They’re off! Open swings into action

THE first shots have been fired in the Open and the Old Course at St Andrews is in ideal condition at the start of nn exciting four days ahead.

Five-time winner Tom Watson is set to make his final appearance, bringing a spectacular career at golf’s oldest championship to an end. It will certainly be a memorable occasion when Watson walks across the Swilcan Bridge to wave his final farewell in front of the largest arena constructed in the history of championship.

On a day when the home of golf celebrated its most famous sons in the Champion Golfers’ Challenge it was a home hero who shone and allowed Arnold Palmer to claim another victory on the links land yesterday

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open, had a superb afternoon, holing out from the rough on the par-four second hole for eagle, sending a soaring approach shot to the 17th green and then converting a 20-foot birdie opportunity on the final hole.

Team Palmer, which also included Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke and Bill Rogers of the United States, tied three others in the clubhouse, but claimed the win because of their higher average age.

As exciting as the golf was – and it was thrilling enough to prompt Lawrie to dance like Miguel Angel Jimenez when he completed his eagle – the real joy of the day was witnessing the procession of champions across the ancient turf.

In contrast to earlier in the week, the clouds cleared and allowed the sun to light up the Old Course. The galleries lined the fairways and packed the grandstands to roar their approval as favourites like Peter Thomson, Tom Watson and Tony Jacklin guided younger team members around the four-hole loop of the first, second, 17th and 18th holes.

Nick Faldo evoked memories of his 1990 win by wearing his famous Pringle jumper, Gary Player repeated his favourite stories, whilst Ian Baker-Finch and Louis Oosthuizen executed an athletic high five. The crowds lapped it up.

Mostly, of course, the action had little importance ahead of the Championship itself, but the performance of Tiger Woods, playing alongside his friend Mark O’Meara in Tom Weiskopf’s team, drew plenty of attention.

Laughing and joking with his team-mates he nonetheless completed a fine birdie on the 17th, holing a deadweight putt of 20-feet, before drilling his approach to the final hole to eight feet (Weiskopf beat him to the birdie).

The cry of bagpipes then broke out across the course, adding to the atmosphere of celebration and heralding the eve of the 144TH Open Championship.


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