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The 150th Open will take place from July 14-17 in the Auld Grey Toun of St Andrews, known to all who’ve ever swished a mashie as the Home of Golf. It will be the 30th occasion the Old Course has staged the game’s most venerable Major. Paul Trow looks back at how it all began

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The 150th Open will take place from July 14-17 in the Auld Grey Toun of St Andrews, known to all who’ve ever swished a mashie as the Home of Golf. It will be the 30th occasion the Old Course has staged the game’s most venerable Major. Paul Trow looks back at how it all began

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reated by the hand of God with the tools of wind and rain, the Old Course at St Andrews has been a sporting cathedral for nigh on six centuries. Today no golfer’s life is complete without a pilgrimage to this ancient university town in the Kingdom of Fife on the east coast of Scotland. Shaped like a shepherd’s crook as it wends its way north towards the Eden estuary, this ancient stretch of linksland begins and ends under the imposing gaze of the iconic R&A clubhouse.

Among its features are the stuff that golfing dreams are made of… the Swilcan Burn, the Road Hole, the Valley of Sin, Granny Clark’s Wynd, double-greens on which putts can exceed 100ft, pot bunkers ingrained with the sands of time.

The R&A was founded here in 1754 by 22 “Noblemen and Gentlemen, being admirers of the Golf.” In 1873, after the first 12 Opens had been held on the western side of Scotland at Prestwick, a silver claret jug was adopted as the trophy and St Andrews played host for the first time. The winner was local caddie Tom Kidd who beat a then-record field of 26 players over two rounds on a cold, bleak October day to claim the princely sum of £11 ($14.75).

The Open returned to the Home of Golf on 10 further occasions before World War I. The last four of these—over 72 holes by then—were shared equally by Hall of Famers J.H. Taylor, of England, and Scotland’s James Braid.

The R&A took sole charge of The Open in 1920 and St Andrews’ supplanting of Prestwick as the Open’s spiritual home was complete. Four championships were played over the Old Course between the wars and there have been 14 since the end of World War II.

St Andrews has presided over many memorable moments and saluted a galaxy of champion golfers, its legacy immortal.

From Hate to Love

On his first skirmish with the Old Course in 1921, Bobby Jones, golf’s greatest amateur, ripped up his card and stormed off in disgust. Having licked his wounds, he returned six years later and led from start to finish. In 1958, when he became the first American freeman of St Andrews since Benjamin Franklin, Jones said: “The more I studied the Old Course, the more I loved it, and the more I loved it, the more I studied it.”

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Palmer the Savior

Having won that year’s Masters and U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer’s presence at St Andrews for the Open’s centenary provided the shot in the arm the championship desperately needed after decades in the doldrums. He could have been forgiven for deciding “never again” after the final round was delayed for a day due to a deluge that flooded much of the course. But after finishing runner-up, one shot shy of Australia’s Kel Nagle, the King vowed to return and was duly crowned “champion golfer” in 1961 and 1962.

The Golden Pair

Eight years after his dramatic playoff victory over Doug Sanders, Jack Nicklaus triumphed for a second time over the Old Course. Victory meant Nicklaus had won all four of golf’s majors three times each. With just three holes of the final round remaining, he trailed playing partner Simon Owen, of New Zealand, by a shot, but a birdie-par-par finish gave him a two-stroke cushion over his pursuers.

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Reign of Spain

To win his second of three Open titles, Seve Ballesteros had to see off defending champion Tom Watson. As the Spaniard faced a 15ft putt on the final hole, Watson was tangling with the Road Hole wall by the 17th green. The sight of Ballesteros punching the air with unbridled joy after his closing birdie moments later remains an abiding memory. So, too, do the words of announcer Peter Alliss: “I think he rather enjoyed that.”

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Annus Mirabilis

This was the year that England’s Nick Faldo was at the height of his powers. The reigning Masters champion, who had come up one shot shy of a U.S. Open playoff at Medinah a month earlier, was bunkered only once in four days and never three-putted at all. Victory was in effect secured on day three when, not for the last time, Faldo out-dueled Greg Norman, carding an impeccable 67 as the Australian stumbled to a 76.

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Long John’s Day

John Daly’s playoff win reinforced the view that a long driver with a big hook can take much of the danger out of the Old Course, but the reality was more nuanced. Costantino Rocca, needing a birdie three to tie the American on the 72nd hole, duffed his chip after driving into the Valley of Sin. He spared his blushes by rolling home a 60ft putt, but come extra time the burly Italian was emotionally flat and had nothing left to give.

Tiger’s Taming

Fresh from a 15-shot U.S. Open triumph at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods was equally imperious as he claimed his first Claret Jug. Not once in four rounds did he visit a bunker and his eight-stroke victory meant he’d become the fifth player to lift all four majors (following Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus). He won again over the Old Course five years later, though that time his margin was a mere five shots.

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Masters that changed golf

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