St. Andrews a winner even without the Open

Updated: July 13, 2005, 12:39 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Nothing against Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Shinnecock, Sawgrass, Bethpage, Oakmont, Torrey Pines, or Kapalua, but the most perfect place in the world for a golf tournament is right here, in a town so addicted to the sport that it needs its own 12-step rehab program.

I love this place. If they had ice or an Italian restaurant, I'd move here. If it were up to me, I'd insist on every major's being played here.

Here's why:

It's one of the few remaining places on earth where they like Americans.

It is -- all together now -- the birthplace of golf. The Old Course logo should be a golf ball wrapped in Pampers.

Many of the Royal & Ancient members look as if they flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.

Where else will a caddy tell you to hit a blind tee shot over the corner of a luxury hotel (which, by the way, is out of bounds) and hope that it lands in a fairway thinner than Scarlett Johansson's waist? God bless the Road Hole, a hole so difficult that it's the No. 1 cause of facial tics on Tour.

A sparkling, sunny 80 degrees one minute. Fifty-seven degrees and a fog so thick you can't see your plate of haggis the next minute. And I haven't even mentioned the comb-over nightmare: coastal winds that can sweep up terriers and do terrible things to golf-ball trajectories.

No global warming debates about the use of freon. The Scots wouldn't know an air conditioner if you dropped it on their toes.

Playing a major in St. Andrews is like playing the World Series at Cooperstown -- with Wrigley or Fenway as your stadium.

In the summer you can play golf until nearly 10:30 at night.

You can't swing a 60-degree wedge at the Dunvegan Hotel pub, located a scant 112 yards away from the 18th green, without hitting a Tour player, caddy or famous golf writer.

After the day's rounds, tourists and locals (with their pooches) are allowed to wander around the Old Course. Do that at Augusta and Hootie would have you posting bail.

Tipping is not allowed in the pubs. Of course, you need an oxygen tank and mask to survive the cigarette smoke.

The most imposing building in golf: The Royal & Ancient Clubhouse.

How can you not love a place with 112 bunkers, some of which are deeper than a coal mine. Not only that, but they have wonderfully diabolical names, such as Principal's Nose, Coffins, Mrs. Kruger, Lion's Mouth, Grave and my personal favorite, Hell.

No ice-machine problems. Because there are none. They treat ice like gold bullion.

You can sit in the grandstand near No. 11 and see five different holes.

You're exposed to new and exciting food combinations. For instance, here are a few things you can order at the food concession stand: Bacon Bap (basically, a bacon sandwich, or, as cardiologists call it, "The Angioplasty Special") and Prawn Mayonnaise and Rocket (yum!).

Scots wearing New York Yankees caps.

The only place where street musicians play bagpipes to earn pocket change.

"War of the Worlds"-like TV camera towers.

Tens of thousands of golf fans, and not one of them yells "you da man!" when Tiger hits a shot.

If you've got a spare $14,000, you can buy a Rolex in the vast merchandise tent.

Even the players are impressed by this place. During his Wednesday practice round, Norwegian pro Lars Brovold asked a friend to take his photo while standing on the 16th green with the Old Course Hotel in the background. That doesn't happen at the Honda Classic.

Any country that puts Jack Nicklaus on a bank note is OK with me.

The BBC broadcasters doing The Open know the value of brevity and silence, as opposed to some American golf commentators who apparently are paid by the word.

You can walk down the street and pay your respects to Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, the only golfer to win The Open four consecutive times. And for luck, you can rub the head on Allan Robertson's grave. Robertson is considered the first golf pro and the supposedly the first player to break 80 at the Old Course.

I haven't seen one person scream for an autograph.

If you're looking for the men's room you won't find it. Restrooms signs here simply say, "Gents."

No need for sunscreen.

You've got to love a place where golf has been played since the 15th century. Or, in baseball terms, when Julio Franco first picked up a baseball bat. The Old Course is so old that no one knows exactly how old it really is.

Even the cops are polite.

You can place bets on The Open outcome. I'm thinking about dropping 20 pounds on Jim Furyk. You know, for, uh, a buddy back in the States.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

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