2005: Our Opinion - A timeless game

This was a convergence of generations and a collection of dramatic moments that only golf could offer.

First, there’s nothing like a British Open at St. Andrews.

That was underscored at sunset after Tiger Woods’ second Open Championship victory at the Old Course. Townsfolk were picnicking on the shared first and 18th fairway. Visitors posed for photos in the Road Bunker and the Swilcan Bridge. Others tried their hand at putting from the Valley of Sin.

The Old Course represents public access in the truest sense of the term.

Unfortunately, some fans chose to exploit this privilege, prying Open Championship signage from the grandstands for souvenirs. Missing, too, were the top finishers’ names from the big yellow scoreboards that flanked the Royal & Ancient clubhouse, lifted as keepsakes. At least someone had a sense of humor; before they made off with the name “Woods,” they replaced it in the top slot with “Van de Velde.”

The winner would have appreciated that scoreboard joke had he noticed it when, around 8 p.m., he was being chauffeured from the R&A clubhouse to his victory party, in a golf cart that weaved through startled fans who were still lingering on the grounds. Was that really Tiger Woods who just drove by, without a phalanx of security?

Also, though fully anticipated, the tribute accorded Jack Nicklaus as he played his final holes in an Open Championship was memorable. More remarkable were the two minutes of silence the day before, to honor victims of the July 7 bombings in London. The grounds were enveloped in a stillness that surely couldn’t have been equaled in any arena but golf.

Only golf could have served up the spectacle that was occurring simultaneously, 3,700 miles west of the Auld Grey Toon. By making match play at the U.S. Amateur Public Links, and then winning three matches, Michelle Wie made even her most skeptical doubters take notice.

Wie’s path to the LPGA at age 16 has been cleverly paved by outgoing commissioner Ty Votaw’s decision to approve, with restrictions, Morgan Pressel’s petition for a waiver of the LPGA’s rule that members be at least 18. Wie has demonstrated that under any circumstances, she easily can play her way onto the women’s tour. Already, as a nonmember professional amateur, she’s the LPGA’s biggest drawing card.

Wie also has proven she can hold her own with the guys. Whether she can contend with the best remains to be seen. Even if she can’t, it will hardly diminish her appeal as a youthful, global pitchperson for a brand like Nike.

The past (Nicklaus), present (Woods) and future (Wie) converged during one magical week in golf. Indeed, it’s not far-fetched to imagine Wie strolling the hallowed ground of the Old Course in 2007, when the Women’s British Open is staged.

Nor is it unfathomable to think that three or four years later, she also could be on hand the next time Tiger Woods and the Open Championship come to St. Andrews.

Thanks, Jack. Congratulations, Tiger. And good luck, Michelle.

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