The Old Course never gets old Mike Tirico.
In 25 years covering the Open Championship, the NBC golf commentator has only seen his appreciation for the venue grow.
“The whole ‘home of golf’ thing can seem a bit silly and Pollyanna if you don’t play,” he said. “But if you’re playing and the game is in your soul, I think you feel it.”
This is Tirico’s fifth Open covered on the Old Course, his first four while on ABC/ESPN.
Here are the 18 great things about those 18 holes, according to him:
Don’t lock me in
In golf, there’s no jitters like the first hole. You play with new friends, you play in front of people. This is magnified by the historic venue where the rules of golf have for years been sourced from that building, the R&A, and spread throughout the world.
The good news is that the first hole of the Old Course is the widest fairway on planet Earth. It’s over 100 yards, so you can do almost anything and be fine. But even on Thursday, Ian Poulter nearly hit it left. This place allows even the best of players to get emotional and feel some nerves in an easy shot.
Feel the burn
There is a very beautiful language here. Connections – in many ways it connects the sea with the city. The penalty area past the first hole is called the Swilcan Burn. It is two meters wide and full of water. It takes two steps to cover it.
Here’s Tiger Woods on Thursday, probably ready for his last Open here and all the emotion. He hits the first one off the divot. If anyone is going to hit it from behind the hole, deep on the green, it’s Tiger. And he puts it in this two-yard-wide water hazard, and that begins the downfall of a day of work. [toward] for months. It just plays with your mind.
Boom with a view
The 12th tee is one of the nicest places to be a golfer. First of all, this is the view. You’ve completed the circuit and are starting to head back to town. If you’re not here during the Open and there’s an Old Course caddy, a St Andrews caddy, they point out, “You see that tower? See that pile over there? ” as the target score for this blind tee shot. They don’t even have it anywhere else.
When you play golf at home, you back toward a beautiful clubhouse; you’re heading towards something that feels like it’s there because of golf. Here, you feel like you’re there because it’s the town where golf started.
It marks the point
Known as the 17th fairway hole. Abraham Anger was training here on Sunday and I met them at #15. Neither he nor his assistant had ever played Road Hole before, so hitting the corner of the hotel with a blind car was new to them. . When we were there, they said, “Where are we aiming here?” I told them historically, guys aim for the O on the Course at the Old Course Hotel, and if you hit a little draw on that, you’re going to be by the wayside. So they looked at the book, did it, and stayed on the side of the road.
Abe asked me if I would caddy for him the rest of the week. I said everyone knows he’s been here before. But when you’re playing at home, “Aim for the tree” or “Aim for the bunker” are common instructions from a staff member. It’s never “Target a letter at that railroad depot.” But that’s what you do here.
A big step down
The bunkers here have “covered” faces, meaning the hard walls are layers of turf stacked on top of each other. They also tend to be really deep. The most famous bunker on the course is the Road Hole bunker and Jacuzzi. I went in to take a picture on Sunday and this is over my head.
On the PGA Tour, if a guy hits it in the bunker, sometimes it’s easier to get out of the bunker than out of the rough. Here, bunkers often have a half-stroke penalty, if not a full stroke penalty. You can be stuck to the wall and you have to quickly hit the sand above your height to get the ball out. It’s so hard that the best players, 001 percent, look incredibly average.
Four clean laps
In winning the 2000 Open, Tiger never put it in the bunker. The Old Course had 112 bunkers then – now it has 110 – so he went 448 for 448. Avoiding them all is very difficult on this golf course.
Tiger’s 15th club was the reason he dominated the field: Brain. He probably thinks his way around a golf course like any other player. That’s part of why it’s so great. He has this incredible athletic ability, but he has such a great knowledge of course management and the game.
The challenge here is to hit a good shot and still hit the bunker. You need luck. Because the ball rolls 20, 25 yards after landing, you can hit a hump or a hill and the ball will dive into the bunker. Bunkers sense magnetic fields around them, and your ball will follow this slow, painful path.
It didn’t hurt him Thursday, but Rory McIlroy hit a driver that hit a rock covered in green Astroturf, just like the Astrodome-bad Astroturf they use to cushion the impact. Along the way are landmarks dating back to the 1800s when they laid out the course and property. They don’t come back and take out those stones that I love. History is always around you when you play here.
Air traffic control
When you play your shot on the 7th, you’ll often see players stop after 100 yards because shots from the 11th hole to their right are coming over their heads. This is a truly unique part of the course. You need a hard hat, especially when there are enthusiasts out there. You have golf balls going everywhere in this cross field. You can’t hide it. You can see everyone.
Living on the edge
Because they run parallel down the middle of the course, there are no trees or separation between the holes, so fans must line up the perimeters. You don’t get permanent cameras inside the golf course. So even from a television perspective, you see it from the outside. Only these handheld cameras can give you an inside view. You want the left side of the holes to come out and the left side to go in. But there is no tree line, no crow bushes, or anything else.
Caddies will tell you that you hit left. Because you can miss a lot to the left and not lose the ball or get into trouble. You will have a long shot and a different angle. If you lose it at 3, you’ll be on track for 14. A bunch of them open in such places.
This place is the reason why the golf tour is 18 holes. Originally there were 22 holes, but they felt there were a few that were too short, so they combined them to make a longer hole. When they did, the number of holes dropped to 18, which became the standard.
Double greens — two holes on one green — were part of the original design, the brainchild of Old Tom Morris. So when you play, you can see two flags: yellow for the first nine holes, red for the last nine. Four greens sit by themselves – 1, 9, 17 and 18 – and seven double greens make up the other 14. The easiest way to remember which holes share a green is to add them up to 18, so 2 and 16 share 5 and 13. share etc.
Pebble Beach is known for having the smallest square footage greens in golf. The Old Course’s greens are the largest, nearly six times larger than the average greens at Pebble.
Weather or not
I can’t think of any other place you play where you want it to be wet and windy. But if you come here to play, you want at least part of your experience to be really bad weather. It gets added to your story years later. Last time we were here, it was too windy to play the Open, which is strange because wind is such an important element. There is nothing to stop the wind. It comes out of the sea and there are no obstacles because of the places where these passages are. So it goes straight in and only affects you.
So sometimes the wind works for you here. For early holes, you can get wind on the tailwind. When the wave comes out, the wind usually changes a bit and you can go downwind for the final holes. But most of the time the wind helps you early and then you fight it on the way back – or vice versa. Due to the nature of the golf course, the wind is often your friend one hour and then your enemy the next.
The years we’ve been here, the weather always affects players in different ways at different times. When you walk away from it, you’re like, “Man, if I had gotten a better break with the weather, I would have had a better chance.”
Luck of the draw
You can have a great start to the day, play early and have great conditions, and then you’re crushed depending on what time your start time is. This year, kids who go late and early on Thursdays and Thursdays have the worst weather. Late yesterday was the windiest, Friday morning we had some rain that cleared up in the afternoon.
The steps of adults
When you go over the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th, you know you’re probably going through what every great golfer goes through. It’s not like you’ve seen Brett Favre never play in this AFC city — even though he’s been playing forever. Every great golfer who played St Andrews in the post-war era passed over this bridge. As if it has been changed and modernized.
It’s an awesome old stone bridge that’s been here longer than we’ve been here and will be here longer than we’ve been here. It has some neat points. Everyone is careful and considerate when walking on it, but they also take pictures.
Every 18th hole in the Open is cool because the way they set up the bleachers is like playing on a football field. When you think of someone winning an open race, you think of them holding the Claret Jug and looking around. Here, as if you are entering the Colosseum, the crucible. The clubhouse is at the back and you have the grandstand next to it. You have fans on both sides. You don’t get that in golf, in real football you feel like you’re on the 50-yard line of the stadium. Here it is.
Return to the place of birth
We don’t go to Cooperstown and play a World Series game. We don’t go to Springfield and play Game 3 of the NBA Finals. But we come here and play one of the most important golf events. That’s why it endures more for me than other places where the game starts.