Old Course "mystique" here to stay, says Palmer
The relentless march of technology has proved no match for the iconic Old Course at St Andrews, according to Arnold Palmer.
Scotland: The relentless march of technology has proved no match for the iconic Old Course at St Andrews, according to Arnold Palmer.
"I think this golf course will weather the storm for many years to come," the 80-year-old, his voice occasionally faltering, told a news conference on the eve of the 150th anniversary British Open.
Torrential rain forced the cancellation of the Champions` Challenge involving former winners such as Palmer but his enthusiasm for the game and its most famous course showed no signs of being dampened.
"Sometimes you don`t really need to make so many big changes to a golf course like this. The mystique of this golf course is the fact that you have to know where you`re going, and you have to hit it in those spots," he added.
"What will they do to this golf course to make it different? Not a hell of a lot. They`ll lengthen some more tees, they`ll back the tees up, they`ll make the greens a little bit faster and they`ll do some things to make the fairways a little more magnificent. But it will be St Andrews," he said.
Palmer first played at the home of golf in 1960, and despite his prodigious talent for the game he still needed a local caddie to show him the way round the tricky links layout.
"It took me a while to begin to understand what this golf course and what the links golf was really all about. I had the best caddie that I`ve ever had in any championship with Tip Anderson," he said of the 1960 British Open where he finished second behind Australian Kel Nagle.
"He didn`t know the shots that I was going to hit, but that had nothing to do with it. He knew where I had to go, and he told me. And I created the rest of it myself. But without him, I would have been lost," he added.
Nowhere is local knowledge more vital than on the 17th `Road Hole`, where the advance of technology prompted the Royal and Ancient to move the tee back 40 yards for this season`s championship to make for an even more testing drive.
"George Lowe, that`s who it was," Palmer said recalling a friend who would sit near the green at the revered par-four and speak to him.
"He was a man that kind of encouraged me to come here and play. He claimed that he helped me with my putting," he said to laughter.
"He never told me how to putt, he told me how good I putted. And after a few years it started to sink in that I was a pretty good putter."
The players here this week could do with similar friendly encouragement on a hole that has stood the test of time and is again primed to wreak havoc on the scorecards of the world`s finest.