Sir Nick Faldo rolled back the years to lead his quartet to victory as the star-studded R&A Celebration of Champions started Open week in style at St Andrews.
Ten teams, featuring former Champions and top players from the women’s, amateur and disability game, battled it out across holes 1, 2, 17 and 18 and provided no shortage of entertainment and quality for the sizeable Monday crowd on the Old Course.
And the Faldo-led fourball, also including fellow St Andrews champions Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson and John Daly, claimed the honours on 6-under after starting with a brace of birdies and repeating the feat on the 18th, the best two scores on a hole counting towards a team’s total.
Reunited with caddy Fanny Sunesson, who was on the bag when Faldo won The 119th Open here in 1990, this proved another afternoon to remember for the 64-year-old on a day which saw golfing royalty descend on St Andrews, Jack Nicklaus putting the icing on the cake by joining Team Woods’ journey up the 18th.
Woods, in the final group alongside Rory McIlroy, Lee Trevino and Georgia Hall, shared second on 3-under with Team Davies, for whom Shane Lowry starred.
The action was started by the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year, Collin Morikawa, who had admitted earlier in the day that retaining the Claret Jug this week would surpass his success at Royal St George’s last year.
He started his week with a birdie at the 1st, backed up by Keita Nakajima as the Morikawa quartet set the early pace – helped along by Anna Nordqvist’s birdie on the next which could so easily have been an eagle had her sublime approach not bounced off the flag.
It was not just the defending AIG Women’s Open Champion making hay on the 2nd, with Henrik Stenson and Juan Postigo Arce also needing just three shots to navigate ‘Dyke’ as the latter led the charge for Team Spieth.
The player sat third on the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability continued his fine form with a nerveless par putt on 17, a hole which ended Team Morikawa’s chances of success as their two dropped shots saw them slip back down the leaderboard.
Team Davies, captained by Dame Laura Davies and also consisting of Lowry and Jack Bigham, soon took advantage to take a clubhouse lead on 3-under after Lowry’s birdie on 18, the 2019 Champion perhaps showing a sign of what is to come later this week by driving the green.
There was no doubting the most experienced quartet on the course, with a combined 293 years making up the team of Gary Player, Sir Bob Charles, Sandy Lyle and Monique Kalkman.
Lyle left a 50-foot par putt inches short on the 1st and later picked up birdies at 2 and 18, the latter bringing the veterans back to +3.
His fellow countryman Paul Lawrie was in the thick of the action, teeing off a matter of moments after being announced as the man who will get The 150th Open underway on Thursday morning.
After a successful escape out the infamous ‘Road’ bunker at 17, Lawrie birdied the last to set his momentous week up nicely.
Catriona Matthew was another Scot to enjoy a couple of champagne moments on home turf, an exquisite long-range birdie putt on the 2nd backed up by another from closer in on 18 to help her team to a 2-under total.
There was no stopping Faldo’s quartet, however, the tone set on the 1st when a magnificent approach set the three-time Champion up for a birdie.
Oosthuizen, who lifted the Claret Jug on the Old Course in 2010, joined him and also birdied the 18th after a sublime chip to the green; the unmistakable figure of John Daly did likewise to ensure the victors finished three shots clear of their nearest challengers.
The quartet of Woods, Hall, McIlroy and Trevino, meanwhile, were determined to ensure the day finished with a flourish in front of an unsurprisingly large following.
The fourball did not disappoint, Woods collecting birdies at 2 and 18 and McIlroy also birdieing the last, while the always talkative Trevino kept the watching hordes entertained on an afternoon which will live long in the memory.