A panel of SI golf experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle as well as special contributor John Garrity—and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) answers these and other questions
The First Course
Van Sickle: Is the Old Course at St. Andrews the coolest course ever or, as Scott Hoch once suggested, is it simply the "worst piece of mess"?
Shipnuck: Well, it's certainly quirky. You either love it or hate it. I've played it four or five times and like it more and more. If you're a pro who's used to plodding around a soft American-style course, I can see where the Old Course would drive you crazy.
Garrity: It's hardly the greatest course ever, but I think it might be the greatest venue. You're playing a major championship on the oldest course in the world, and it doubles as the town green for a medieval city. That's an unbeatable combination.
Bamberger: I just came from a Tiger Woods press conference during which he said it's his favorite course in the world. Therefore it must be true. Tiger said he loved the Old Course the first time he played it, which is unusual. I think any of us would get swept up in playing it the first time, though.
Anonymous Pro: Tiger should love it—the Old Course is a true ball striker's course. It's not like Royal St. George's, next year's site, where a donkey in a polo shirt has a better chance of hitting a fairway than a top 10 golfer. At the Old Course you have to avoid the bunkers. You don't scrape it around there and post four good scores. The Old Course identifies major champions better than any other course in the world.
Hack: St. Andrews is the reason I'm a golf writer. In 2000 I was covering the NBA and went to St. Andrews to watch history after Tiger won [the U.S. Open] at Pebble. It was a given that he was going to win at St. Andrews. I stayed in a university dorm, brought my clubs, walked around and soaked the whole thing in. It's the history of the place. It's Rusack's and the Dunvegan and the who's-who roster of Open champions. There's simply a vibe to the place. It's the home of golf.
Anonymous Pro: St. Andrews is fantastic. I'm glad they started putting the Open there every five years. Every third year would be even better.
Bamberger: I agree with all of that. Unlike Pebble, the Old Course is really 18 distinctive moments. It proves that nature can do more as an architect than Tom Fazio ever can.