From July 14 – 17 2005 I attended the 134th British Open Championship held in St Andrews Scotland. For those of you who aren't golfing fans, St Andrews is the home of golf; the Old Course is just over 600 years old. The game started here when a couple of shepherds decided to make a game of hitting stones into the rabbit holes to pass the time while their sheep grazed. If you have ever watched the Open in St Andrews you may have heard the commentators describe the course as having a mystical and very authentic feel to it.... After spending up to 12 hours per day over the 4 tournament days and witnessing the best golf in the world, I have to agree with them.

Jack Nicklaus making his way toward the 18th green at St. Andrews.

My intense interest in the British Open started when I was young kid watching the golf majors with my Dad. In those early days I appreciated golf but never understood how phenomenally difficult the game really was. The main impression from those years was that the British Open was the hardest tournament in golf, it literally humbled the worlds best. I also remember that St Andrews seemed to have an amazing vibe, I wanted to be one of the throngs of people running up the 18th fairway when the leader walks onto the 18th green for the win. Luckily for me I was living in England when the golf legend Jack Nicklaus decided he was going to retire from playing at the Open Championship. He also wanted to finish his Open career where he had won twice, at the home of golf, St Andrews. I bought my Open ticket that gives you 7 days of golf: 3 practice days and 4 tournament days. By the time I had bought my ticket accommodation was non existent in St Andrews and extremely expensive anywhere in Southern Scotland for this big event. I ended up paying 60 GBP to be able to camp at an old airfield about 35 min away from St Andrews by bus. When I arrived I was told that there was one small shower trailer and that drinking water from the open water pipe they had running should be avoided… but it was ok to cook with when boiled (note: this was being held in Scotland, I had at least expected to be able to drink the water, this is, after all, a first world country).

The campsite had some families, some older people rolling solo and a large number of drunken young people. 3 Aussies who camped nearby tried to play Rugby at midnight on the first night in the field and after hitting all the nearby tents with the ball one of them tripped over the tent string on their tent and collapsed the whole thing. Quite a number of people with cars picked up those of us that had to take the bus as we walked the long narrow road out to the bus stop. I arrived at 730am on Thursday and checked out the first few players to tee off and watched Tiger Woods (the man everyone was tipping to win this tournament) do some final putting practice near the first tee. At this time there weren’t too many people walking the course so it was easy to follow Tiger from his opening tee off time at 8:20am until about the 7th hole. By that point he was 5 under par and the spectators around the course were seeing Tigers score dropping after each hole. Suddenly there were thousands of people following Tiger and it became impossible to make your way through the throngs. It pretty much stayed like that for the rest of the Championship but there were those opening moments at this historic old course where I saw up close why Tiger Woods is such an epic sportsman. As the early morning rounds were finishing up and the afternoon starters were beginning, the weather took a quick turn for the worse as it often can at these links courses in the UK. By the afternoon it had gotten significantly windier and rain started to fall. The players who had late tee off times were at a major disadvantage. On Day 2, all the morning players from Day 1 are the early starts and vice versa. This is usually to give each player equal chance with the uncertain weather conditions that flare up. Unfortunately, the weather was poor in the morning and got somewhat better by the afternoon starts. I spent most of the time cruising the course watching the major world players like Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and more. Most importantly, I positioned myself with a prime view of the 18th green for when the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus made his way up to finish his round.

One of the most emotionally charged moments in my life was when Jack Nicklaus was walking up the 18th fairway on Friday. There aren't many times in life where you get a strange tingling sensation because you can feel the importance of the moment but this was definitely one of those times. That may sound funny, but it was unbelievable the amount of respect, interest and admiration this guy generated.... Other than when Tiger approached the 18th on Sunday to seal his victory, the crowds that followed Jack were the largest! People were hanging out of windows and standing on top of the surrounding hotels and houses, packed 8 deep along the fairways and all seats were full in the grandstands. There were older guys who were standing around me who had watched Jack win his first British Open at St Andrews in 1970 and again in 1978. Big Americans from Texas and hard-nosed old Scots had tears in their eyes and were all caught up in the moment cheering the Golden Bear up the 18th for the last time. The noise made by the crowd was louder than when Tiger lifted the cup or approached 18 on Sunday.  It was truly a magical experience even for someone like myself and numerous other young people who have never seen Jack challenge for a title. For a man who was 65 years old and could still consistently play as well as he did that day, he really deserves the title of Legend. To commemorate how important Jack was to this Major Championship the sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland printed a small number of limited edition £5 GBP bank notes with Jack on the front. How many other sports legends are immortalized on bills?

Another Highlight on the Thursday and Friday for me was following Mike Weir (Canada’s Best Pro Golfer). It is fair to say that Mike Weir.... And I quote some of the Canadians that were following him and giving support.... 'shit the bed' on his performance at the 2005 Open. In fairness to Mike he had the worst of the weather conditions both days but that doesn't excuse the number of putts that he left hanging. Also his +8 final score was disappointing for the large number of Canadian supporters. Regardless of this, seeing the number of Canada Flags and continuous support right until Mike's walk up on 18 was one of the great highlights of the whole tournament. The final 2 days were all about Tiger Woods. He opened up Saturday with a 4 shot lead and Sunday with a 2 shot lead. In the end he finished with a low score of 14 under par! Second place was won by the local favourite, Scotsman Colin Montgomerie. Monty shot an impressive final score of 9 under par and he had huge crowd support. There were grown men walking around in kilts with blond wigs and tight t-shirts reading ‘Montys Army’. Even with the local support he could not withstand the onslaught that is Tiger Woods.

On the road to his 10th Major victory Tiger Woods solidified his status as an absolute Legend. He has the ability to drive the ball stupid distances, I watched him drive the green on the Par 4 10th, official distance was 391 yards the hole is completely flat and there was no wind, unreal. He can play amazing shots out of the notorious bunkers at St Andrews, I watched him birdie the Par 4 7th when his tee shot went straight into the sand. Most players who landed in that bunker were taking bogies if they were lucky. He utilizes an arsenal of shots like 2 putting over 100 feet or chopping a ball that's almost completely buried in that horrible knee high grass (called grouse). Lastly, Tiger has literally thousands of people who follow him around. Due to this fact he employs marshals to continuously watch the crowds and stop people taking pictures, making noise, etc. Even with these extra people the distractions are much more frequent than with any other golfer and yet he still manages to shut everything else out and make shots that other golf pro's could only dream of. Once again, Tiger Woods is a sporting Legend of our time and looks to be for years to come.

My advice for those of you who have considered making the trek to see the British Open is DO IT. The history and sheer quality of the courses are second to none and every player who had a press conference this past weekend said that the hardest tournament to win and the most gratifying was the British Open. Whether it’s 8 foot deep bunkers, undulating fairways that are so deceiving, or driving cold winds rushing off the water, the links courses that make up the Open Championship are a true test of a golfers mettle.