Ian Baker-Finch and that tee shot at St.Andrews: video

Ian Baker-Finch returns to tournament golf this week at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. His last outing in any form of professional golf was at the same event in 2001 but previous to that it was at the 1997 Open Championship.It was part of Ian Baker-Finch’s chequered past that drew me to the golfing mecca of St.Andrews last year. I’d been there as a kid but it was only a vague recollection and so much golf had gone under the Swilcan Bridge since then. In fact, the particular incident I was interested in had gone straight past the Swilcan Bridge which crosses the burn on the 18th hole at St.Andrews.

At the 1995 Open championship, Ian Baker-Finch had hooked his opening tee shot across the 18th fairway passed the bridge and out-of-bounds. All done under the gaze of Arnold Palmer who was in the same group. I wanted to know was how difficult (or easy) it was to hit it out-of-bounds this way.

Baker-Finch was the 1991 Open champion. You need to be a good golfer to become 1991 Open champion but by 1995 his game had deteriorated. In truth, it wasn’t his game that had deteriorated, it was his golfing mind. He’d play perfect practice rounds but come big tournaments, his game went the way of the 2001 Argentinian economy.

This hook shot out of bounds from the first tee at St.Andrews was in the middle of the downfall. He missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified in all twenty nine PGA Tour events that he entered in 1995 and 1996. In 1997, he shot a 92 at the Open at Royal Troon and retired from tournament golf.

I considered playing The Old Course but the Dunhill Links Championship had been rudely scheduled for the same weekend so I was confined to watching some guys who seemed know how to play the game a lot better than I did. I eventually dragged myself away from the action at the roadside hole, walked around the 18th green and stood behind the 1st tee. There was a nice tense three-man playoff going on which was eventually won by Robert Karlsson but Ross Fisher managed to scuttle a low draw into the burn to blow his chances. It was still a long way from the out-of-bounds alongside the 18th fairway though.

Standing behind the tee I could see how it could be done. The fairways at St.Andrews are cut short and extremely wind blown. They’d pass for greens at 50% of the golf courses on the planet. Both errant and well hit shots can run forever. If I could latch onto my duck hook that appears from time to time, I think I could pop it over the other side of the 18th easily.

But I’m just some amateur golfer with a golf website and as amazing as this may sound to some of you – I didn’t win the 1991 Open Championship.

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