Jack Nicklaus, 1970, 1978
Major CV: The winner of 18 Majors and simply the greatest player of all time. He won twice at the Home of Golf, while his other Open success came at Muirfield in 1966.
St Andrews moment: Jack was crowned King of St Andrews for the first time in 1970 (score 285, -5, £5,250 prize money), defeating Doug Sanders in a play-off after his fellow American missed a three-footer on the last. Eight years on he won by two shots with 281 (-7, £12,500).
Why is St Andrews so special?
Because it’s stood the test of time, and is still relevant today. Its history and its location make it special. When something is considered “the home” of anything – and in this case the “home of golf” – it usually is able to stand the test of time. Personally, I fell in love with St Andrews and the Old Course the moment I arrived there for the 1964 Open. When you walk on the course, it’s almost as if you are walking on sacred ground. Every turn seems to tell a different story and every hole has so much character to it. The Road Hole at 17, the Swilcan Bridge, the Valley of Sin, and the course’s finish right there in the town, among the houses… It is hallowed ground for the game of golf. There is a mystique about St Andrews that is difficult to describe, but once someone has been there, they understand.
What is your favourite hole?
There isn’t any particular hole that stands out for me. It’s just the golf course, as a whole, that invigorates me, because of what it is and what it represents. I always say my favourite hole is “the hole I’m playing at the time,” and I don’t think that differs when talking about the Old Course. Obviously, everybody talks about the 17th, because it is very interesting. If you want to talk about it as a pure golf hole, it’s probably not an especially good one, but because of what it represents and what it is, the 17th hole is fantastic within the game of golf. There are a lot of wonderful holes at the Old Course, of which people have tried to replicate in many different directions, in different ways, and at different times.
What would be your stand-out St Andrews moment?
Everything stands out. My love of the Old Course might also have something to do with the fact that it is somewhere I have always played well. I have thousands of memories of playing at St Andrews, but naturally the first time I won there in 1970 is among my most treasured. My second win at St Andrews in 1978 and in the latter part of my career, was equally special. By then, I believed the Scots had taken me as one of their own, and the reception I received was phenomenal and emotional. Coming up the 18th fairway in 1978, there were people on rooftops, hanging out of windows, running up the fairway patting me on the back. It was all very emotional, just as it was in 2005, when I played my final round there (pictured).
Why did you choose to retire here?
I always felt like Scotland has been where it is for me. Since my first visit, people have treated me like I was one of their own. It’s a great feeling, it’s like coming home. I birdied the first hole of Major championship golf I played when I was 17 and I birdied the last at St Andrews when I was 65. That was very, very special.
Is today’s Old Course too short and easy for the modern game?
No. I realise that is a simple answer, but that’s what I believe.
Will The Open still be played on the Old Course in 100 years time?
I know it certainly will be. I can promise you that!
Who is your tip to win this year?
That is so difficult to say, especially until July rolls around and you see who is playing well. But you have to mention players like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and probably Tiger Woods, because of his past success here. But you have to say there about 100 others who will challenge for the Claret Jug.