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In this exclusive extract from the new book Aussies at The Open, the link between the Old Course at St Andrews and Australian golfers is time-honoured and distinct. 

When a golfer arrives at St Andrews for the first time, there tends to be one of two reactions: either “That’s it?” or “That’s it!”

As you make your way through town, turn down Golf Place and then take a left onto the links, 600 years of history is suddenly laid out before you. For some, the flat expanse encompassing the first and 18th holes can be underwhelming; others form an instant infatuation, dwarfed not only by the regal Royal & Ancient Golf Club clubhouse but also the mere notion that an odyssey to feel what it means to stand on such hallowed ground has reached its emotional conclusion.

Peter Thomson visited St Andrews for the first time less than three months after being anointed the Champion Golf of the Year at Royal Birkdale in 1954, and so began a love affair that would see him return each year and infuse elements of the golf course into every one of his 250 course-design projects in 30 countries around the world.

“I am paying my pilgrimage to St Andrews, which should be every pro golfer’s ambition,” Thomson wrote in The Argus on September 24, 1954. “Before St Andrews, golf’s greatest course, all others seem imitations. Here is the greatest turf of golf in the world. A magic carpet of bumps and hollows that defy the shrewdest calculator – studded with sudden hidden traps lurking behind most of the innocent-looking rises. All this is swept hard and dry by wind from every quarter. I was told over the years by many accomplished players that on first sight of St Andrews I would be disappointed. I am thrilled to the core.”

Not only did the Old Course give golf the 18-hole layout, double greens and shape the pre-eminent course design tenets, it has served as the connective tissue linking every icon in the history of the game to one rumpled, coastal piece of linksland that remains the property of the people of St Andrews.

A once simple track hacked through the gorse and heather as early as 1400 AD, golf at times has had a complicated relationship with the St Andrews hierarchy. Concerned at the distraction it was causing to the archery practice of young Scotsmen, King James II of Scotland banned golf from being played entirely in 1457, a ban that was not overturned until 1502 by James IV, who became an avid golfer. Fifty years on, Archbishop John Hamilton granted the people of St Andrews the right to once again play on the links, and in 1754 the Society of St Andrews Golfers – later to become the Royal & Ancient Golf Club – was formed.

 Getty images: David Cannon

Originally laid out as a 22-hole course played in an anti-clockwise direction, the first four and the last four holes were joined together in 1764 to make four holes – two out, two in – and thus the 18-hole golf course was born. In 1797, the most treasured parcel of golf land on the planet was sold to local merchants and turned into a rabbit farm when the St Andrews Town Council went bankrupt. A 20-year physical and legal war ensued between golfers and the rabbit merchants over the links, only coming to an end in 1821 when local landowner – and golfer – James Cheape of Strathtyrum bought the links for the sole purpose of playing golf. For that act of intervention, Cheape’s Bunker on the second fairway would be named in his honour.

St Andrews hosted The Open Championship for the first time in 1873 and in 1921 Joe Kirkwood Snr and his business manager J. Victor East became the first Australians to contest an Open at St Andrews. It has lured Australian golfers with its siren song ever since.

“You can feel the ghosts through your feet,” says Vaughan Somers, who played two of his seven Opens at St Andrews, in 1978 and 1984. “Tom Morris Snr and Jnr and all of the greats have walked here before, exactly right here. It’s a scary thing.”

Not only is St Andrews universally recognised as the Home of Golf, for Craig Parry it represents the home of his immediate ancestors. From the age of 5, Parry had a map of the Old Course hanging in the family home, his grandmother Elizabeth Clarke (nee Watson) growing up in Kirkcaldy, 40 minutes’ drive south-west of St Andrews.

“It’s one of those places I feel very comfortable going and playing,” says Parry, who played four Opens at St Andrews with a best finish of equal 22nd in 1990. “It was more or less drilled into me about St Andrews. I knew all the bunkers and where they were positioned, just through growing up as a kid and seeing this map of St Andrews.”

Ewan Porter qualified to play in The Open on three occasions through International Final Qualifying, the last of which at Kingston Heath in 2010 opened the door to an Open unlike any other.

“Seeing the Royal & Ancient building behind the first tee at St Andrews for the first time, I can still remember my heart racing,” Porter recalls. “I’m a golf nerd. I’ve seen so much footage of tournaments being played at St Andrews and read so much about the history of the place that when I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it. I was giggling like a kid.

“Of the three Open Championships I played, I understood a lot more about what had taken place at St Andrews in prior years compared to the other two. It’s the holy grail.”

Ten years earlier, at The Open in which Tiger Woods thrilled the gathering of 22 past champions with a masterful display, West Australian left-hander Nick O’Hern took his infatuation with St Andrews to new heights.

“I arrived already loving the place and the thing that surprised me most was that I fell in love with the town as well,” says O’Hern, who finished tied for 41st that year and was top-15 in 2005 when Woods triumphed at the Old Course for a second time.

“The people and the restaurants and the bars and the hotels; they all just lived, breathed and ate golf. That atmosphere around the whole week is just something really special. I loved it.”

In one of the great St Andrews Open debuts by an Australian, Mark Hensby also found himself falling for the charms of the town in 2005. One behind Woods in outright second after an opening 67, Hensby ended the week level with O’Hern in a share of 15th and completely enamoured with the township that prides itself as a custodian of the game.

“It’s definitely a very different-feeling town. That golf course, that’s their pride and it’s a cool little town,” says Hensby, whose first round in 2005 stands as the lowest debut round by an Australian in The Open. “It’s cool that you could rent a house and just walk to the golf course with your clubs and obviously the history of the place is just incredible. It was so cool to play St Andrews as your first Open. That was definitely a treat.”

Playing in his second Open Championship in 1978, Michael Cahill also took an instant liking to the Old Course. Cahill shot 68 in the final round to climb into a tie for 11th – his best result in six Open starts – and soaked up as much of the history as he could.

“It’s a bit like London. You walk around the streets of London and people tell you what it was like there 300, 400 years ago,” Cahill says. “St Andrews, it’s not necessarily the best golf course, but it’s the Home of Golf. You walk onto the first tee at St Andrews and think, Well, it doesn’t get any better than this. Just walking over the bridge on the 18th for the first time was pretty special, especially in The Open.”

Not only is the town inextricably linked to golf and the seven courses that now fall under the auspices of the St Andrews Links Trust, but outside Open weeks the buildings and steeples atop churches serve as aiming points across the vast expanse of the Old Course.

“It’s actually a lot easier playing the golf course when there’s an Open because the yardage books are so good,” says Marc Leishman, who was edged out in a playoff by Zach Johnson at St Andrews in 2015. “When you play there as an amateur for the St Andrews Links Trophy or the British Amateur, there’s nothing to aim at. You aim at a building that’s eight miles away. It tells you to aim at a church steeple.”

“It’s a surreal place. It’s the spiritual home of golf,” adds Wayne Riley, a competitor in 1984 and 1995 at St Andrews and who will be inside the ropes in 2022 as Sky Sports’ lead on-course commentator. “There are a lot of spiritual homes for our game. You look at Pebble Beach in California, that’s the American place; they’ve got a few. But nothing rivals St Andrews for its quirkiness. You turn as you’re coming back home after the par 3, 11, and all of a sudden you see the steeples in St Andrews. It has a romance that’s second to none in our game. It truly does.”

Although he was caught up in the ferocity of the Scottish weather at St Andrews in 2015, such is Scott Hend’s fondness for the Old Course that he happily forks out his own hard-earned to play with friends any chance he gets.

“I just love the place,” says Hend, whose first two Opens just happened to fall at St Andrews, in 2005 and 2015. “It’s a very special place. You play all the way up to the point and then you turn around and come back all the way through into the town. It’s one of those special places that’s steeped in history. You know so much has happened there over the years of golf.

“I feel so privileged every time I get there and tee it up, even when I’m playing with my mates or members there and I’m paying the green fee. It’s a reduced rate, but I’m still paying £75 to £100. I just hand over my credit card to the starter and they swipe it. I know it sounds so silly, but it’s the same feeling of when you’re 8 and 9, and Christmas morning was there and you’re up early to go and get your presents. You couldn’t even touch them until your parents have come down or your grandparents. To me, it’s the same type of feeling of, This is awesome. It’s a place I hold very high in my feelings for golf.”

Barry Coxon’s two Opens in 1967 and 1968 were played at Royal Liverpool and Carnoustie… so he spent his honeymoon playing a European Tour event at St Andrews. Brian Jones may be the only Aussie to ever have a sponsorship deal with the Tom Morris Shop that sits adjacent to the 18th green.

“I used to wear their gear,” shares Jones, who played his sixth and final Open at St Andrews in 1990. “Got to know the guy that owns it and he gives me all these shirts and all that to wear. I used to go and spend four or five days there a year when there was no tournament. It’s an amazing town.”

Michael Wright qualified for the 2006 Open at Hoylake and at Turnberry in 2009, but it was as a member of the Australian University golf team in 1993 – a team that also included Chris Campbell – that Wright got to feel the essence of St Andrews.

“We putted out on the 18th and they took us right through the clubhouse and showed us all the Open trophies and everything,” Wright recalls. “There was a real sense of eeriness. Not a creepy eeriness, but more of a, Wow, this town has got something.

“I’ve walked past Tiger a few times, and he has this aura that comes from him. It was the same with St Andrews. I felt this aura come over me, that was all the history hitting me. I didn’t understand that until I actually got there and felt it. Walking past the old Tom Morris Shop on the right, walking up 18, it was like, Geez, I can really feel something here.”

Tours of the R&A clubhouse can only be conducted in the company of a member, or, as Peter Senior discovered in 1984, with a five-time Open champion.

“I was lucky to get into the clubhouse and look at all the history, but only because Peter Thomson was there and I got in with Peter,” says Senior, who played in The Open at St Andrews five times, including a tie for 14th in 1984. “I got very close to Pete and he saw me after a practice round and said, ‘I’m going into the clubhouse. Do you want to come and have a look?’ If you don’t know somebody, you’ve got a very limited chance of getting in there. I went in and spent half the afternoon in there, just looking at all the history.”

Adds Stewart Ginn: “When you go into the clubhouse and go into the members’ lounge, it makes the hair on your arms stand up. It’s a different feeling. And coming up 18, you can’t describe it. It’s just a magnificent golf course and venue. It’s history.”

• • •

 Getty images: Stuart Franklin 

Take away the grandstands, the people and The Open Championship paraphernalia and it is not uncommon for professional golfers to offer an underwhelming appraisal on first inspection of the Old Course. The world’s most accomplished amateur, Bobby Jones, stormed off and tore up his card after four failed attempts to extricate his ball from Hill bunker on the 11th hole in the third round of the 1921 Open.

During the past century, many others have left bemused as to what all the fuss was about. Ben Hogan played – and won – his only Open appearance at Carnoustie in 1953 but didn’t bother with the 40-kilometre drive to see St Andrews.

“The first hole at St Andrews and 17 and 18 are just amazing. That was incredible. The rest of the course didn’t do much for me,” admits 1991 runner-up Mike Harwood.

“I remember driving into town in the little Mini Minor and when I got out, someone said that’s the St Andrews golf course. I thought it was a football field,” offers Len Thomas, who finished 40th in his only Open appearance, which came at St Andrews in 1964.

“It’s just one of those courses. You either love it or hate it,” says Peter Senior. “If you played the course as it is, you probably wouldn’t be very impressed with it. You play it in an Open, and it changes the dynamics of the whole place. The hardest thing at St Andrews is picking the lines and, the more you play it, the better you know where you can go and where you can’t go.”

“I’m not a golf-course lover or anything like that, so the first time I ever played it I thought, Gee, this is a really easy golf course,” says Adam Bland, who played the 2015 Open at St Andrews and the 2007 and 2008 Dunhill Links. “Then I stepped out there another time and it was blowing 30 miles an hour and it was the hardest golf course I’d ever played.”

Runner-up in the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur in 2006, Scott Arnold’s history at the Old Course gave the Sydneysider genuine belief that a good result was possible in his one and only Open at St Andrews, in 2015. He shot 66 in the final round to grab a share of 40th spot, but admits his fondness for St Andrews was an acquired taste.

“I don’t think I loved the course when I first played it,” Arnold says. “Obviously it’s got an aura about it and the more times you play it, the more you appreciate it. When you first get there, it’s just wide open. It’s just a field with bunkers and massive greens, so you feel like you can just hit it anywhere. But it’s very tactical.

“Now when I sit home and I think about it, it gives you the option to play as far left as you want on every hole. But you’re going to have a crap angle into the green and you’re going to have a longer club in. The tighter you can keep the ball up the right side at St Andrews, the shorter it is and the easier it is. But that’s where out-of-bounds and bunkers come into play. It depends how aggressive you want to play it. It’s not one of the best courses you’ve ever played, but it’s up there just because of what it is. It’s St Andrews.”

That is an opinion shared by Terry Gale, who finished tied for 28th at St Andrews in 1984.

“Thomson used to rave about it, but I thought that most of the others were actually better courses,” Gale says. “It was really the name that you were there for. It’s unique, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not the best golf course I’ve ever played.”

Those who return time and again start to be won over by its nuance and the brilliance of a layout essentially mapped out centuries ago with rudimentary tools and the burrowing of resident sheep. Frustrated by their scrapings to shelter from the wind, the golfers came to an agreement with the nearby wool mill for the sheep to be relocated, discovering only after their removal that the holes they left behind served to enhance the golf experience. On first visit those bunkers can appear to be as randomly placed as you would expect of sheep seeking shelter, yet the subtlest shift in wind can alter the playing conditions so significantly that they are suddenly staring you dead in the face.

“What I’d heard most was how it changed with the wind direction and that it was almost like a living, breathing thing,” O’Hern says. “You’d see pot bunkers to the side, 200 yards down, way off-line, and go, I wonder what that’s doing there. The next day that pot bunker’s in play, because that’s the line you need to take.

“I just loved the golf course straight away. Every shot just felt perfect for me, maybe because I’m a left-hander and I could almost aim to the middle of the course and hit a draw all the way around. The strategic nature of the golf course really suited me and I found out quickly that length was not a factor.”

The changing nature of the golf course is a common theme among Aussies to have played an Open on the Old Course.

“When I played there in ’95, it was the first time I’d played the course,” says Peter O’Malley of his only Open at St Andrews. “I played the practice round with Craig Parry and it was a dead still day. I was like, What’s so special about this place? You can hit anywhere. Then the wind gets up.”

“The thing that amazes me most about St Andrews is that it’s different every time you play it,” adds Richard Green, who was three-under through six holes of his only St Andrews Open, in 2005, before finishing the week tied for 32nd. “Even though the layout is the same and the wind direction might be the same, you might get a bad bounce here or there and the ball might roll off into a bunker or finish up somewhere different. You end up playing it very differently every single time you play it. And the surface to play on was awesome. These bouncy, sandy, hard, tight fairways and very natural greens.”

Bruce Devlin was fifth in the first of his two Opens at St Andrews, in 1964, arriving in a confident frame of mind after finishing as low individual at the inaugural Eisenhower Trophy matches won by the Australian team of Devlin, Doug Bachli, Bob Stevens and Peter Toogood at St Andrews in 1958. Devlin and his teammates discovered on that expedition that not only was St Andrews affected by the wind, but also by the changing tide.

“You can go out and play all the way out into the wind and then the tide will change and then you play all the way back into the wind again,” Devlin recalls.

Although renowned as a player who rose to Hall-of-Fame status through thousands of hours honing a swing that could stand up to the most intense tournament pressure, it was the creativity that St Andrews elicited that most excited David Graham. The 1979 PGA and 1981 US Open champion, Graham’s best result in The Open was a tie for third at Royal St George’s in 1985. In his fourth Open at St Andrews in 1990, he shot 66 on Sunday to finish tied for eighth at age 44.

“I was completely enamoured with St Andrews. I remember playing practice round after practice round after practice round,” Graham says of his Open debut in 1970. “When you walk on those hallowed grounds like that, you always have a lot of respect, but that type of golf was really fascinating. You had to be a Ballesteros kind of player, where you had to be really creative and hit a lot of different shots. It never played the same way twice, which was kind of fun. The golf was phenomenal because it was not boring. It changed from morning to afternoon and it changed from day to day, which was really incredible.”

Born and raised at Corowa on the Murray River, Marcus Fraser captained the Kingswood Golf Club team to Melbourne pennant victory in 2002 and says the famed Sandbelt courses may be the only ones that transform as quickly as St Andrews.

“You go there for a few days, and you’re playing a different golf course every day because of the different conditions,” says Fraser, who played the 2005 and 2015 Opens at St Andrews, finishing equal 20th in 2015. “It just changes so quickly. Every time you go back there you appreciate why bunkers are in certain positions and why the greens are a certain way. There are very few courses in the world that actually get better every time you go back.”

A member at Southern Golf Club since 1992, Cameron Percy also draws comparisons between the styles of golf found at St Andrews and the Melbourne Sandbelt.

“At St Andrews, you’ve got to position your ball on the right side of the fairway to have an angle. That’s what makes it so good. That’s why the best players win there, because they seem to be able to do that,” says Percy, who missed the cut in 2010 with rounds of 76-79. “That’s what a lot of Melbourne golf courses do. You might be in the middle of the fairway but you haven’t got the right angle and it’s a really hard shot to get it close.”

In the days before standard yardage books, Peter Fowler recalls caddies such as Steve Williams and Max Cunningham spending as long as 12 hours a day getting measurements and mapping the golf course to cover any eventuality their players might encounter during the four days of the championship.

“It’s such a complicated course. If you’ve only ever played one tournament around St Andrews, you probably wouldn’t like it that much because it’s very complicated,” says Fowler, who played four Opens at St Andrews between 1984 and 2005. “I enjoyed it more the second time. You’ve really got to be in the right place in the fairway and get your focus a bit tighter. Because it’s such a wide-open golf course, it’s really difficult to see stuff and it’s easy to get drawn away from the proper playing line.”

Such is the simple magnificence of the Old Course, it has become the template many of the game’s most influential course architects have continuously referred back to. As he began to develop an interest in golf course design in the early 1900s, Dr Alister MacKenzie charted the Old Course in great detail and in 1915 was made a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. His manuscript on course design – The Spirit of St Andrews – was originally penned in 1933 but not published until 1995, 61 years after his passing. It has become the seminal book on golf course design and extols many of the design principles found inherently within the Old Course routing.

“I think it is the best course in the world – certainly one of them – because you can hit wherever you want,” says Mike Clayton, who played Opens at St Andrews in 1984, 1990 and 1995 and is one of the most influential Australian course designers of the past 20 years. “The golf course doesn’t dictate anything to you except that you’ve got to play the ball over the water on the first hole. You can hit wherever you want, you can play whatever shot you want. You can hit along the ground, you can hit it straight up in the air, you can land it 40 yards short of the green if you want. You can do whatever you want. It’s great in that sense.

“MacKenzie felt it was the best course in the world and he understood how to translate that sort of golf onto Augusta National and Royal Melbourne. ‘I’m going to give you plenty of space to hit the ball into, but a ball on one side of the fairway is going to be a completely different shot than it is from the other side of the fairway.’ I started to understand that more after I’d finished playing. I thought about it more, started writing about it. And I read The Spirit of St Andrews and MacKenzie explained the course a bit. You think about the holes away from being consumed by, How am I going to make a 4 here in
The Open?”

Graham Marsh was another to transfer from a successful playing career into golf course design. The 1970 Open at St Andrews was the first of Marsh’s 20 appearances in the championship and he too developed a greater appreciation once he set about building a design portfolio of his own.

“It gave me a newfound look at what the game was all about. It was the real deal, St Andrews,” says Marsh, who tied for ninth in 1984. “Thomson once said, ‘It’s almost inevitable that every nuance that any designer that ever went to St Andrews and looked at it, they have taken part of that and incorporated it in their mind.’ Where did the idea of double greens come from? St Andrews. What was the purpose of the strategically placed bunkers? One day you don’t even see them, the next day you’re in them. There were just so many elements of St Andrews and probably one of the biggest ones that I took away from it was the notion that you very rarely got a flat lie.”

Geoff Ogilvy is another avid student of golf-course architecture and leaves no doubt where he stands in his appraisal of the Old Course.

“Practicalities of the tournament aside, the Old Course is my favourite Open golf course. By miles,” says Ogilvy, who shot weekend rounds of 67-69 in 2005 to finish tied for fifth. “I’m never not nervous on the first tee. I’m never not excited. I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve driving from Edinburgh. I’m not the Lone Ranger there, but that feeling has never gone away. We’ll always go park somewhere near the beach and walk on the course. Every time. It’s just the best. And the course never disappoints, ever. Not me, anyway. I like the golf course more every time I play there.”

• • •

 Getty images: Warren Little

Golf is at the core of what makes St Andrews tick all year round, yet approximately every five years since 1873 the town explodes with the excitement of crowning a new Champion Golfer of the Year.

The 2022 Championship marks the 150th staging of The Open and the 30th at St Andrews, the most of any courses on the Open rota. Australia’s two successes at St Andrews came in Peter Thomson’s first title defence in 1955 and Kel Nagle upsetting Arnold Palmer in 1960, but there have been a number of other near misses. Since Joe Kirkwood Snr’s tie for sixth in 1921, 16 Aussie golfers have finished a week at St Andrews inside the top-10, Marc Leishman (T-2), Jason Day (T-4) and Adam Scott (T-10) most recently in 2015.

Whether you have played in previous Opens or other Major championships, nothing can prepare you for the sheer volume of people that flood into the town and the size of the structures used to house them on-course.

“It is just this massive, massive show rolling into town. The grandstands and infrastructure are ridiculous,” says Adam Bland.

“In Open week, it’s a zoo. There’s people everywhere,” adds Cameron Percy.

Despite the sheer enormity of the event, the galleries are considered golf’s most respectful and knowledgeable, with a varying degree of intensity in their applause depending on the execution of the shot at hand.

“The crowds are always very much a part of The Open,” says Craig Parry. “The first time playing at St Andrews, you’d hole a putt and the ball was in the hole for what seemed like an eternity and then the crowd would clap. It was a really weird feeling. Because the crowd was so far back from the greens, they couldn’t see the ball go in the hole until you started walking towards it and then they would clap.”

Jeff Woodland arrived at St Andrews in 1990 after finishing tied for 39th in his Open debut at Troon the year prior and attributed the atmosphere at the Old Course to the influence golf has on everyone in the town.

“It just had an aura about it. Everything was buzzing,” says Woodland, who missed the cut with rounds of 73-71. “The crowds were so well educated because as soon as kids are two years old they get a club in their hand. They even know how hard to clap. A birdie, they’ll really appreciate that, and if you miss one it’ll just be an encouragement clap. You could tell by the claps. They were just fantastically knowledgeable and very well-mannered.”

After an opening round of 70, Jarrod Moseley unexpectedly found himself leading through 30 holes of the 2000 Open. Five consecutive bogeys saw the West Australian tumble down the leaderboard, his over-riding memory that of a town heaving with Open enthusiasm.

“To play there in The Open was next-level. The streets were just packed with people and the atmosphere was incredible,” says Moseley, who finished tied for 41st in his only St Andrews Open. “Everyone there, every single person there, was a massive golf fan. Everyone played golf and I noticed that with the town when The Open wasn’t there. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, they all had stories, they all had handicaps, they all played golf. Just an incredible town.”

Former PGA champion Wayne Grady missed the cut in all three Opens he played at St Andrews. If the golf course didn’t endear itself to the Queenslander, the galleries certainly did.

“I still don’t like the golf course. All the great players love it but I think it’s more about the place, St Andrews itself. The atmosphere,” Grady suggests. “There’s absolutely nothing like being at St Andrews and playing an Open. It’s just brilliant.”

David Graham’s introduction to St Andrews in 1970 coincided with the course being made available for practice on the Sunday prior to the tournament, the first time the R&A had made such accommodations. Graham took full advantage, embarking on marathon practice days with American Tom Weiskopf, who would go on to win The Open at Troon three years later.

“I must have played five or six practice rounds with Tom Weiskopf. We played three 18 holes in one day on the Tuesday because it didn’t get dark until 11 o’clock,” Graham recalls. “I’d only been married a year-and-a-half and I left my wife at the hotel. I missed lunch, I missed afternoon tea, I missed dinner and finally got back to the room at about 10.30pm and my wife said, ‘My goodness gracious, where the heck have you been?’ I replied, ‘Honey, I’m playing St Andrews. I may never come back again.’”

Graham would return on numerous occasions, including helping Australia to victory at the first two Dunhill Cups held at the Old Course, in 1985 and 1986. He also played three more Opens at St Andrews, his final round of 66 in 1990 all the more notable given that he had been troubled by a back injury all week, treatment consisting of his son walking on his back each night back at their rental house after play.

Ossie Moore missed the cut that year but teeing it up at the Old Course was the realisation of a career ambition in its own right. “It’s the Home of Golf. It’s something you want on your résumé,” says Moore, who shot 74-75 in his fourth and final Open. “Whether you play any good there or not, it’s another thing. But to actually play in an Open at St Andrews is what every golfer wants to do. You want to play cricket at Lord’s and baseball at Yankee Stadium. It’s a place you want to have a game.” 

Aussies at The Open includes 102 exclusive interviews with past and current Open Championship competitors. To order a copy, visit australiangolfdigest.com.au/aussiesattheopen/

Tales from qualifying for St Andrews, PART I

Some heartbreaking tales at qualifying can turn for the good, as Ossie Moore attests. Lundin Links near St Andrews was a regular venue for qualifying whenever The Open was played at the Old Course. In 1984, Moore thought his chances of making the field for the first time were strong when he teed off in an eight-players-for-seven-spots playoff.

Fate had other ideas. Even though he struck a perfect tee shot on Lundin Links’ first hole, his ball rolled into a sizeable divot hole from where he chopped it out but three-putted from the edge of the green. Still, he survived, just as he did after a par on the next hole. However at the third, a missed par putt from about four feet meant he was the octet’s odd man out. On the bright side, Moore played in the next three Opens but wanted revenge in 1990 when The Open returned to St Andrews. This time, he encountered an 11-for-seven playoff. Three players dropped out at the first extra hole, leaving the same eight-for-seven scenario he’d faced six years earlier.

“Your mind goes, No, not this again!” Moore says. However, when another player missed a five-footer for par, Moore once again faced a crucial four-foot putt – this time to progress to St Andrews. “I said, ‘Not this time,’ and I jammed it in and I was off to The Open.

“The funny part was, in the first one, my wife was caddieing for me at Lundin Links. As we walked back in, you’re thinking, You’re first reserve. But no one drops out at St Andrews. You know everyone’s going to play. And she says, ‘You know, I really would have loved to have caddied at St Andrews.’ I don’t want to tell you what I wanted to say!”

Tales from qualifying for St Andrews, PART II

Cameron Percy entered a qualifier in Dallas in 2010 after the Byron Nelson tournament. He wound up in a playoff for the final Open spot with Bubba Watson and Charley Hoffman.

“Bubba drove the first hole,” Percy remembers. “It was 350 yards and he drove the green. I’m like, Jesus Christ! That was unbelievable! But he didn’t get up-and-down. Then we went to a really hard par 3, and I hit a great shot to about eight feet. The other two guys just made 3 and I had an eight-footer to get in and I missed it. Then the next hole, Bubba hooks it off the tee; I thought he was dead. Charley chops it off the tee; I thought he was dead. I pipe it down the middle. Then Bubba hits this incredible 50-yard hook to about 10 feet. Again I’m like, Jesus Christ! Charley was right next to him; he cut it to about eight feet. I’m like, You’re kidding! So then I get up there and hit it to about two feet, but it spun back to about 12 feet. I putted first and made it. And the other two guys missed. That’s what got me into The Open at St Andrews.”