Friday, August 5, 2011

The Journey Completed

At 7:00 a.m. on Friday, July 29, I stepped to the first tee on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. My 4-ball partners were Smooth, Stinger (formerly High Right) and Arnie. The sky was a bit overcast and there was the slightest of breezes. The course looked immaculate and the first fairway (and the adjacent 18th fairway) are wider than two football fields (but who can forget Ian Baker-Finch's infamous snap-hook at the 1995 Open Championship). There were golfers and spectators milling all about and joggers and walkers crossing the 1st and 18th fairways on Granny Clark's Wynd. My caddy Phil handed me my driver and I striped my drive right down the middle of the fairway toward the Swilcan Burn and we were off.

About 3 1/2 hours later, we approached the famous 17th hole known as the "Road Hole". The Road Hole is a 436 yard, par-4 dogleg right with the Old Course Hotel on the right. The tee shot is blind and you have to hit over the railway sheds attached to the Old Course Hotel that have the inscription "Old Course Hotel" and a lion insignia (see link - this is not me). Phil handed me my driver and told me that we were going to take an aggressive line and draw the ball back into the fairway. I hit a low draw that barely cleared the sheds just over the word "Old" and perilously close to the hotel and my ball landed on the right hand side of the fairway near The Jigger Inn about 180 yards from the flagstick. From this location, I did not have to hit over the dreaded Road Hole bunker. I hit a nice 4-hybrid shot to the front right corner of the green, but I landed on the lower tier of the putting surface and the ball did not release over the mound in the green. The flagstick was in the middle to back of the green on the upper tier and I 3-putted for a bogey. While I was a little disappointed, I did avoid disaster in the Road Hole bunker and along the wall adjacent to the road (see link for Miguel Jimenez shot off of the Road Hole wall at the 2010 Open Championship).

The 18th hole shares a fairway with the 1st hole. It is a 361 yard, par-4 hole with little trouble until you reach the green. I aimed at Martyrs' Monument and drove the ball right down the heart of the fairway over Granny Clark's Wynd. We walked over the famous Swilcan Bridge and stopped for a picture (see above) where Palmer, Nicklaus and Watson all waved their farewells when they played their final Open Championships at St. Andrews. I only had about 100 yards to the flagstick, but the wind had picked up a wee bit and my caddie recommended that I hit my 9 iron. I struck it perfectly and ball drew toward the flagstick and landed pin high about 12 feet left. Phil and I surveyed the putt and agreed on the line. I struck the birdie putt just right and I knew it was in the hole from the moment it left my putter. The spectators above the 18th green politely applauded. The birdie on No. 18 gave me a 79 for the round and the Journey was completed.

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