Debate rages whether an Open at St. Andrews completes career

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Jack Nicklaus has mentioned the importance of winning the British Open at St. Andrews in various ways over the years, and his inspiration was Bobby Jones.

Jones won the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1927, and he won the British Amateur on the Old Course in 1930 when he won the “impregnable quadrilateral” — the four majors of the time, the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.

“If you’re going to be a player people will remember, you have to win the Open at St. Andrews,” Nicklaus said. He is just as fond as quoting Jones: “No golfer’s career is complete until he’s won at St. Andrews.”

The only Open champions at St. Andrews this year are Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and John Daly.

Good luck to the other 152 players in the field, right?

“I don’t know if a golfer’s career isn’t complete if you don’t,” Rory McIlroy said. “But I think it’s the holy grail of our sport. So not a lot of people are going to get that opportunity to achieve that, but that’s what winning an Open at St Andrews is. It’s one of the highest achievements that you can have in golf.”

Woods is playing the Open at St. Andrews for the sixth time. Mark Calcavecchia, who won the Open at Royal Troon, is playing it for seventh time.

Considering the Open usually goes to St. Andrews every five years, that would give a player no more than about five chances at the Old Course during his peak years.

“I’ve heard multiple champions say it,” Jon Rahm said. “I think it was Jack and Tiger both accomplished it. ‘You can’t really call yourself a great player unless you win The Open at St Andrews,’ which is a very selective group to say. I think it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know what they mean.

“And it can almost put your career to another level just because how great of a venue this one is.”

McIlroy said it would be unfair to say a player’s career is incomplete without having won at St. Andrews. The best example would be Tom Watson, an eight-time major champion who won the British Open on five different courses. But never at St. Andrews.

DREAM GROUP

Max Homa qualified for his first major in 2013 for the U.S. Open at Merion, having just won the NCAA championship at Cal. He showed his personality back then with a tweet that asked Tiger Woods for a practice round. He added the hashtag “hero.”

It never happened.

Homa went on to win the Genesis Invitational in 2021. Woods is the tournament host and presented Homa with the trophy that day at Riviera.

It keeps getting better.

In the 150th British Open at St. Andrews, where Woods has won two of his claret jugs, he was put in the same group with U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Homa.

That was occasion for another tweet from Homa.

“I’m playing with Tiger Woods at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews. Hey golf gods, we’re even,” said part of the quote.

This wasn’t payback. Homa won the Wells Fargo Championship for his second PGA Tour win this season and fourth of his career. He is No. 19 in the world.

WORLD RANKING

One of the more important meetings this week at the British Open for the immediate future of golf was the annual meeting of the Official World Golf Ranking board.

The issue is whether the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series should be part of the OWGR system. Without it, players who currently are suspended by the PGA Tour and European tour — or who have resigned — can’t earn points and will fall out of the top 50 and beyond.

It starts with an application, which was received late last week.

Still to be determined is how the board acts on the request. LIV Golf could run into some issues with only 48-man fields and no 36-hole cut.

The OWGR has a history of having a new tour go through a waiting period of at least one year.

A spokesman for the OWGR had no comment on the meeting.

STARTERS

Tiger Woods has won the British Open twice at St. Andrews. Paul Lawrie gets the honor of getting to hit the opening tee shot at St. Andrews for the second time.

Lawrie, who holds the major championship record for his 10-shot comeback in the final round when he won at Carnoustie, will be first off Thursday morning alongside former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Min Woo Lee, who won the Scottish Open last year.

In the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews, Lawrie hit the opening shot while playing alongside Thomas Levet of France and Steve Marino.

“You still see it as you’re a player and it’s just an opening tee shot and you want to get it on the fairway,” Lawrie said. “It’s obviously a huge celebration for them. It’s a huge week, a big milestone. The more you think about it, actually, it’s a nice thing to be asked to do on the 150th.”

Lawrie said he always gets nervous on the first tee of any tournament, let alone an Open at St. Andrews. The good news?

“Luckily, it’s a nice, big, wide fairway,” he said.

BUNKER MENTALITY

Justin Thomas made his professional debut on the Old Course when he played the Dunhill Links Championship in 2013. This will be his first British Open at the home of golf, and he was reminded of the greatest hazard on the Old Course.

“These are definitely the most penal bunkers of any Open Championship I’ve played in,” Thomas said. “I haven’t really seen but maybe one or two that if you get in, it’s not truly just a chip-out or just hitting it sideways out in the fairway.”

Most troubling around the greens are when balls go into the bunker. The sand is so fine that a ball stops where it lands, compared with typical U.S. bunkers in which they tend to roll toward the middle. That can lead to some impossible shots.

His caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, showed Thomas what can happen during a practice round Sunday.

“I tried to hit it like five or six times, and I couldn’t get it out,” Thomas said.

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