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Hooks and Cuts St Andrews

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Granted it’s early, but it’s also tempting to consider the ramifications of a Rory McIlroy win at 21 at the 'Home of Golf.' Tiger Woods won the Masters at the same age, Jack Nicklaus the U.S. Open at Oakmont at 22. Is Rory potentially that good? As I said, it’s early.    

  • Al Pollock produced 'Being John Daly' for Golf Channel. He knows JD as well as anyone. Wednesday I asked him in passing if he thought Daly had a shot. “If he gets off to a good start he can definitely win,” said Pollock. “But if not, then you know John, and that part hasn’t changed.” Daly’s off to a really good start. 
  • Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer aren’t the only Americans getting degrees from St. Andrews University these days. Nearly 10 percent of the student body at the nearly 600-year-old institution is from the U.S. It’s apparently a nice fall back for the affluent but not quite Ivy League-ready kid.
  • Former Golf Magazine editor George Peper lives to the right of 18 at the Old Course. He hit a nasty slice on the home hole in 1983, lost the ball but found a For Sale sign and bought the place for $67,000. Today it’s worth about $3,000,000. “It’s a moot point,” he said. “I have no intention of selling.”
  • Nowhere does luck of the draw factor more than at St. Andrews with its manic weather swings. Phil Mickelson was on the wrong end, but to his credit admitted that his attitude mirrored the lousy weather.  
  • Over drinks in The Jigger Inn by the Road Hole a local told me, “Your average 15-handicap American is probably better coached than the 15-handicap Scot. But in a match the Scot would win because he knows how to get it in the hole.” We have better food, though.
  • Scots make better whiskey. It’s a push.
  • The original caddies of St. Andrews in the 1800s were fisherman who supplemented their incomes toting bags. Jimmy Reid, salty longtime looper at the Old Course, reeled in a good line when describing in his thick Scottish delivery the stereotypical tourist golfer. “He hits one in a bush and turns ta me and asks, ‘Is that all right?’ And I’ll say, ‘Does it look all right? Hit another one.'”
  • Peper points out that the Old Course is a terrific course to grow old on. “It’s flat,” he explained. “The distances between the tees and greens are just a few yards. You get a tremendous amount of roll. If you’re 80 or 90 years old you can still hit a 250-yard drive when the conditions are right.”
  • Reid once caddied for Vice President Dan Quayle. “Pretty good golfer, but not as good as he thinks he is,' was  Jimmy’s blunt assessment. And he’s just as straight forward in describing his own family. “One’s a youth leader, one works at a dry cleaner, one’s pregnant and one does nothing.”
  • Peper’s written books on links golf and still rates the Old Course as the best. “Turnberry,” he says, “has the most charm and the best new course is Castle Stuart, about three hours north of St. Andrews.” Peper believes Muirfield’s a bit over-rated, calling it somewhat “charmless.”  As for an under-rated course, he says, “I’ve always felt Western Gailes, which lives in the shadow of Royal Troon, was under-appreciated. I’d rather play Western Gailes than Troon any day.”
  • Wouldn’t you love to see a counter to Thursday’s early cupcake conditions with something really brutal?