sunday.


“The 14th at St Andrews is a great par five. There’s out of bounds up one side, the beardies [bunkers] on the other. The famous 17th sows self-doubt in the mind of the golfer. It’s a unique tee shot over the hotel and there’s danger everywhere with the second shot.”


Favourite Jordan Spieth has played St Andrews only once before, as an amateur, and – incredibly, I think – opted to stay in the United States for the John Deere Classic last week, which he won, rather than fly to Scotland for extra practice.
One of the Old Course’s signature traits is that the right side of the fairway is the best line to take on every single hole. Drift too far to the right, however, and you’re quickly out of bounds.
It takes time to learn what balance to strike, and that’s one of the ways in which repeat visitors are rewarded.
St Andrews has a unique atmosphere, and it can feel very tight indeed on the 18th green, surrounded by spectators. It’s cauldron-like in its intensity, and although its friendly rather than hostile, that – and the occasion – could overawe some players.


“Seve Ballesteros’ victory in 1984 at St Andrews. His long putt on the final green hesitated on the lip of the hole before dropping and setting off his celebration, a great moment to capture.”


I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great experiences at St Andrews.
In 1995 I was part of a Scotland team, alongside Andrew Coltart and Colin Montgomerie, who won the Dunhill Cup, beating a Zimbabwe side that included former Open champion Nick Price in the final.
But by most cherished moment there came in 2002, when I won the Pro Am at the Dunhill Links Tournament with my son Daniel.
To play alongside him was very special, and it came just three weeks after I’d successfully captained Europe to win the Ryder Cup at the Belfry. It was without doubt the best month in my career.

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