A Quiet Week

Why a historic event with a fitting champion failed to generate much buzz in the Auld Grey Toon

By: Tom Mackin

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland—Tiger Woods may have loaned Annika Sorenstam his Old Course yardage book for the Women's British Open, but it's Lorena Ochoa with whom he can now compare wins at St. Andrews.

Ochoa captured her first major today, overcoming a week's worth of wind, rain and painfully slow play to earn her spot in history as the first woman professional to win on the Old Course. Her closing par putt was witnessed by a crowd far smaller than the one that watched Woods win in 2005—attendance for the tournament totaled just over 61,000, less than half of what the men regularly draw here for the Open. In fact, the entire week was marked by a decided lack of buzz compared to two years ago. The reasons?

Even Scottish golf fans have their limits; the country is experiencing a unique run of major events this summer: The British Open (Carnoustie), Senior British Open (Muirfield), and Senior British Amateur Championship (Nairn Golf Club) are all being played in Scotland.

American accents were also far less prevalent, thanks largely to an exchange rate (just over $2 for £1) that is more painful than a double bogey.

Even the weather did not cooperate. After what locals termed a " rubbish" summer full of rain, warmer temperatures and bright skies during the week had Scots heading toward other holiday destinations throughout the country.

In town, caddies outnumbered locals at Ma Belle's, a popular nightspot, while the Dunvegan pub—the town's unofficial 19th hole—was subdued compared to the overflowing nightly parties of two years ago.

By this afternoon, full shelves of Hawich cashmere sweaters (a mere £160) and scarves (a bargain at £115) lingered at one shop overlooking the 18th green. In the official (and tiny) merchandise tent right of the 1st fairway, a stack of 33 percent off coupons sat unused.

Fans attracted by the novelty of women playing the Old Course received few favors. The most famous course in the world is normally horrendous for spectators, who are kept far away from the action on many holes. And they were inconvenienced further due to fewer grandstands than when the men play.   

Whether the tournament, to be played next year at England's Sunningdale Golf Club, will return to St. Andrews remains unclear. But there is one person who would like to see that happen.

"Hopefully we will be back and I can defend my title," said Ochoa. " I love St. Andrews. I love to make history and this is one of those moments. It's going to be there for the rest of my life and it's been a very special week."


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