10 things we learnt at St Andrews

1. WE SHOULD BE extremely cautious about a European Ryder Cup victory next year at Hazeltine National. And the reason? The last time golfers from the USA had their hands on all four major trophies was back in 1982 when Raymond Floyd had won the PGA at Southern Hills; Craig Stadler pulled on the famous green jacket at Augusta, while Tom Watson’s lifted the Open Championship trophies on both side of the Atlantic held at Pebble Beach and Royal Troon.

With Spieth already the Masters and US Open champion and Johnson lifting the claret jug at St Andrews, there is a chance for them to end the 33-year wait at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in a few weeks’ time. And back then the USA team also defeated Europe by a single point at Palm Gardens in Florida to win the Ryder Cup.
2. Does a ‘Golden generation’ ever fulfil its gilded promise? The good news for English golf fans from St Andrews was that seven Englishmen appeared in the top 20 with Justin Rose and Danny Willett both putting in solid performances, with the latter a serious challenger until a level par round on the Sunday cost him dear.The pair finished in a four-way tie for sixth.
What is more depressing is that this year’s tournament saw the changing of the guard with Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter unlikely to challenge for any more Open Championships. Donald, for all his ability, rarely threatens in majors whilst Westwood has regularly put in a charge but always faded come the finishing straight. Casey’s form has certainly improved but his best days are now behind him and Poulter lacks the quality to be a major winner if not the belief.
It is up to the next generation and the likes of Eddie Pepperell, Willett and another gifted young Yorkshireman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, to take up the mantle to try and become the first English Open Champion since Nick Faldo. The golden generation is no more.
3. Spare a thought for the 31-year old Australian, Marc Leishman, who lost out in the three-way play off but do not worry about him going into a similar decline as Sergio Garcia after the Spaniard’s failure at Carnoustie in 2007.
And why not? Leishman only returned to the PGA tour some four months ago having taken extended time out to care for his wife, Audrey, and nurse her back to health after she had been placed into an induced coma having suffered from a severe bacterial infection known as toxic shock syndrome.
She was given only a five per cent chance of survival at one stage. Leishman said at the time, ‘It certainly puts golf into perspective. If you make a bogey, who cares?’
4. Will this be Tiger Woods’s last appearance at St Andrews? Despite his extraordinary confidence before entering the tournament his performance was every bit as lamentable as it had been at the US Open. Watching Woods play these days is, as The Scotsman newspaper stated, ‘An endurance test.’
He dunched his second shot into the Swilcan Burn and proceeded to take 38 more to complete his front nine, by which time he was already as good as out of the tournament. But how long is his ego going to allow him to continue performing so badly, whatever he may say to the contrary?
His entire game is in tatters and shows no signs of improvement. With the next Open at St Andrews not due until 2021, by which time Woods will be approaching 46, it may well be that we have seem him walk across the Swilcan Bridge for the very last time.
5. Other farewells at the Old Course were of a more heart warming nature. We waved a tearful goodbye to the great Tom Watson who crossed the bridge at 18 in almost total darkness; were more restrained in our emotions as Sir Nick Faldo headed towards the old grey clubhouse and almost totally ignored poor Bernhard Langer, a two times Masters winner and a victorious Ryder Cup captain, who also made the cut come Saturday night in his final appearance.
And we also wished that great starter, Ivor Robson, a very happy retirement, after 41 years of announcing players on the tee. It is not only the quality of Robson’s diction that has impressed since he first stood on the tee at Carnoustie in 1974 but also the remarkable capacity of his bladder allowing him to remain in situ when introducing all 156 players for the first two days.
6. Jordan Spieth is most certainly a prodigious talent but not quite the ice-man many took him for. Just as a 19 year-old Bobby Jones, on his first appearance at St Andrews in 1921, ripped up his card in disgust after taking at least four shots in Hill bunker on 11 so Spieth threw down his putter after missing a par putt for three on the hole and stomped off to the 12th tee before his partners had putted out.
The following day, Saturday, he punched his golf bag after missing a three-footer for par four at nine. ‘I didn’t want to hit, Michael (Greller, his caddie) so I figured I’d hit the bag,’ he explained afterwards. Jordan Spieth is 22.
7. Is BBC anti-sport these days? Whilst coverage of Wimbledon goes on uninterrupted with a highlights programme in the evening, that is certainly not the case with Open Championship golf. Radio FiveLive darted back between the golf, cricket, Davis Cup tennis and shot off every now and then for some extended news whilst the television brought us those huge favourites amongst golfers on the final day, Council House Crackdown, Heir Hunters and Close Calls: On Camera. Instead of watching any one of the 17 players who could still win we were subjected to programmes for the unemployed until 13.45.
Then there was Peter Alliss, burbling away contentedly irrespective of what was going on. He ignored Spieth’s birdie putt on the first hole of the final round as he was reading an e-mail on an entirely unrelated matter, but at least he did not go into his usual litany of retired golf club secretaries who all live down on the Surrey and Hampshire borders and to a man are all having hip replacements. Perhaps they are all dead.
The old boy is not long for the commentary world given the criticism he received from his BBC paymasters over his prognosis that Mrs Zach Johnson will now being able to afford a new kitchen and which he did not take to kindly. It is just a shame that he did not go earlier leaving the excellent Andrew Cotter and Maureen Modill at the helm. Not knowing when to bow out is a recurring theme of the 2015 Open.
8.  Whilst the entire field seemed to be wearing grey at some stage during the tournament, the amateurs brought a large splash of colour to the event. Irishman, Paul Dunne, from Greystones shattered the previous record for an amateur over the first 54 holes of the Open, previously held by Iain Pyman at Sandwich in 1993, by six shots with a three-round total of 204. His 66 was the lowest shot by an amateur at St Andrews in all its 142-years of hosting Open Championships.
However even this was not good enough to secure the silver medal awarded to the leading amateur golfer which was won by American, Jordan Niebrugge, who finished tied sixth at 11 under par alongside Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett. Another American amateur, Oliver Schniederjans, was tied twelfth at nine under alongside fellow amateur, Ashley Chesters from Shropshire.
9. Until the rule makers finally do something about the compression of the ball the only defence against the huge hitting professionals is to shave the greens. Which is fine, until the wind blows. The 40 mph winds would not have prevented any number of green-fee payers taking to the Old Course, but then the R&A would not have had greens running at 10 on the Stimpmeter. Nearby Crail keeps its greens running at a maximum of eight to avoid the ball being blown off the greens and on the Saturday club members were out playing the course.
The result of the winds on the Old Course was that some players took 24 hours to complete their second round. In the brief morning session that did take place on the Saturday, Jason Day dropped two shots and then leader, Dustin Johnson, one, 52 holes were played at a combined total of 21 over par.
With the R&A ordering 11 of the 18 greens to be cut after the second round, Ian Poulter pointed out, ‘ Louis Oosthuizen had a three-foot putt on 13, then he had a one-foot putt, then he had an eight-foot putt – and didn’t touch the ball once. That’s one of the greens that was cut.’
10. And whilst on the subject of greens being cut it seems highly unlikely that journeyman Australian pro, Scott Hend, will be receiving an invite to join the august membership of the R&A. His comments over the decision to start play on the Saturday were, at best, scathing, ‘It was an absolute shambles and didn’t seem like anyone knew what was going on – it was very unprofessional,’ he said.
The fact that Hend double bogied the par-3 eighth hole in those conditions and missed the cut by two strokes simply added to his wrath.’My ball landed on the front of the green and ran all the way to the back of the green. I had a chip on the side of the green, and the wind blew and it blew my ball all the way off the green down on to the 9th tee. It’s just ridiculous. We know as professional golfers what’s playable and what isn’t – we play around here in the Dunhill, so we know when it’s playable and when it’s not – and that just wasn’t. Clearly. We should never have been out there.’
‘We then sat in the clubhouse all day and now it’s perfect, but my Open is gone … because of that. Then again, they’re sitting in there sipping whiskey and smoking cigars and there’s never going to be an admission that they’re wrong. They’re never wrong.’
Do not expect to see Hend at Royal Troon next year or in the R&A clubhouse any day soon.

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