The four distinguished men of British and Irish golf who lifted the Ryder Cup in Team Europe’s salad years are reconvening at the Old Course in July to share their love of St Andrews at the Senior Open presented by Rolex.
The Home of Golf is hosting the Seniors’ flagship event for the first time – belatedly, everyone agrees – and there’s a not a chance that victorious European captains Sam Torrance (2002), Ian Woosnam (2006), Colin Montgomerie (2010) and Paul McGinley (2014) would miss the championship, co-hosted by the R&A and the Staysure Tour from July 26-29.
All four have their own treasured memories of St Andrews, and despite their own busy schedules now in media and corporate work, their continuing playing careers in Seniors and Champions Tour golf and ageing bones, this championship is, in Monty’s words “the highlight of my golfing schedule and year by a mile”.
Monty had a love-hate relationship with the Old Course for much of his career but no-one will forget his Indian summer season of 2005, when he finished second to a dominant Tiger Woods at his peak in the Open Championship at St Andrews and then later won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship when he returned to the Old Course that October.
That victory secured the eighth and last of Monty’s record tally of European Order of Merit titles, six years after he had won his seventh.
And of course Montgomerie also captained Scotland with Torrance and Andrew Coltart as his team to win the old Dunhill Cup event in 1995, a victory no less important in his eyes.
“Both my wins, representing Scotland in 1995 and individually 10 years later, are significant,” he said.
“Any win at St Andrews is a milestone and anybody who has walked over the Swilcan Bridge on their way to victory will remember it wholeheartedly. It will be a fantastic honour for whoever fills that role on Sunday, July 29.
“It’s marvellous that (the Seniors) are playing the Old Course, at long last,” he continued. “It’s great not just for senior golf, but for golf in general.
“The field this year is going to be exceptional. When I play in America, all the talk is about St Andrews and I can assure everybody there is no-one playing on the PGA Tour Champions who’s going to be left at home this time.”
Torrance, a crucial part of that winning team in 1995, played all the Dunhill Cups at St Andrews, five times in the Open Championship – his best tied ninth behind Severiano Ballesteros in 1984, and many times in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. But perhaps his most treasured moment there was in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship 15 years ago.
“I am thrilled that The Senior Open is finally coming to the Old Course. I just wish it had been 14 years ago when I turned 50!” said Sam.
“However, it has always been a privilege to play there. I loved the course the first time I set eyes on it.
“It’s iconic. Nowhere else can match that history and tradition and I have such fond memories of winning the Dunhill Cup as part of the Scotland team and, especially, partnering my son Daniel, to win the Team Event in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2003.”
Woosnam, captain of the European team that won by a record margin at the K Club in 2006, never won at St Andrews, although like Torrance he played in five Opens with a best finish of tied fourth behind Sir Nick Faldo in 1990. However the 1991 Masters champion elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame last year has a special affinity with Scotland.
As a struggling young professional living out of a camper van he often played in minor tour events in Scotland like the Northern Open. Then during his elite playing career he captured the Scottish Open title a record three times, on the heathland at Gleneagles in 1987 and 1990, and then on links at Carnoustie in 1996.
“There is a real sense of history at St Andrews that no other place can match,” said Woosnam, still competitive on the Staysure Tour at aged 60. “From the moment you arrive at The R&A Clubhouse, the Old Course has the ability to excite and inspire golfers from all over the world.
“I would love to be in contention for my first Senior Major this year, and it promises to be an outstanding event with so many great champions coming together for one week in July to help create more history on the famous Old Course.”
There is also a strong Scottish affection for the fourth of the winning captains, Ireland’s Paul McGinley. During his tenure as Team Europe captain at Gleneagles in 2014 he not only piloted the team to an impressive victory but also took great care to ensure that a uniquely Scottish flavour marked his captaincy.
Although now best known as an astute commentator on Sky Sports, McGinley, at 51 the youngest of the quartet of captains, has a special reverence for the Old Course.
“It’s going to be a stellar field in July,” he said. “The allure of St Andrews means that all the big names will be coming over from America and I can’t wait.
“My initial impression back in 1993 when I played in the Dunhill Cup is the same as it is now – it’s just the greatest place in the world to play golf,” he said.
“When you walk onto the tee, you sense the history, the atmosphere. It’s almost spiritual. Every time you tee up it feels special and it remains one of my favourite places to play golf.”
Sir Nick Faldo, defending champion Bernhard Langer and the USA’s Tom Watson are among the other former Ryder Cup captains already committed to play in the Senior Open on the Old Course.
Tickets, starting at £13.50 per day, are available now on:
Entry for Under-16s and parking will be free of charge.