After all the tears and tantrums, the waiting and wondering, the excitement and anticipation, the Open is finally here!
Guest columnist Fergus Horkan looks ahead to the greatest weekend on the golfing calendar.
Well we all want to watch it don’t we? So here’s the listings.
Thursday, BBC2, 9am–8pm: Live coverage of day one
Friday, BBC2, 9am–8pm: Live coverage of day two
Saturday, BBC1, 10am–5.15pm: Live coverage of day three
Saturday, BBC2, 5.15–7.30pm: Continued live coverage of day three
Sunday, BBC2, 11am–12.45pm: Live coverage of the final day
Sunday, BBC1, 12.45–finish: Continued live coverage of the final day
The Open will be broadcast in high-definition for the first time ever this year on BBC HD.
The Open Championship is one of the oldest regular sports events in the world, predating the FA Cup, Test cricket, and almost everything else apart from the Derby, the Boat Race and the Americas Cup.
This year is the 150th anniversary of its first staging in 1860, when eight golfers battled for the title, and accompanying belt, over three rounds of the 12-hole course at Prestwick.
It is actually the 139th running of the event, after breaks for wars and, on one occasion, the absence of a trophy.
Golf has been played at St Andrews since at least 1552, when the local Archbishop complained about locals wasting their time playing the sport.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which runs the Open, was founded in 1744, and is now the pre-eminent golf authority around the world alongside the USGA, with whom it shares responsibility for making the Rules of Golf.
Neither the Royal and Ancient or St Andrews are the oldest club or course according to known records, but their role as the main home of golf for over 200 years has seen this grey, academic corner of Scotland turn into a Mecca for Pringle pilgrims.
The winner of the tournament is awarded the title “Champion Golfer of the Year” – note that the title does not set any geographical limit on this claim – and is awarded a gold medal and a large cheque.
The first winner, Willie Park Senior, won a belt and no money.
They are also presented with the Claret Jug trophy, with the names of all previous champions engraved on the base.
The Open was first held at St Andrews in 1873 and this will be the 28th time the Old Course has hosted the Championship.
The tournament rotates through a very limited roster of venues. The current hosts are Muirfield, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Royal St Georges, Royal Lytham, Royal Liverpool and Royal Birkdale.
The R&A have decided to bring it back to St Andrews every five years. They will tell you the decision is based on the Old Course being the home of golf, but cynics will tell you it’s for the vast amounts of cash the record crowds bring.
In 2005, Tiger Woods had a bit of a procession on the way to his second title, winning by five shots over second-placed Colin Montgomerie, who was having his best Open ever but still never got close.
In 2000, Tiger won the Open for the first time, on the way to the Tiger Slam.
He made the field look incompetent, winning by a record score of 19-under and an eight-stroke margin.
In 1995, much to everyone’s surprise, wild man John Daly won a playoff from the equally surprising Costantino Rocca, who holed a monster putt from the Valley of Sin (a massive swale in front of the 18th green usually associated with 3 or more putts) to get into the playoff. Grim, wet weather led to a high winning score of -6.
In 1990, Nick Faldo topped off an annus mirabilis – he also won the Masters and missed a US Open play-off by a centimetre – with an easy five-stroke win. At the end of the first day he demanded play be stopped for bad light, while standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, 90-yards from finishing his round. He was booed off the course, but came back in the morning to hole his wedge shot for an eagle two.
1984 was a glorious victory for Seve Ballesteros. Playing in the group ahead of overnight leader and defending champion Tom Watson, he had drawn level by the 17th tee. He made a great four at 17 – his first par there all week. On 18, his wedge shot finished 15 feet from the flag as Watson found the fairway on 17. Seve’s birdie putt was inch perfect, hanging on the lip of the hole momentarily before dropping, and setting off a loud explosion of celebration all around the 18th green. Watson put his second shot onto the road at 17 and Seve was the champ.
Nicklaus won here in 1978 and 1970, sandwiching the infamous Duel in the Sun bout with Tom Watson.
Arnold Palmer relaunched the Open for the American audience when he came finished second in 1960 before winning it in 1961 and 1962.
6: Harry Vardon
5: Tom Watson, Peter Thomson, John Henry Taylor, James Braid
4: Bobby Locke, Walter Hagen, Tom Morris Snr, Tom Morris Jnr, Willie Park Snr
3: (includes) Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player, Bobby Jones (A), Henry Cotton, Bob Ferguson, Jamie Anderson
British winners have been few and far between since World War II. Paul Lawrie, surprise winner at the tragic-comedy known as Carnoustie 1999, was the last. Faldo has three wins in this time while Sandy Lyle won in 1985. That broke a long barren spell from Tony Jacklin in 1969, who also followed a long drought back to Max Faulkner in 1951.
There’s a very good Do You Know? section on the Open website to test your knowledge.
Want to read about the Old Course? Turn the page...