Among the millions of words I’ve listened to covering the sport over the years, a few uttered by Christy O’Connor jr have always stuck in my mind.
“The one place in the world I never take up the offer of a courtesy car is St Andrews,” the Galway man told me during the 2000 Open Championship – his 21st and final appearance in the game’s oldest major. “The reason is that I just love walking through the town, either to or from the golf course to wherever I might be staying, and soaking up its special atmosphere.”
These days, of course, the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy wouldn’t be able to walk two paces away from the R&A Clubhouse before being swamped by autograph hunters, which is a real pity.
It’s not just playing the Old Course that the top players should get to savour when the R&A stages its marquee event at the home of golf. They should be able to soak up the unique atmosphere that Ryder Cup legend O’Connor jr – who sadly passed away last week and will be laid to rest this afternoon – loved and is evident, in fact, with or without a golfing circus in town.