I Was There: 2005 Open Championship

The 134th Open Championship was played in my backyard. 

At the time, my wife and I were living in a two-bedroom flat beside the 18th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews, a vacation home we’d owned for two decades and had decided to occupy full time two years earlier. The bay window of our second-floor living room offered a panoramic view of the first and last holes, with the Chariots of Fire beach and North Sea beyond. So that third week in July of 2005 we were able to see the start and finish of the Championship literally from the comfort of our own home, and without the aid of a television. Watching the middle 99 percent of the action would require a bit more effort but no more than a stroll out the back door. 

Jack Nicklaus on the Swilcan Bridge during the 2005 Open Championship (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

We’d considered renting the place and camping in one of the University of St. Andrews dorms for the week—the official “letting agent” for the Open had estimated that a corporate rental would bring $35,000—but in the end we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Why, after all, had we been living there for two years if not to enjoy the week of the Open Championship? Besides, our younger son Scott was staying with us, caddying at Kingsbarns during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years at college, and we also had a strong-minded West Highland white terrier who was not inclined to relinquish her doggy bed for the week. 

It turned out to be a good decision for everyone but the dog. Millie didn’t particularly like sharing her “walkies area” with 50,000 people, and she was generally unresponsive to the “Quiet Please” paddles. But Libby and I made full use of our front-row seat, often leaning out the window for a view of the 17th green and 18th tee. When on Friday Jack Nicklaus walked up his final fairway of major-championship competition, he for some reason stopped briefly just in front of our place to pose for the photographers. As a result, we have a framed photo that shows the Golden Bear in the foreground waving goodbye and in the background Libby and me, leaning out our windows and applauding him along with everyone else. It was a bittersweet moment for both Jack and us inasmuch as  27 years earlier, as newlyweds, we’d made our first trip to St. Andrews and had seen Jack win the Open.

Two major dinners took place on the Wednesday night before play began. The first, which I attended, was the annual banquet of the Association of Golf Writers, held in a large tent that had been erected directly across the two fairways from our home. The other was a bit more exclusive, a gathering of former Open Champions, held in the R&A Clubhouse. Both dinners ended at about the same time, somewhere around 10 p.m., resulting in an ominous moment. As I strolled in near-darkness back toward my home, I noticed another figure walking purposefully down the first fairway, perpendicular to my path, clad just as I was in jacket and tie. Our paths would intersect and it wasn’t until that moment that I was able to discern who my fellow stroller was—Tiger Woods

“Hey,” was all I could summon, and “hey” was likewise all he had in return, maintaining a beeline to his room at the Old Course Hotel.  

The next day, Tiger strode the same turf en route to an opening 66 and a lead he would never relinquish. He would produce no searingly dramatic moments, no circus shots, and his score was five strokes higher than in 2000 when he won by eight with a record total of 269. But the closest anyone came to him this time was Colin Montgomerie, five strokes back. We were able to see and hear the presentation ceremony from our window, and that experience—watching Tiger hoist the claret jug—is something I’ll never forget.