ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Tiger Woods and James Hahn were about 75 feet apart on the same green Sunday at St. Andrews.
They just weren’t on the same hole.
Hahn is a newcomer to the Old Course, and the question he seemed to pose on every tee and even some fairways was, “How do I get there?”
He was on the 13th green playing a practice round with David Duval when they noticed another ball on the back of the green beyond the flag. Along came Woods, who had ripped a 3-wood for his second shot on the par-5 fifth hole and was surprised to see it on the wrong side of the double green.
“How did I get there?” he said.
The questions were different only in the timing of when they were asked.
The Open returns to St. Andrews for the 29th time, and it can remain a puzzle for newcomers and veterans. There have been slight alterations to nine of the holes — a pair of bunkers moved 20 yards forward to the edge of the second green, the Road Hole bunker on the 17th widened and raised as it had been previously — though the description from 1964 champion Tony Lema remain true.
“When I’m playing St. Andrews, I feel like I’m back visiting an old grandmother,” Lema once said. “She’s crotchety and eccentric, but also elegant. Anyone who doesn’t fall in love with her has no imagination.”
The Old Course began to fill up on a breezy Sunday afternoon ahead of the first official practice round for the 144th edition of golf’s oldest championship. Woods arrived on Saturday and held a youth clinic for Nike, playing three holes before heading to the range. He played a full round Sunday with Jason Dufner.
Adam Scott has been at St. Andrews since Wednesday. Louis Oosthuizen was back on the links where he won the Open by seven shots in 2010. So was Nick Faldo, who won at St. Andrews in 1990 in a weekend duel with Greg Norman that never materialized. They were tied after 36 holes until Faldo shot 67 to Norman’s 76, and Faldo went on to a five-shot victory.
And there was Hahn, a 33-year-old American who didn’t qualify for the British Open until a week ago.
It helped Hahn to play with Duval, who first played St. Andrews in 1995 as a PGA Tour rookie and challenged Woods briefly in the final group in 2000. Still, there were times when Hahn didn’t know what to think when Duval didn’t say a word.
Was the tee shot safe? Good? Bad?
“If you don’t know where to go, you could easily hit it on a different green,” Hahn said. “I didn’t know if my lines were good or bad. David was standing on the tee box seeing if I would hit another. I usually don’t hit another unless it’s in the water or lost.”
The real fun came on the 17th hole. Duval smashed a driver over the sign for the Old Course Hotel and cracked, “That makes the second time I’ve ever hit this fairway.” Hahn followed with a drive that started even further left, and he was puzzled how his ball finished 5 yards left of where Duval’s ball was in the fairway.
Hahn couldn’t leave the Road Hole without playing a shot off the road, so he dropped one on the gravel path and chipped into the band and onto the green.
“See, it’s not that big of a deal,” Duval told him.
Hahn’s caddie tossed a ball toward him, across the road and a foot from the stone ball.
“Now it’s a big deal,” Duval said with a laugh.
He persuaded Hahn to play it off the wall, and on his second try, the ball ricocheted back across the road and up the bank, then down the hole to 6 feet. His eyes lit up, and then he headed to the Road Hole bunker to try a few shots.
Duval was amazed to see it. Woods already had the Open wrapped up in 2000 when Duval hit into the bunker. It took him four shots to get out and he made an 8, which cost him a share of second place. Duval said he recently saw video of Tommy Nakajima taking four to get out of the same bunker in 1978, and it shows Nakajima from about the waist up. Over time, the bunker became so deep that when Duval was in there, his head was even with the top of the sodden wall.
Hahn finished with a drive just through the green on the par-4 18th with the breeze at his back. For as long as he looked perplexed, a smile never left him.
“The feeling I had at the Masters, and playing my first U.S. Open championship at Olympic Club … this as good as it gets,” he said. “My first Open Championship at St. Andrews, you really don’t get opportunities like this. I’m just savoring every moment.”