At 71, Tony Jacklin is one of the wisest voices we have on the game of golf. He won The Open at Royal Lytham back in 1969 and picked up the US Open a year later, becoming the only European in an 84 year span to lift the trophy. Jacklin then went on to enjoy a stellar career in the Ryder Cup, captaining Europe to its first victory for 28 years in 1985, and its first victory in the United States two years later.
So who better on the eve of the 144th Open at St Andrew's to ask for his thoughts on what will make the difference this weekend:
Strategy Around The Old Course
The more you get to know the golf course the more you appreciate its nuances. There’s no question that being able to plot your way around is the key to winning here. Lines off the tee are absolutely crucial in making sure you set yourself up well.
And then it’s a question of having a lot of patience. With all the double greens, you can’t putt when there’s another group on the same green and certain holes cross over each other. There’s quirks there that don’t exist anywhere else. All the double greens add up to 18 – figure that one out. It’s relatively slow golf out there but there’s no place like it in the world and it’s a great place to be.
The Keys To Winning
Avoiding the traps is hugely important. You may as well put a red line around all of those fairway bunkers. If you’re ever in a bunker, that’s it. You’ve basically dropped a shot.
When Tiger was on the absolute top of his game in 2000, he made it look like a walk in the park. He figured out very quickly about the bunkers. He never went in a bunker in all four rounds. He hardly hit driver once. It’s not a question of length, it’s a question of being intelligent and managing your game.
The Role Of The Weather
If the wind doesn’t blow, you’ll get a lot more Americans doing well. They’ve got tremendous strength in depth. I don’t know how we keep winning the ryder cup but we do. If it doesn’t blow you’ll see some 65s. When it does blow however, it doesn’t even blow the same way the whole time.
You look at the bunkers on the 14th and think what the hell are they doing there and then the wind blows the other way and you find out. That’s why. The R&A can’t really do more than they’ve ever done about how course set up. The elements are the thing that govern play there.
The Importance Of A Good Start
I still believe it’s a lot to do with how you get started. If you’re a good player, capable of winning, then getting off to a good start means the tournament has got your full attention, that you’re in it from the off. If you shoot 75 and you’re languishing in 45th spot, you’re hardly going to be hyped up. Great players in their heyday like Jack Nicklaus were always in the mix immediately.
His Favourite Hole
I think the road hole (17th) is one of the greatest holes ever. The blind aspect of the tee shot adds an element of mystery, a question mark. And then there's the second shot into a tight green. I’ve been on the road, I’ve been in the bunker but you know what you’ve got to do, it’s all there in front of you.
The Jordan Spieth Pehnomenon
Spieth is something else. He’s always there or thereabouts every week. He’s relentless. Mentally, he's as tough as old boots, even though he’s only 21. He’s so bloody determined.
He’s got great tempo, his swing rhythm never changes. He doesn’t try to smash it or catch up with Bubba Watson off the tee. He’s not necessarily that orthodox, but he knows what he’s capable of and does the same thing every day. And when he gets on that putting green, forget about it, he always looks like he’s going to make it.
Who Else Might Win
There’s so many who can win it. Maybe a Rickie Fowler will come through but there are also opportunities for those who really know the golf course, and older, consistent players like Jim Furyk. As I said the first two rounds are about jockeying for position, you can’t win it in the first two rounds but you can lose it.
Tony Jacklin is brand ambassador for Glenmorangie, spirit of The Open 2015