St Andrews Diary: Bridge of sighs as Watson returns to senior service

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The 139th Open came alive at 9.45pm on Friday when Tiger Woods almost holed his drive at the final hole and Tom Watson made his last trip over the Swilcan Bridge. Dusk had fallen and the hooter went to suspend play for the night but players could finish the hole they were on, and suddenly the air was crackling. At one of the few venues where the five-time Open champion failed to triumph, Watson stooped to kiss the old stone bridge and stood for the obligatory farewell wave. Then he very nearly holed his chip for an eagle. The 60-year-old said: "I thought of Arnold [Palmer] and Jack [Nicklaus] on the bridge in their last Opens right here. But it is not my last Open. I've got a few more years, but it is my last at St Andrews." Having almost won last year, Watson is exempt through to 2014 but the Open will not return here until 2015 at the earliest and perhaps not until 2017. So, is he looking forward to an easier ride this week in the Senior Open at Carnoustie, where he won his first Claret Jug in 1975? "Carnoustie is never easy," he said. "Give me a break. That's a tougher golf course than this one."

Hollins likes a Sandwich

Watson will be at Royal St George's next year but furious letters to the 'Kentish Gazette' have protested at the local council wasting money coming up here to St Andrews. One hotelier complained that all the accommodation was going to be full for the week of next year's Open anyway so what was the point? Well, what about every other week of the year? Golf tourism is big business and the south-east has been under-appreciated for too long. After years of neglecting one of their prize assets, Visit Kent are now actively promoting their great courses. A Visit Kent spokeswoman said golfers needed reminding of the quality to be found so close to London. "I played a lot of golf growing up in Kent," said Chris Hollins, the 'Strictly Come Dancing' star, "and I'd forgotten how many good courses there are."

Peper sprays gags around

Talking Strictly, Bruce Forsyth has been enjoying Open week here but organisers of the Golf Writers' Annual Dinner on Tuesday were surprised when halfway through the meal a message was relayed saying Mr Forsyth was very sorry but he could not make it after all. The relaxed response may have been due to the fact he was never on the guest list. One of the speakers, George Peper, explained the clash of cultures for an American coming to live in St Andrews, including his confusion in the newsagents when he asked for a copy of the International Herald Tribute. "Today's edition, or yesterday's, sir?" he was asked. Indicating he preferred today's, he was told: "Ah, you'll have to come back tomorrow then."

Open to the world

The R&A try hard to make it the world's Open, and their suppliers are equally global. The official car is from Japan, the official beer from the Czech Republic, the official wine from Argentina, the official bubbly from France, the official timekeeping from Switzerland, and the official parcel delivery service from the US. The tartan influence is also unmistakable, including the official bank, even if it went bust, and the weather, which might be described optimistically as changeable.

Not so Royal and Ancient

Bluffers in blazers no longer. The R&A now has many smart, young whizz-kids who are fully au fait with the brave new digital world. They have even produced an official Rules App that can be downloaded for free from iTunes.