There is no doubt the wrinkled fairways and greens of the (very) Old Course are ready for the 150th running of The Open on a jousting field like no other.
Players have been practising in a cunning 20 to 25mph wind so far. Tomorrow when the serious stuff starts this disconcerting wind drops to what promises to be a pleasant breeze, a low howl that will still need to be dealt with by the combatants but which will not drive them nuts. At least not any more nuts than many of them are anyway.
What is certain is that they are genuinely wrapped up in this Open, properly excited at what lies ahead. For the elite group the target is victory but for the big majority it is all about making the cut and still being able to strut their stuff over a weekend that promises so much.
Jordan Spieth, accessible, articulate and thoughtful summed it up when he told the media pack that he has more thrusting anticipation for this Open than he has felt going into any other Major. “Even in practice,“ he said. "Coming into those last few holes with all the people, the buildings, the atmosphere it seems even grander than seven years ago. So, yes, I'm very excited. If anyone playing in this doesn't feel the same way then maybe they're in the wrong sport."
This applies to us all here in St Andrews. Back in 1969 when I covered my first Open at Lytham and saw Tony Jacklin win to change the face of British golf I fell under this Championship's occasionally brutal charm. It probably helped that this was also the first time the R&A allowed the Bollinger champagne tent to raise its candy striped canvas.
The Bolly tent is long gone, replaced by a bar that, although slicker, is not necessarily better. But then everything is slicker, bigger, more in your face. It is a massively impressive production complete with more obvious security than Buckingham Palace.
Although nothing will beat Seve Ballesteros's fist-pumping win here four decades ago I am certain this one will come close enough to properly thrill those of us here watching and the millions of you peering at a TV screen.
This is magic time and I cannot see the trick going wrong. Neither can Padraig Harrington. Paddy spent half an hour chatting animatedly to a couple of us about what is in store this week. He pointed out that the course is so dry and running that no-one can be sure where even a perfectly struck tee shot will end up. “Your ball can run 50, 60 yards, left or right and end up somewhere you really don't want to be and probably had no idea actually existed.“
So what you need, he insisted, is to be as straight a driver as possible and hopefully keep the ball on or close to a fairway. “No-one is straighter with a driver or an iron than Collin Morikawa, “he added. “For me, going into this, he is the clear favourite." We'll see how that pans out, just as we will witness a truly historic winner, St Andrews town all dressed and pausing the week-long party for an hour or so to applaud the 150th Champion Golfer of the Year.
You'll have your own fancy of course, maybe even Tiger Woods, although, surely, that is too much to anticipate sensibly. This is St Andrews not the Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry. But it is a magic, ancient town and course so maybe, just maybe. Or am I getting over excited? Maybe I am but then again, hopefully you are too. Remember to breathe and enjoy.
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Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.
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