Open Championship History

The Beginning - 1860

The first Open Championship was played over three rounds of Prestwick's 12-hole course on October 17, 1860. The event was inspired by the Earl of Eglinton and Colonel James Fairlie and at their instigation the members of Prestwick contributed funds for an extravagant belt of red leather adorned with silver buckle and decorations.

St Andrews - 1873

Tom Kidd Hometown Champion in 1873
02-Dec-1999 13:56 (GMT) - Post Event 1999

The Millennium Open will be the 26th time that the world's oldest championship has been played over the Old Course at St Andrews. In the weeks leading up to this milestone event we will be telling the story of how all 25 previous titles since 1873 were won or lost.

Tom Kidd Hometown Champion in 1873

Torrential rain in the days leading up to the Open Championship on October 4, 1873, left the Old Course puddled with water and caused a rash of high scores. Under the rules in force at the time, there was a one-stroke penalty for removing the ball from casual water.

The 26 competitors who completed 36 holes in one day suffered many such penalties and the winning score of 179 was the highest ever recorded until the event was expanded to 72 holes in 1892.

The long hitting of local caddie Tom Kidd helped him to scores of 91 and 88, which gave him victory by one stroke and the first prize of £11. In second place was fellow St Andrean Jamie Anderson, who was later to establish a record by winning the championship three times in a row from 1877.

Kidd was a powerful but far from stylish player. Yet he understood the game well and, when giving instruction, emphasised the importance of grip and stance. He died of heart disease in 1884.

St Andrews - 1876

The Play-off That Never Was
11-Jan-2000 13:45 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

The second Open Championship to be held in St Andrews was decided by a play-off that never took place. Chaos and controversy surrounded the 1876 event in which Davie Strath refused to take part in the play-off and Bob Martin walked the Old Course to claim the title.

The Open was played during the R&A autumn gathering and many members of the club were enjoying their own brand of golf in the midst of the 34 Open competitors during the second round. There were many delays and much bad tempered muttering.

With Martin completing his second round in 90 for a total of 176, Strath had to play the final two holes in 10 strokes to take the title. His third shot to the 17th was played while the group in front was still on the green. His ball hit one of the players and stopped close to the hole when it might have run through on to the road. He was down in two putts, but then took six at the last to tie Martin.

A complaint had been lodged about his play at the 17th and the R&A committee decided that a play-off should be held on the following Monday, after which a ruling would be given. If the complaint was upheld the only penalty was disqualification and Strath, not unreasonably, felt that the decision should be made before any play-off.

But he was over-ruled and Martin went through the formality of walking the course to become champion. Strath was destined never to win the Open and died three years later in Australia.

St Andrews - 1879

Triple Champion Jamie Anderson
18-Jan-2000 16:13 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

Jamie Anderson was a man who never wasted a moment on the golf course, a characteristic he proved during the 1879 Open at St Andrews. His calculation of the shot to be played was carried out as he walked towards the ball. He took his stance quickly, glanced towards the hole and hit the shot - no practice swings, no preliminary waggles, no fuss.

He also had an exceptional temperament for the game. Nothing, it seemed, could upset his imperious progress around the links and when the Open returned to St Andrews he had already won the two previous contests at Musselburgh and Prestwick.

His second victory was achieved by holing a full iron shot at Prestwick's 15th hole and recording the first hole-in-one during an Open at the 17th. The completion of his hat-trick of wins was less spectacular but none the less convincing, pulling clear of Andrew Kirkaldy and Jamie Allan by three shots with another impressive run of figures in the closing holes.

Anderson was the second player to record three consecutive Open victories, following the exploits of Young Tom Morris, who had captured four in a row. He was to be followed immediately by another triple champion, Bob Ferguson, from 1880-1882, but it was not until 1954-1956 that Australian Peter Thomson matched this outstanding feat which has yet to be repeated.

St Andrews - 1882

Three in a Row for the Musselburgh Champions
25-Jan-2000 09:25 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

Bob Ferguson learned to play golf over his home links at Musselburgh and by the age of 18 proved his prowess in competition by winning the first prize of £10 over four rounds of the seven-hole course at nearby Leith. But he had to wait until the age of 32 before he was successful in the Open Championship of 1880 over his home course.

He won again the following year when he battled against gale force winds to beat his chief rival, Jamie Anderson, by three shots at Prestwick. Yet by the time he arrived at St Andrews in 1882 to attempt the capture the title for a third successive time, his form seemed to have deserted him.

He was always a man for the big occasion and a first round of 83 put him four shots ahead of Anderson, who had played well in the early part of the round but slipped badly on the way home.

Ferguson was to maintain that four-stroke advantage over his great St Andrean rival in the afternoon, even though he scored no better than an 88 for a total of 171. Anderson finished in a three-way tie for third as Willie Fernie, another native of St Andrews who was now professional at Dumfries, jumped ahead of him with a second round of 86 for a total of 174.

The following year at Musselburgh Ferguson came close to winning his fourth consecutive title. But this time Fernie tied with him over the regulation holes and won the play-off with a long putt on the final green.

St Andrews - 1885

Second Open Victory for Bob Martin
31-Jan-2000 16:10 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

When Bob Martin won his first Open in 1876 over his home links of St Andrews the glory was somewhat tainted by the fact that he had tied with Davie Strath but been given a walk-over in the play-off. Strath was under threat of disqualification, but the committee refused to make its decision until after the play-off. Under these circumstances Strath declined to take part.

Nine years later in 1885, when the championship was again played in St Andrews, there was no doubt about Martin's victory, although it was a slim one. He scored five shots better than when he claimed his first title, with rounds of 84-87 for a total of 171.

Archie Simpson of Carnoustie had led the first round with an 83, the lowest score of the championship, but faltered in the afternoon with an 89 to lose by a single shot. His brother, Bob Simpson, was tied with two others on 174 which today would have seen them all sharing fourth place. But in those days play-offs were used to decide all places and he eventually dropped to sixth spot.

The 1885 event had attracted the largest field the Open had ever known, with 51 players competing for a total of £35 in prize-money.

St Andrews - 1888

The Pencil and Rubber Open
08-Feb-2000 12:11 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

The outcome of the 1888 Open at St Andrews was determined as much by a sharp-eyed member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club as by the efforts of the players involved.

None of the favourites for the title coped well with the strong cold wind from the north that persisted throughout the day and it was diminutive Ben Sayers, only 5 feet 3 inches, who set the target with rounds of 85-87 for a 172 total.

This was soon matched by St Andrews pair Davie Anderson and Jack Burns, who had taken up the post of greenkeeper and professional at Warwick Golf Club, and a three-way play-off was in prospect when an R&A member who was looking over the scorecards in the clubhouse found that the figures on Burns' card had been wrongly added up. When correctly totalled, he had a one-shot advantage over the other two.

The rule remains the same today - a player is responsible for ensuring the correct score is entered for each hole. Errors in addition should be checked and corrected by the event organisers.

There were no fortunes to be made as Open champion in those days and within a few years Burns had returned to St Andrews to work on the railways.

St Andrews - 1891

Hugh Kirkaldy Beats Big Brother Andrew
14-Feb-2000 17:20 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

There was many a fine contest between outspoken Andrew Kirkaldy and Hugh, his younger brother by five years, but none better than the 1891 Open over their home territory at St Andrews.

On a day of bitterly cold east winds and driving rain the scores of the leading players were remarkably good, the winning aggregate of 166 setting a new record five shots lower than any previous Opens over the Old Course.

But Hugh Kirkaldy's two rounds of 83, which beat his brother and Willie Fernie of Troon by two shots, were nothing like the record 74 he had set earlier, when he had reached the turn in 33. That would be a good score by any leading professional today, but was achieved with the gutta ball and hickory shafted clubs.

Although big brother Andra beat Fernie in the play-off for second place, it was unfortunate that sibling rivalry had stopped him from claiming the coveted trophy. He had already finished second three times, losing a play-off for the title against Willie Park junior at Musselburgh two years earlier, and continued to challenge strongly until the end of the century, finishing third three times and fourth twice.

Although he was destined never to win the championship he played successfully for many years and became the first honorary professional appointed to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, a position he held until his death in 1934.

By contrast his brother Hugh, Open champion of 1891, died of lung disease only three years after his victory, at the age of 29.

Muirfield - 1892

The first four-round Open
28-Sep-2001 08:00 (BST) - 2001 Sep-Dec

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers had hosted the Open Championship six times over the nine-hole public course at Musselburgh before building the private course at Muirfield on which the 1892 championship was played. Only nine months elapsed between the completion of the course and the staging of the Open won by English amateur Harold Hilton.

It was also the first championship played over 72 holes. From its inception in 1860 the Open had traditionally been completed over 39 holes in one day. The first Muirfield Open in 1892 stretched players to four rounds in two days.

Hilton opened with 78 and 81 and on the second day treated the meagre crowd of little more than 100 spectators to sparkling scores of 72 and 74 to win by three clear shots. Although small in stature he was an aggressive player, the speed of his swing bringing him up on his toes at impact and often dislodging the cap he always wore.

His father had not wanted him to play at Muirfield, but he made a last minute decision and travelled overnight on the train from Hoylake, arriving just in time to take part in the championship without benefit of a practice round.

His successes in the Open and Amateur Championships spanned almost a quarter of a century - from Muirfield in 1892 to his fourth Amateur title at St Andrews in 1913. He claimed his second Open success in 1897 at Royal Liverpool and in 1911 won both the British and American Amateur Championships. He was the first editor of Golf Monthly magazine and later edited Golf Illustrated.

St Andrews - 1895

72-Hole Victory for J.H. Taylor
22-Feb-2000 08:21 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

There were three significant changes in the format of the Open Championship by the time it returned to St Andrews in 1895. The well-established three-yearly rotation between Prestwick, Musselburgh and the Old Course had been broken - first by the move of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from Musselburgh to their new course at Muirfield.

And it was at this new venue in 1892 that the event was extended from 36 holes in one day to 72 holes over two days. Then, in 1895, the championship moved out of Scotland for the first time when 94 players gathered at Royal St George's on the Kent coast at Sandwich.

That first non-Scottish Open was won by John Henry Taylor, a diminutive player who had mastered a deadly short game over his home links of Royal North Devon at Westward Ho! As defending champion in the first round at St Andrews, Taylor putted poorly for an 86, four shots behind local favourite Sandy Herd. By the end of that first day he had recovered with a fine 78, but found himself a further shot behind as Herd bettered him with a 77.

Yet Taylor's fortunes were to change as quickly on the second day as the notoriously fickle weather. He had closed the gap on Herd to three shots after the morning round and in a howling east wind and driving rain which swept the links in the afternoon completed the final 18 holes in a stunning 78, when no other player in the field scored better than 82.

Herd's challenge slipped away with a disappointing 85 and Taylor's margin of victory in the first four-round Open at St Andrews was an impressive four shots, with third placed Andrew Kirkaldy 10 strokes behind the winner.

Taylor was the first Englishman to win over the Old Course and in a glittering career he was destined to improve on his record in the years to come.

Muirfield - 1896

First Open Victory for Harry Vardon
26-Oct-2001 08:00 (GMT) - 2001 Oct-Dec

Harry Vardon was just eight years old when a rudimentary golf course was opened on common land in his home town of Grouville on the island of Jersey in 1878. He took easily to the game, together with other local lads, using improvised clubs and large marbles. It was to be 18 years before he captured his first Open title and a further 18 before he completed a record of six Open victories in 1914, an achievement unbeaten today.

His first triumph came at Muirfield in 1896, over a course much changed after severe criticism following its Open baptism four years earlier. More than 600 yards had been added to the length and it was rated four shots more difficult when Vardon stopped a possible hat-trick of Open victories by J.H. Taylor, who had won at Royal St George's and St Andrews in the two previous years.

Vardon came to the 72nd hole needing four to win, but he played safely to avoid the punitive bunkers around the final green and settled for a five and a tie with Taylor on 316. In the 36-hole decider, as it was then known, he was comfortably ahead as the pair reached the last hole and Taylor gambled everything in going for a birdie. But he fell victim to the greenside bunker and finished with a six, allowing Vardon a four stroke margin of victory.

St Andrews - 1900

Taylor Romps to Second Old Course Victory
28-Feb-2000 17:04 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

The first three places in the 1900 Open Championship were filled by players who would become famous as The Great Triumvirate, but the diminutive J.H. Taylor so outplayed his two more powerful rivals that it was virtually no contest as he raced clear for his second consecutive Open at St Andrews.

At that time only two players other than Taylor had scored in the seventies in rounds of the Open over the Old Course. With his ability to punch or float approach shots into the huge greens allied to consistently good putting he put together rounds of 79-77-78-75 for an unprecedented total of 309, a score which bettered his own winning score of five years earlier by no less than 13 shots.

Harry Vardon, who had captured the previous two Opens at Prestwick and Sandwich, trailed in eight shots behind and James Braid, who was about to become the third member of the Great Triumvirate, was a further five strokes adrift after one of the regular bouts of three-putting which plagued his early career.

Vardon and Taylor had been battling each other for Open honours since 1894, only Harold Hilton in 1897 at Hoylake breaking their domination of the championship.

Although the three members of the Triumvirate were born within a year of each other, Braid was a slow starter, finally developing a long and powerful game and overcoming his putting problems. It is believed that switching to a driver with a flatter lie gave him great additional length off the tee and by abandoning the cleek which he habitually used on the greens and adopting an aluminium-headed putter he transformed that part of his game as well.

The 1900 Open at St Andrews heralded a decade of tremendous rivalry between these three great exponents of the game.

Muirfield - 1901

The first of Braid's five titles
9-Nov-2001 11:57 (GMT)

The dominance of J.H. Taylor and Harry Vardon, who had won six of the previous seven Open Championships between them, was finally challenged by Fife-born James Braid at Muirfield in 1901. He was to win five times in a 10-year period and become the third member of what became known as The Great Triumvirate. Braid's great asset was his enormous length, enabling him to reach long holes that were well beyond the capabilities of most rivals. He also had the ability to mix caution with a sudden audacious killer blow.

With one round to play he was five shots clear of Vardon, with Taylor two further shots behind. With such a clear margin he played over-cautiously for a final round of 80 and a total of 309, breaking the shaft of his cleek as he played his approach to the final green. Vardon had a chance to tie if he could play the last three holes in level fours, but at the 16th he badly miss-hit into a bunker and took six, finally finishing three shots behind Braid, with Taylor in third place on 313.

There was then a seven-shot gap to fourth-placed Harold Hilton, the amateur who had won the first Muirfield Open nine years earlier.

St Andrews - 1905

07-Mar-2000 11:39 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

There were three significant changes in the format of the Open Championship by the time it returned to St Andrews in 1895. The well-established three-yearly rotation between Prestwick, Musselburgh and the Old Course had been broken - first by the move of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from Musselburgh to their new course at Muirfield.

And it was at this new venue in 1892 that the event was extended from 36 holes in one day to 72 holes over two days. Then, in 1895, the championship moved out of Scotland for the first time when 94 players gathered at Royal St George's on the Kent coast at Sandwich.

That first non-Scottish Open was won by John Henry Taylor, a diminutive player who had mastered a deadly short game over his home links of Royal North Devon at Westward Ho! As defending champion in the first round at St Andrews, Taylor putted poorly for an 86, four shots behind local favourite Sandy Herd. By the end of that first day he had recovered with a fine 78, but found himself a further shot behind as Herd bettered him with a 77.

Yet Taylor's fortunes were to change as quickly on the second day as the notoriously fickle weather. He had closed the gap on Herd to three shots after the morning round and in a howling east wind and driving rain which swept the links in the afternoon completed the final 18 holes in a stunning 78, when no other player in the field scored better than 82.

Muirfield - 1906

James Braid successfully defends his Open title
7-Dec-2001 15:29 (GMT)

When James Braid arrived at Muirfield for the 1906 championship he was defending the title he had won by five shots at St Andrews the year before, but his task was made no easier by being drawn to play in late afternoon on the two opening days. For the first time the Open was played over three days in an effort to accommodate a record entry of 183.

Many of these players were completely out of their class, castigated by one commentator for 'the vaingloriousness of second-rate professionals and amateurs who annually comber the field'.

On the first day Braid arrived too early and felt that the long wait affected his score. The next day he took part in a friendly foursome on a nearby course before completing a second round which left him trailing J.H. Taylor by four shots and Harry Vardon by three. Taylor's play in the second round was highlighted by an inward nine of 31.

All those more than 15 shots behind the leader were eliminated from the two final rounds on the third day, reducing the field to 72 players.

Two shots behind with 18 holes to play, Braid completed the course in 73, while Taylor slipped further and further behind through wayward driving and erratic putting. Vardon four-putted the first green and took six at the second to leave the way open for his great Scottish rival.

Braid had successfully retained the championship trophy and captured his third Open title.

St Andrews - 1910

Record Fifth Open Victory for Braid
14-Mar-2000 11:09 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

It was entirely fitting that James Braid should win his fifth and final Open at St Andrews, just a few miles to the north of his birthplace in the coastal village of Earlsferry. But it was strange that he played five full rounds before capturing the title.

Not long after he set out on his opening round the calm weather of the morning changed rapidly and dramatically into a heavy thunderstorm. So severe was the downpour that many greens were flooded, in some instances the ball floating over the submerged hole.

There was quite a delay before the committee finally declared that play was impossible and decreed that all scores were not to count. The championship would begin again the following day. Yet Braid, a gentle giant of a golfer, was taking no chances.

He had reached the 13th when informed that play had been cancelled, but his quiet methodical nature led him to believe that a mistake might have been made and he insisted on completing the round. His score of 76 matched the best recorded by anyone before the storm.

Starting again the next day he returned exactly the same score, but trailed by three shots to the quicksilver George Duncan, renowned for his speed of play, which was encapsulated in his book "Golf at the Gallop."Yet Taylor's fortunes were to change as quickly on the second day as the notoriously fickle weather. He had closed the gap on Herd to three shots after the morning round and in a howling east wind and driving rain which swept the links in the afternoon completed the final 18 holes in a stunning 78, when no other player in the field scored better than 82.

Herd's challenge slipped away with a disappointing 85 and Taylor's margin of victory in the first four-round Open at St Andrews was an impressive four shots, with third placed Andrew Kirkaldy 10 strokes behind the winner.

Taylor was the first Englishman to win over the Old Course and in a glittering career he was destined to improve on his record in the years to come.

Muirfield - 1912

Ted Ray's Power Wins Four-shot Victory
14-Mar-2002 10:35

Ted Ray's only Open success came at Muirfield in 1912 where his mighty hitting gained a distinct advantage over a course which had been extensively lengthened since the victory of James Braid six years earlier. Ray was heavily built and played all his golf in tight fitting jacket, collar and tie, with a trilby hat crammed on his head and a large pipe permanently clamped in his teeth throughout the round. His demeanour was as uncompromising as his attack on the golf ball. When asked by a fellow golfer how to achieve greater distance, he replied simply: 'Hit it a bloody sight harder.'

Muirfield had been stretched to a massive 6,425 yards for the 1912 championship, but Ray was still able to drive both the 13th and 15th holes which measured more than 300 yards. The combined challenge of the Great Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, James Braid and J.H. Taylor, who had won the previous four Opens between them, could not stop Ray in his prime. Vardon made up four shots on the champion with a final round of 71, but was still a distant second, four shots behind. Braid finished eight shots adrift.

With his main rivals still on the course in hopeless pursuit, Ray completed his last round with two perfectly played pars. A contemporary report summed up the scene. 'The moment the ball disappeared into the hole, making him 37 for the incoming half, 75 for the round and 295 for his grand aggregate, his friends made a wild rush at him, hoisted him in spite of his weight and obvious reluctance, and bore him off in triumph.'

St Andrews - 1921

Home Twon Hero Wins for America!
20-Mar-2000 18:27 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

Jock Hutchison was born and brought up in St Andrews, but by the time he won the Open over his home links in 1921 he had become an American citizen and thus became the first non-British champion.

He had won the USPGA Championship the year before and was firm favourite to capture the first Open title to be contested at St Andrews for 11 years - a gap caused by the first world war.

Even on the bone hard greens of that summer Hutchison was able to generate such pronounced backspin that the ball would pitch past the hole and screw back. This short game mastery was achieved with a club which had a heavily ribbed face. J.H. Taylor dismissed it as "buying the shot out of the shop."

In fact the Rules of Golf Committee had met at Hoylake in May that year and decided that such clubs should be banned from July 1. Hutchison won his title on June 25.

Yet two holes in the first round proved that Hutchison was an outstanding player even without the benefit of his controversial club. At the first short hole, the eighth, he holed in one and then drove the par-four ninth, his ball hitting the edge of the hole and stopping three inches away. He was playing with young American prodigy Bobby Jones who estimated the shot at 303 yards.

Although he established a two shot lead with his opening round of 72, Hutchison trailed another naturalised American, Jim Barnes from Cornwall, by four shots after the third round. He was also one shot behind talented amateur Roger Wethered, an R&A member and Oxford undergraduate.

And it was the young student who set the pace in the final round with an amateur record of 71, forcing a 70 from Hutchison to tie the scores on 296. Wethered was due to play for his local cricket team the following day and it took a great deal of persuasion to make him stay on for the 36-hole play-off. In an anti-climactic finale to a dramatic championship he was beaten by nine shots by the seasoned professional.

Lytham - 1926

Bobby Jones - First Open Victory at Lytham
11-July-2001 10:08 (BST) - 2001 Mar-July

Lytham's first Open in 1926 was significant in many ways before a shot had been struck. King George V gave his approval to adding the word 'Royal' to the club's title in time for the championship. Regional qualifying was introduced to cut the entry of 293 to a more realistic 117. The championship was played over three days instead of two and gate money was charged for the first time to control spectator numbers after players had been hampered by stampeding crowds a year earlier at Prestwick.

Bobby Jones, the sensational young American, had already won the US Open and twice captured the US Amateur title when he scored rounds of 66 and 68 in regional qualifying at Sunningdale. This was in an era when rounds under 70 were still a rarity.

With five holes left to play in the championship itself, Jones trailed fellow American and playing partner Al Watrous by two shots, with Walter Hagen making up ground on both of them a few holes behind. The 17th hole proved decisive.

Jones pulled his tee shot into a sandy lie in the left rough 175 yards from the hidden green. He made clean and solid contact with the ball and put it on the green. Watrous was also home in two, but visibly shaken by his opponent's stunning recovery he three putted. Jones played one of the toughest five-hole finishes in British golf in 4-3-4-4-4 to beat Watrous by two.

As the impressive figure of Hagen moved up the final fairway he needed to hole his second shot to force a tie. Always ready to increase the drama of the occasion, he walked all the way to the green to assess the shot and almost pitched the ball into the hole. But it finished in a bunker at the back of the green and he had to settle for third place.

This was the first championship victory by Jones in Britain. He was to go on to win the Open twice more and also claim the Amateur title.

St Andrews - 1927

Jones Makes His Mark on the Old Course
27-Mar-2000 15:08 (GMT) - 2000 Jan-Mar

Six years after he had failed to return a score in his first St Andrews Open, Bobby Jones returned to the Old Course in 1927 to defend the title he had won the previous year at Royal Lytham & St Annes. On his first visit Jones had not completed the 11th hole in the third round after taking four shots in the depths of Hill bunker, but he opened his 1927 account with a stunning round of 68 which included a series of huge putts, including one of 40 yards at the long fifth.

Fellow American Joe Kirkwood was his closest rival among the genuine contenders for the title with an opening 72 and 20-year-old Henry Cotton put himself in the picture with a 73. But in effect the championship was over. Jones, already a double winner of the US Open by this time, was in invincible form, adding rounds of 72-72-72 for a record aggregate of 285 and victory by six shots over his nearest rivals.

Aubrey Boomer, a Channel Islander based in France, tied for second place with Fred Robson, who had raced through the field with a third round 69. Kirkwood finished in a tie for fourth with Eddie Whitcombe.

There had been a remarkable turnout of former champions, now all approaching the age of 60. James Braid qualified on 150, J.H. Taylor on 155 and Harry Vardon and Sandy Herd on 156.

Jones was destined never to play another Open at St Andrews, but he was to return for the Amateur Championship in the magical season of 1930 when he captured the Amateur and Open Championships of Britain and America and immediately retired from competitive golf.

Muirfield - 1929

Hagen emphasises American domination
3-Apr-2002 11:32

Colourful American Walter Hagen had already won the Open three times, at Royal St George's in 1922 and again in 1928, and at Hoylake in 1924, and was the defending champion when a large international field gathered at Muirfield in 1929. In the 17 years since the last Open at Muirfield, huge changes had taken place. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers had acquired an additional 50 acres and Harry Colt had extended and revamped the course to form the layout which, with minor alterations, survives today.

Although Percy Alliss, Peter's father, led after a first round 69, Leo Diegel of the USA matched that score in the second round. Added to his opening 71 it gave him a half-way total of 140, but Hagen had returned a 67, a record low round for the Open, to be placed ominously just two shots behind. Alliss slipped to a 76, but Abe Mitchell kept home hopes alive with a pair of 72s to stay close to the American pair.

From that point the scoring rocketed. Diegel had a disastrous 82 in the third round, Alliss and Mitchell 76 and 78. Hagen, renowned for his cavalier attitude to golf and to life, finished the championship with two rounds of 75 and a total of 292 but still had a clear six-shot victory over Johnny Farrell, another American, with Diegel limping home another shot behind. Mitchell and Allis shared fourth place on 300.

They were the only home players in the top 10, every other place being filled by Americans Bobby Cruikshank, Jim Barnes, Al Watrous, Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour. Scots supporters took some comfort from the fact that Armour had been born just a few miles down the road in Edinburgh - but by 1929 he had taken American citizenship.

St Andrews - 1933

Golf's Worst Missed Putt
04-Apr-2000 15:44 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Leo Diegel is not a name which leaps readily from golf's record books, but he was a supremely talented player who had captured the USPGA Championship twice before he arrived in St Andrews for the 1933 Open. He would have won many more titles but for an extremely nervous temperament.

Seven times he finished in the top four in Open Championships on either side of the Atlantic and once commented: "They keep trying to give me a championship, but I won't take it.

The mighty players from America's Ryder Cup team were still smarting from a one point defeat at Southport when they arrived in force for the Open, but with one round to play the lead was shared by Henry Cotton, Abe Mitchell, Syd Easterbrook and Diegel, closely chased by Craig Wood after a fine 68 and Gene Sarazen.

But the final round was a disaster for the home players. Easterbrook was best with a 77. Cotton and Mitchell both had 79. From the middle of the pack American Densmore Shute returned his fourth round of 73 and found he was sharing the clubhouse lead with fellow Ryder Cup player Craig Wood.

It looked certain that they would be joined by a third member of the team when Diegel played a fine second shot to the last hole and needed two putts for a tie. He left the first putt virtually stone dead and crouched over the ball in his familiar style with elbows splayed wide, forearms parallel with the ground.

Renowned golf correspondent Bernard Darwin reported that he missed "by the widest possible margin." He had, in fact, missed the ball completely. An air shot with the putter.

In the subsequent play-off Shute clinched the championship by five shots over 36 holes. Wood had the doubtful consolation that a powerful drive in the fourth round travelled 440 yards into a bunker at the fifth. It was tremendous power golf, but it cost him a shot and possibly the title.

Muirfield - 1935

Alf Perry spoils Cotton's title defence
3-Apr-2002 11:32

With an opening round of 68 Henry Cotton looked in ominous form in 1935 in defence of the title he had won for the first time a year earlier at Royal St George's. One shot behind was Alf Perry, the man he had beaten three years before in the final of the PGA Match-Play Championship. Perry was a powerful hitter, with a strong right hand grip and a wide, flat swing, but after two rounds both he and Cotton had been overtaken by some sparkling golf from Charles Whitcombe.

He had moved three shots clear of Cotton and five ahead of Perry with a 68 for a total of 139. Then it was Perry who turned on the firework display with a third round 67 that moved him ahead of the field as Cotton slipped to a 76 and Whitcombe to a 73. Perry's golf was confident and almost casual and he played a succession of fine fairway woods into Muirfield's longer holes.

A final round of 72 was good enough to hold off all challengers and Perry finished with a four stroke advantage over the steadiest golfer in the field, Alfred Padgham, who completed rounds of 70-72-74-71. Whitcombe finished third and Cotton trailed in with a share of seventh place after a final 75. Lawson Little, the American who won that year's Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, finished joint fourth.

Perry's winning score of 283 equalled the lowest total in any Open and was not beaten at Muirfield until Jack Nicklaus claimed the title in 1966.

St Andrews - 1939

Dick Burton Secures Last Pre-War Title for Britain
10-Apr-2000 15:10 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

There had been a string of five home victories since Densmore Shute captured the 1933 title at St Andrews, two of them by Henry Cotton, and he was one of the clear favourites to win again in the unreal atmosphere of the months leading to the outbreak of the second world war.

Bobby Locke, then a slim teenager, was another much fancied player, but there was only a small American contingent led by powerful Johnny Bulla and former double US Amateur champion Lawson Little.

Locke completed the course in an opening round of 70 despite an ugly eight at the newly lengthened 14th hole where he took two to get clear of the Beardies bunkers and then found the vast expanse of Hell. Only a fine putt saved him further embarrassment. Next day he over-corrected and put his ball out-of-bounds on the opposite side of the fairway, leading to a slide out of contention.

Despite his problems Locke's first round 70 was equalled by only one man, blunt speaking, big-hitting Lancastrian Dick Burton. His powerful play enabled him to cope well with the lengthened course in tough weather conditions and he and the equally powerful Bulla were level after three rounds. Cotton's early promise faded with a pair of 76s on the final day and the surprise leader with one round to play was John Fallon. But the slightly built Scot could not cope with the strong winds and quickly moved out of contention.

Bulla hit a huge drive at the second hole, but hooked the ball badly, crossing the parallel 17th fairway and disappearing over a wall into the railway yard. He completed a round of 73, setting Burton, who was only just starting out, a target of 72 for the title.

After an impressive display of power golf he needed a four at the last to achieve that total, hit a drive more than 300 yards, pitched to 15 feet and holed the putt. Within weeks he was serving in the RAF and although he held the Open title until the championship was revived after the war, he had no chance to capitalise on his success.

This loss of opportunity was shrugged off in typical Burton fashion - he had survived the war while many who had watched him win the championship had not.

St Andrews - 1946

Sam Snead Takes First Pre-War Title
14-Apr-2000 12:07 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Sam Snead did not immediately endear himself to the people of St Andrews when the championship resumed in 1946. Emerging from seven years of war, with severe food rationing still being enforced, Snead's first comments on the Old Course - "it looks like an old abandoned kinda place" - were guaranteed to ensure a cool reception.

At the week's end the presentation of the trophy had to be delayed while Snead was tracked down to his hotel, but there was no denying the quality of the powerful golf that gave him victory by four shots over the soon-to-be-dominant Bobby Locke of South Africa and his equally powerful American compatriot Johnny Bulla, who had also finished in second place when the Open was last played in 1939.

Locke led the first round with a 69 and diminutive Welshman Dai Rees added a record-equalling 67 in the second, but at half-way Henry Cotton was at the head of the field after a pair of 70s, just one shot ahead of Snead.

On the final afternoon Snead, Bulla and Rees were tied for the lead with Cotton just one behind. But on a day of strong and blustery wind even Snead dropped four shots in the outward nine holes while around him all the other contenders slipped quickly out of the picture.

Snead's powerful long game allowed him to drive three par-four holes during the week - the ninth, 10th and 12th - and as he turned for home in the last round he used his length and accuracy to come back in 35 for a total of 75 and a four-round aggregate of 290.

Locke climbed into a share of second place with a 76. Bulla finished with a 79. So did Cotton, and Rees was one shot worse.

Muirfield - 1948

Cotton's third title
17-Jun-2002 08:50

When he won his first Open Championship at Royal St George's in 1934, Henry Cotton set a new record 65 in the second round which was to give its name to a famous Dunlop golf ball. It also helped him on his way to a five-shot victory. At Muirfield in 1948 his second round score of 66 lacked the resonance of his earlier record, but it propelled him towards another five-shot winning margin and his third Open title.

The first round lead was set by Charlie Ward, Sam King and Flory van Donck, of Belgium, on 69. Cotton opened with a 71, then spread the field with his 66. There were five other scores under 70 that day, but none by those who had set the pace in the first round. The Open champion of 1938, Reg Whitcombe, was next best with a 67, but his first round had been 10 shots higher.

The tough weather conditions for the two final rounds on the third day made scoring difficult and there were no returns below 70. Despite rounds of 75-72 Cotton was in an unassailable position. The modern system of the leading players going out at the end of the field had not yet been introduced and Cotton set an early target of 284 that no-one came close to catching on an anti-climatic afternoon.

Fred Daly, a model of consistency throughout, with rounds of 72-71-73-73 was his nearest rival on 289.

Lytham - 1952

Locke Wins with Only Seconds to Spare
14-Apr-2000 10:37 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Bobby Locke's third Open victory was nearly thwarted by a locked door. His clubs were safely stowed in the boot of his car and the car was securely locked in a private garage close to the Blackpool hotel in which he was staying. Setting out early for the final day's 36 holes, he found to his dismay that the garage was still locked. Luckily the local milkman knew where the garage owner lived and took Locke off in search of the keys. He finally arrived at the course with just enough time to change his shoes and walk straight to the first tee.

But the one quality which always characterised Locke was his total unflapability and he played out those two final rounds in 74 and 73 to overhaul the four-shot advantage that Ireland's Fred Daly had established with with a blistering 67-69 start. Daly fell away badly on the last day, allowing Australia's Peter Thomson to push him back into third place.

Yet so far ahead of the field were this trio that Henry Cotton in fourth spot was a further five shots adrift. Locke's winning total was 287, with Thomson on 288 and Daly 289.

St Andrews - 1955

Peter Thompson Starts the Australian Challenge
04-May-2000 10:44 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Bobby Locke had taken over from the Americans as the biggest threat to the home players, with three Open victories in four years from 1949, but one of golf's great rivalries began when Australian Peter Thomson claimed the title at Royal Birkdale in 1954 and arrived at St Andrews the following year as favourite to retain his crown.

After two opening rounds of 71-68 he shared the lead with Scotland's great hope Eric Brown, with fellow Scot Johnny Fallon only one behind after a record equalling 67. Locke was handily placed four shots further back, but failed to make up any further ground over the final two rounds on the last day.

Frank Jowle, who had qualified with a magnificent 63 on the tough New course, was a strong contender after a third round 69, but then slipped out of the picture with a final 74. Brown had a disastrous final day with rounds of 73-76 to drop into a share of 12th place and only Fallon made any impact, with a final 70 to finish just two shots behind the victorious Thomson.

The Australian had played his normal controlled game, typified with superlative iron play and an unruffled temperament. In a seven year spell from 1952 he won the Open four times and finished second three times.

To those who suggested that his run a success was achieved when many of the leading Americans were absent from the championship he had the perfect answer.

Seven years after his fourth Open victory he captured the title again at Royal Birkdale, leaving Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in his wake.

St Andrews - 1957

Bobby Locke Wins in Last Green Drama
10-May-2000 10:19 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

The Open Championship of 1957 was scheduled to be played at Muirfield, but instead finished in a last green rules incident at St Andrews. The switch of venue was caused by political shenanigans in Egypt when Colonel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Company. This led to an invasion by Britain and France, the loss of oil supplies and petrol rationing.

Because of its remote location it was decided that Muirfield would be an impossible venue for players, officials and spectators alike and a late switch was made to St Andrews, still served in those days by a railway line and still with a reasonable number of hotels.

Peter Thomson, who had won the second of his three-in-a-row titles over the Old Course only two years earlier, was again one of the front runners. After three rounds he was tied in second place with Eric Brown, three shots behind his perennial rival Bobby Locke, who had completed his morning round in 68.

This was the first championship in which the leaders went out last, but they were still playing the two final rounds in one day - a Friday.

homson's steady 70, with a handful of missed putts, made no impression on the stately progress of the South African. Nor did Brown's determined 71. Locke stayed clear of trouble until the 14th where he was bunkered at the front of the green, but got up and down on the difficult sloping surface.

The main drama was saved to the end. His second shot to the last was no more than a few feet from the hole, but was on the line of playing partner Bruce Crampton's putt. Crampton had started the day level with Locke on 141, but had a black Friday with rounds of 78-79.

Locke marked his ball and moved the marker one putter-head off the line. When it came his turn to putt out for a final round of 70 and victory by three shots over Thomson, he failed to return his marker to the correct spot. The error was not spotted at the time, but reported to R&A officials later. The Championship Committee quickly decided that with his three-shot lead and no advantage having been gained, the equity and spirit of the game dictated that he should not be disqualified.

Lytham - 1958

Fourth Title for Thompson
11-July-2001 10:42 (BST) - 2001 Mar-July

In a 10-year period from 1949 the Open Championship was dominated by South African Bobby Locke and Australian Peter Thomson with four victories each. Only Max Faulkner at Royal Portrush in 1951 and Ben Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953 stepped in to halt a clean sweep. Thomson was to add a fifth title to his collection at Birkdale in 1965, but by far the most demanding of his triumphs was at Lytham in 1958.

He had won three Opens in a row in 1954-55-56 and finished second to Locke at St Andrews in 1957. His opening 66 at Lytham pointed the way towards another clear-cut victory, but Christy O'Connor took the half-way lead with rounds of 67-68 and Eric Brown moved menacingly into the picture with a third round 65.

Also looming large on the horizon was young Welsh powerhouse Dave Thomas who outgunned his vastly experienced Australian rival in the fourth round to tie Thomson on 278 with O'Connor and Brown just one shot behind. Locke, surprisingly, had failed to break 70 all week and finished 10 shots behind.

Play-offs to decide the Open title were sttled in those days over 36 holes and the morning round produced sparkling golf from both players. Thomson, the shorter hitter but with a wonderful short-game touch, led 68 to 69. His Welsh opponent, a good friend and protege, was a tremendously long and accurate hitter, but never came to terms with the little shots around the green, and had been known to putt sideways round a bunker rather than attempt to pitch over it. The afternoon round widened Thomson's advantage by a further three shots and he claimed his fourth title in five years.

Thomas came close to Open glory again six years later when he tied Doug Sanders for second place at Muirfield in 1966. His two closing rounds of 69 made up seven shots on Jack Nicklaus, but failed by one to catch the American.

Muirfield - 1959

Player wins his first major title
5-Jul-2002 09:55

The 1959 Open at Muirfield marked the emergence of Gary Player as a world-class golfer, launching a career that encompassed nine major titles. In a 20-year span he captured all four of the Grand Slam events. A victory at Muirfield looked highly unlikely at the start of the final day's 36 holes for he was eight shots behind the leaders. His third round 70 moved him steadily through the field, with only four players returning a better score during the morning's play.

In the afternoon he raced ahead, needing a four at the final hole for a round of 66. But he bunkered his tee shot and three-putted for a six. Convinced that he had thrown away a chance of the title he spent an agonising wait while the earlier leaders struggled to match his 284 total.

But nobody was up to the task and his margin of victory was two shots over Flory van Donck of Belgium and Fred Bullock. Over the two final rounds he had outscored his closest opposition by eight and 10 shots respectively.

St Andrews - 1960

Palmer Fails to Capture The Centenary Open
17-May-2000 11:39 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Arnold Palmer's appearance in the centenary Open at St Andrews in 1960 was undoubtedly the catalyst which re-ignited world-wide interest in the championship. The number of American players taking part in the Open in the previous decade had fallen dramatically. Peter Thomson of Australia and South Africa's Bobby Locke had won seven titles in eight years. In 1959 they were joined by Locke's young compatriot Gary Player, who had captured the coveted trophy at Muirfield.

Palmer arrived at the home of golf as the newly crowned US Open champion. His victory was achieved in a style for which he was to become famous. Starting the final round seven shots behind leader Mike Souchak, he birdied six of the first seven holes for an outward 30 and a final 65.

Although he was three under par after the first two rounds, Palmer's efforts were overshadowed by a pair of opening 67s from Argentina's Roberto de Vicenzo and the 69-67 start by little known Australian Kel Nagle.

The third round was decisive for Vicenzo. He drove out-of-bounds at the 14th and finished in 75, allowing Nagle to move ahead by two shots. Palmer's 70 left him four shots behind and the scene was set for a combative final afternoon, the last 36 holes then being played in one day.

But torrential rain swept across the links and within minutes the course was unplayable. Water cascaded down the steps by the R&A clubhouse like a miniature waterfall and the Valley of Sin disappeared under three feet of water.

The magical draining properties of links golf allowed the final round to be played the next day and the two leading protagonists - Palmer and Nagle were both out in 34. Palmer was still four shots behind within only nine holes to play. He made up two of them at the 13th and 15th, made four at the 17th for the first time all week and then holed a birdie putt at the last.

Nagle, in the match behind, was facing a crucial par putt at the 17th as he heard the roar from the last green to signify Palmer's birdie. To his great credit he holed that putt and made a safe four at the last to win the title by a single shot. Already 40 years old when he won at St Andrews he went on to become a prolific winner in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe, and lost a play-off for the US Open to Gary Player in 1965.

Palmer famously won the next two Opens, at Birkdale and Troon, and re-established the Open as a major target for the leading American players.

Lytham - 1963

Charles Putts for Victory
11-July-2001 10:46 (BST) - 2001 Mar-July

The 1963 Open at Lytham produced another 36-hole play-off, the second in succession after Peter Thomson's extra-time victory over Dave Thomas five years earlier. This time the protagonists were opposites in every respect. Bob Charles, the tall, thin-as a rake New Zealand left-hander was quiet and undemonstrative. His opponent, short, solidly-built American ex-Marine Phil Rodgers, had a habit of racing across the green and slamming his cap over the hole when a long putt dropped.

A third round of 73 had cost Rodgers his impressive lead - three ahead of Jack Nicklaus and five in front of Charles. The New Zealander leap-frogged to the head of the field with a 66, leaving Rodgers and Nicklaus two shots behind in a share of second place.

A bunkered tee shot at the last cost Nicklaus a five in the fourth round, and the chance of a place in the play-off, while Rodgers made up the two-shot deficit on Charles with a fine 69 to force the contest into overtime.

But the American suffered badly over the extra 36 holes. He undoubtedly played the better golf from tee to green, but Charles maintained his reputation as one of the world's finest putters. Locking arms, hands and putter into one solid unit he rocked his shoulders back and forwards in a classic pendulum action that was devastating. In the morning round he had only 26 putts, including 11 singles. Seven times he got up and down from rough or bunkers.

Three shots behind at the lunch break, Rodgers dropped further strokes at the opening two holes of the afternoon to be five adrift after 20 holes. Then came his chance. Charles hooked out-of-bounds onto the railway line at the third and Rodgers birdied two of the next three holes to close within a stroke.

Then his momentum was stopped in its tracks when his second shot to the long seventh finished under the face of a greenside bunker. Charles piled on the putting pressure throughout the afternoon to open up an eight stroke margin of victory. In his rounds of 69-71 Charles had 56 putts. Rodgers totalled 65 putts in rounds of 72-76.

St Andrews - 1964

Tony Lema Sweeps to Victory
24-May-2000 15:38 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Tony Lema achieved the seemingly impossible on his first visit to St Andrews in 1964. After winning three of his previous four tournaments in America he arrived at the home of golf with less than two days to learn the intricacies of the Old Course.

Yet he quickly mastered the art of the chip-and-run shot, so vital to success on classic links courses, and drove the ball superbly to romp to a five-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus, already a winner of the US Open, PGA and Masters championships in the early years of his formidable career.

A key to Lema's success was the non-appearance of Arnold Palmer. Winner of the Open in 1961 and 1962 Palmer had set his sights on winning the modern grand slam, but had finished poorly in the US Open and had withdrawn from the field at St Andrews. In his absence he recommended that Lema should employ Tip Anderson, the local caddie who had helped him to his two Open victories."

It was amazing how often he put the right club in my hand. Tip was at least 50 per cent of the team," said Lema at the end of his stunning St Andrews debut.

He had the benefit of the better weather conditions early on a first day that saw Nicklaus fall to a 76 as winds rose to near gale force. In the second round he pulled nine shots clear of his main rival with a 68. Home hopes were raised with Harry Weetman just two shots behind Lema and Christy O'Connor another shot further back.

But both saw their scores rise as the weather improved and they finished together in joint sixth place 12 shots behind the tall American. Despite two final day rounds of 66-68 Nicklaus only succeeded in reducing Lema's winning margin to five shots. Popular Argentinian Roberto de Vicenzo pulled himself into third place with a final 67. He was to win the Open three years later at Royal Liverpool.

Lema's singular triumph was just reward for a highly talented golfer who was killed in a plane crash two years later.

Muirfield - 1966

Nicklaus captures the Grand Slam
8-Jul-2002 10:53

The 1959 Open at Muirfield marked the emergence of Gary Player as a world-class golfer, launching a career that encompassed nine major titles. In a 20-year span he captured all four of the Grand Slam events. A victory at Muirfield looked highly unlikely at the start of the final day's 36 holes for he was eight shots behind the leaders. His third round 70 moved him steadily through the field, with only four players returning a better score during the morning's play.

In the afternoon he raced ahead, needing a four at the final hole for a round of 66. But he bunkered his tee shot and three-putted for a six. Convinced that he had thrown away a chance of the title he spent an agonising wait while the earlier leaders struggled to match his 284 total.

But nobody was up to the task and his margin of victory was two shots over Flory van Donck of Belgium and Fred Bullock. Over the two final rounds he had outscored his closest opposition by eight and 10 shots respectively.

Lytham - 1969

Jacklin Puts British Golf Back on the Map
11-July-2001 11:03 (BST) - 2001 Mar-July

Britain had been without a home winner of the Open for 18 years when the world's finest players arrived at Lytham for the 1969 championship. Max Faulkner, flamboyant dresser who often used a putter made from a piece of driftwood, had been the last British player to win the title, at Portrush in 1951.

Tony Jacklin was the bright new face of the British game. He had honed his skills on the ultra-competitive American circuit, gaining his first victory in the USA at Jacksonville a year earlier. After two rounds at Lytham he trailed left-handed New Zealander Bob Charles by three shots, but maintained his place among the leaders before taking the lead with a steady 70 in the third round.

Before setting out on the final afternoon Jacklin found a note pinned to his locker door. It had been left by American tour pro Bert Yancey, with whom Jacklin had struck up a close friendship. It said simply: "Tempo." With that thought in mind his controlled final round of 72 was enough to hold Charles at bay, with Peter Thomson and Roberto de Vicenzo sharing third place ahead of Christy O' Connor and Jack Nicklaus.

At the final hole, with diagonal lines of bunkers threatening the tee shot, Jacklin found the middle of the fairway and, with tempo written all over his swing, caressed a smooth seven-iron to the green.

His victory sparked a revival of interest in golf among youngsters throughout the country, launching a new generation of future champions in the game.

St Andrews - 1970

Missed Putt Gives Nicklaus His Play-off Chance
31-May-2000 10:40 (GMT) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Two putts from above and beyond the hole were all that stood between Doug Sanders and victory in the 1970 Open. A fine save from the Road Hole bunker at the 17th had left him needing a simple four at the final hole to edge out Jack Nicklaus by a single stroke.

His flighted approach from a long tee shot ran 30 feet beyond the hole and his first attempt pulled up less than three feet short, leaving the worst possible putt to win a championship - downhill and left to right.

As he explained later: "I was over the ball when I thought I saw a spot of sand on the line. Without changing the position of my feet I bent down to pick it up, but it was a piece of brown grass. I didn't take the time to move away and get re-organised."

The ball slipped agonisingly past the right lip and the colourful America faced an 18-hole play-off against the game's most successful player the following day.

Ironically, as they approached the final green of the play-off, with Nicklaus one shot ahead, Sanders played an immaculate pitch and run with a four-iron to within four feet of the hole. The same shot a day earlier would have won him the title.

But Nicklaus had hit a tremendous tee shot right through the back of the green at a hole which measured 358 yards. From the tangled rough he coaxed the ball to within eight feet of the hole. Taking the left to right break the ball caught the right edge of the hole and dropped.

In a spontaneous reaction Nicklaus tossed his putter high in the air, something he did only once in his glittering career. It was a clear sign of the importance he attached to winning the world's oldest championship at the home of golf.

Muirfield - 1972

Chip-in victory for Lee Trevino
12-Jul-2002 09:27

The 1972 Open at Muirfield was one of the most dramatic in the history of the championship. Jack Nicklaus had already won that year's Masters and US Open titles, but trailed third round leaders Lee Trevino and Tony Jacklin by six and five shots respectively. As they stood on the first tee before the final round, Trevino and Jacklin joked about becoming more famous for stopping a Nicklaus Grand Slam than for winning the Open. By the time they approached the ninth green the Golden Bear had taken the lead on his way to a closing 66.

He set a clubhouse target of 279, leaving Trevino and Jacklin, tied for the lead on the 17th tee, two pars for victory. Trevino bunkered his tee shot, hit his third into rough short and left and pitched strongly to the upslope behind the green. Jacklin, just short in two, left his pitch and run 16 feet short of the hole, but looked certain to take at least a one stroke advantage to the final hole.

By his own admission Trevino paid scant attention to his next shot, yet the ball rolled unnerringly into the hole for the most unlikely par five. Jacklin three-putted, then dropped a shot at the last to move back to third place behind Nicklaus as Trevino successfully defended the title he had won a year earlier at Birkdale. From the 16th hole of the third round, where a thinned bunker shot clattered the flagstick before dropping into the hole, Trevino holed out three times from off the green in his quest to retain the silver claret jug.

Lytham - 1974

Third Title for Gary Player
11-July-2001 11:55(BST) - 2001 Mar-July

Gary Player won his first Open Championship at Muirfield in 1959 and his second at Carnoustie in 1968. With his triumph at Lytham in 1974 he shared with Harry Vardon the distinction of claiming the title in three separate decades. Opening rounds of 69 and 68, compiled in blustery winds, established a five shot lead over the field, headed by Peter Oosterhuis, with Jack Nicklaus trailing by nine strokes. Compulsory use of the 1.68-inch ball for the first time in the championship may have added to the high scoring.

The difficult weather conditions persisted for the third day and Player’s seeming invincibility slipped fractionally with a 75. Nicklaus coped best with a 70, but still lagged four shots adrift, one behind Oosterhuis, who closed to within three shots of Player with a round of 73.

In the final round Player had two birdies and an eagle in the opening six holes, but ran into trouble at the final two hurdles. His six-iron approach to the 17th was pulled left into deep rough and it took enthusiastic help from a horde of spectators to locate the ball with only seconds of the time limit remaining. So deeply was the ball buried that he could move it only six feet at the first attempt, but he limited the damage to one dropped shot.

At the last he was over enthusiastic with his second shot which finished close to the clubhouse wall behind the green. He was forced to play left-handed to scramble the ball back to the green, but despite these setbacks still claimed his third Open title with a score of 282, four shots clear of Oosterhuis with Nicklaus a further stroke behind.

St Andrews - 1978

Nicklaus Claims His Second Home of Golf Title
07-Jun-2000 10:33 (BST) - 2000 Apr-Jun

It was 16 years since Jack Nicklaus had won his first US Open Championship and eight since he had triumphed at St Andrews in a play-off against the hapless Doug Sanders, who had missed a short putt on the final green to take the title.

Nicklaus had won 14 major titles by the time he arrived in St Andrews in 1978, but none since 1975, although he had missed out by only a single shot at Turnberry the year before in the marvellous head-to-head encounter with Tom Watson, who had two final rounds of 65.

And it was Watson who led as play entered the final day at St Andrews. He was joined at the head of the pack by Britain's Peter Oosterhuis, but just one shot behind lay Nicklaus, together with New Zealander Simon Owen, Ben Crenshaw and Isao Aoki.

With a switch in the wind direction Watson's form deserted him and he slipped right out of the frame with a 76. Oosterhuis could manage no better than 73, matched by Aoki. Crenshaw stayed in the hunt with a 71 and was joined by Tom Kite and Ray Floyd.

But the battle for honours was being conducted in the pairing of Nicklaus and Owen. The tall New Zealander holed a chip shot at the 15th to take a one shot advantage, but when Nicklaus holed a six-foot birdie putt at the next after a nine-iron approach, Owen three-putted and the American went ahead.

Nicklaus increased his lead with a cast-iron four at the 17th and yet another major victory entered the record books under his name.

Lytham - 1979

Ballesteros Opens the European Era
11-July-2001 11:55(BST) - 2001 Mar-July

Three years after his second place tie with Jack Nicklaus as a fresh-faced 19-year-old at Royal Birkdale, Seve Ballesteros made the breakthrough into the realms of Open champions, leaving Nicklaus three shots in his wake with a roller-coaster final round at Lytham in 1979.

He became the first European to win the championship since Frenchman Arnaud Massy took the title at Royal Liverpool in 1907 and his victory confirmed the emergence of a wealth of European talent.

It was later that same year that, for the first time, players from Europe joined those from Great Britain and Ireland in the Ryder Cup team to face America.

Ironically, the young Ballesteros was unfairly labelled the "car park champion" after a bout of wayward driving in the Lytham championship. During the final round he used his driver nine times and hit only one fairway.

The pivotal moment came when he fired his ball into a temporary car park to the right of the 16th fairway. After a free drop he hit a fine recovery to the edge of the green and calmly rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt. The derogatory label was unjust, but the Seve legend was born. His cavalier attitude and magical short game has enlivened a career embracing 70 world-wide victories, including three Open and two Masters titles.

As Ballesteros compiled rounds of 73-65-75-70 for a 283 aggregate at Lytham in 1979, the biggest loser was Hale Irwin, fresh from his second US Open victory. He opened with two immaculate rounds of 68 and was two ahead of Ballesteros as they were paired in the final group on the last day. But he appeared mesmerised by the 22-year-old Spaniard's unorthodox progress and slumped to a 78 and sixth place.

Muirfield - 1980

Watson Claims His Third Title
12-Jul-2002 09:32

Tom Watson virtually secured his third Open title at Muirfield in 1980 in the third round. A stunning 64 opened up a significant gap over his closest rivals, although it was not the lowest score of the day. That honour went to Isao Aoki of Japan with a 63, but he had already tied a millstone around his neck with opening rounds of 74-74.

The main opposition was formidable - previous Muirfield winners Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus were joined in the pursuit by Ben Crenshaw, Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo, with Ken Brown and Carl Mason adding weight to the home challenge.

Brown, paired with Watson on the final day, slipped out of the reckoning with a 76 as the man who was to go on to capture five Open titles finished with an unblemished 69. That score was matched by six other players, but nobody was able to close the gap on his winning total of 271. Trevino finished four shots behind in second place with Crenshaw another two shots away in third. Nicklaus and Mason shared fourth place on 280.

St Andrews - 1984

Ballesteros Snatches Victory from Watson at the 17th
12-Jun-2000 12:46 (BST) - 2000 Apr-Jun

The doom-laden portents of the year 1984 may have emanated in the imagination of George Orwell, but they will stay for ever in the mind of Tom Watson. With an historic sixth Open title in his grasp he misjudged his approach to the 17th green and paid a severe penalty.

The line-up for the final round that year saw Ballesteros paired with Bernhard Langer two shots behind Watson and little-known Australian Ian Baker-Finch. Known by his fellow tour pros as Hyphen, he had set a blistering pace with opening rounds of 68 and 66 to go three shots clear of the field. Watson's third round 66 had pulled him from five behind to a share of the lead.

The opening hole showed the young Australian that he was in for a tough time. After a fine tee shot he clipped a firm wedge which pitched close to the hole and screwed back into the unforgiving waters of the Swilken Burn. He did well to get down in five, but his momentum was gone and he only broke 80 by virtue of two birdies in the final four holes.

That left the big three to battle for the honours. But Langer's putting let him down. Renowned for the accuracy of his approach play, he had five opportunities for birdies from within 10 feet in the outward nine holes, and missed them all.

By the time Ballesteros reached the 17th tee he had picked up the two shots that separated him from Watson at the start of the round. He had failed to make par here in three rounds and predicted before the start of play on the final day that if he made four at the 17th he would win. He did both. A towering six-iron from 200 yards in the left rough left him in comfortable two-putt range.

In the following match Watson drove perilously close to the out-of-bounds on the right but was in perfect position to draw the ball down the curve of the green. His two-iron shot was too strong, bounded through the green and finished on the grass verge beyond the road.

From there a four proved impossible. He would need a birdie at the final hole, but a huge roar from the 18th green signified that Ballesteros had holed out for three. Watson now had to hole his second shot at the last. His high-flying wedge shot was on line, but strong, and the chance of a sixth Open title had vanished.

Baker-Finch slipped back to a share of eighth place, but seven years later he claimed his moment of glory with an impressive Open victory at Royal Birkdale.

Muirfield - 1987

Faldo Achieves His Open Breakthrough
13-Jul-2002 09:30

Four days of unrelentingly bad weather marred the 1987 Open at Muirfield, but marked the breakthrough of Nick Faldo into the ranks of major winners after two years of reshaping his already successful swing. Roger Davis was a lucky early starter on the first day and completed a remarkable 64 before the worst of the wind and rain swept over the course.

Paul Azinger established a second round lead and held on grimly through a third day when wind speed reached 40 miles per hour and four into-wind holes were shortened to allow players to reach the fairway from the tee. With a three round total of 207 he was just one shot ahead of Faldo and David Frost of South Africa.

Although the wind speed dropped significantly on the final day, the course was shrouded in misty rain as Faldo completed each hole in par figures, holing his second putt from four feet at the 18th to set a target of 279. Azinger needed par figures at the two final holes to claim the title, but he dropped a shot at the long 17th and in trying to force a birdie from the last hole he bunkered his approach shot on the left and failed to get up and down.

Faldo's implacable par display was good enough the win the coveted trophy, with Azinger and Davis sharing second place, one shot ahead of Payne Stewart and Ben Crenshaw, who closed with a 68. Frost was a further shot behind after a 74.

Lytham - 1988

Seve Repeats His Lytham Victory
11-July-2001 12:55(BST) - 2001 Mar-July

Seve Ballesteros was a more controlled, and more dangerous golfer, when he returned to the famous Lancashire links of Lytham in 1988 than he had been as a 22-year-old Open victor over the same course nine years earlier. In the intervening years he had won a second Open, at St Andrews in 1984, and captured the US Masters title twice.

His progress at Lytham, together with that of every other player, was halted by torrential rain which washed out the third round and play spilled over to Monday.

On that final day Nick Price led Ballesteros and Nick Faldo by two shots. Thanks to the vagaries of the weather the normal two-man pairings were changed and the three leading contenders went out together at the tail of the field.

Faldo fell slightly off the pace early on, but Price was in superb form and his fine 69 would, in 99 Opens out of 100, have earned him the title. But Seve's play was nothing short of inspirational. On his way to a 65 and a two-shot victory over Price, one hole was particularly significant.

The short par four 16th was where, in 1979, he had thundered a drive into a temporary car park well to the right, then recovered after a free drop to hole a long putt for an unlikely birdie. Nine years on, a more mature Ballesteros found perfect position in the fairway with a one-iron from the tee and left an exquisite nine-iron approach just three inches from the hole.

St Andrews - 1990

Flawless Faldo Sets an Old Course Record
29-Jun-2000 11:06 (BST) - 2000 Apr-Jun

Nick Faldo's immaculate display of precision golf over the Old Course in the 1990 Open produced a record total of 270 - 18 under par - which left his nearest challengers five shots in his wake.

It was not until the fourth hole of the final round that he was bunkered for the first time in the championship, the deep trap to the left of the green costing him a rare dropped shot.

After opening rounds of 67-65 he was level at the head of the field with Australian Greg Norman, who had started with a pair of 66s. But while Faldo kept up the pressure with another error-free 67, Norman suffered the indignity of a 76 which dropped him out of the picture. Typically he recovered strongly the following day to finish with a 69 and a share of sixth place.

The greatest challenge on the final day came from American Payne Stewart. He reduced Faldo's lead from five to two, but drove into the Coffin bunkers at the 13th and when Faldo played a six-iron to within eight feet for a simple birdie at the 15th he had re-established the commanding gap. Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe joined Stewart in second place thanks to a closing 65.

Faldo's driving accuracy and precision with the irons allowed him to avoid the problems of the Old Course and he did not three putt once, except at the 17th where he deliberately played short all week and elected to putt from off the green.

St Andrews - 1995

Daly Wins with Power and Precision
06-Jul-2000 08:04 (BST) - 2000 Apr-Jun

It was not just his awesome power, but the delicacy and precision of his short game, that allowed John Daly to win the 1995 Open at St Andrews. But he had to go into overtime to claim the ancient trophy, thanks to a last gasp birdie putt from the Valley of Sin that put genial Italian Costantino Rocca into a play-off.

Rocca came to the 18th hole in the final round needing a birdie to tie the big-hitting American. He drove close to the left side of the green, but a sand-wedge pitch was completely miss-hit and dribbled into the deep hollow at the front of the green.

His putt climbed the steep bank, raced across the green and fell into the hole 65 feet away. Rocca fell face down on the turf in a moment of joyous relief and disbelief.

There was a sense of anti-climax at the first extra hole when Rocca three putted, and when Daly holes for a birdie at the second he established a commanding two-shot lead as they moved across to the tee of the notorious 17th.

Daly hit a tremendous tee shot some 330 yards into the narrowest neck of the fairway and crafted a closed-faced nine-iron pitch and run into the centre of the green. Rocca had to go for the pin and fell victim to the Road Hole bunker. He needed three attempts to gain the putting surface and his chances of the title had vanished.

This 25th Open at St Andrews also marked the end of an era. Arnold Palmer was making his final appearance in the championship 35 years after he first played, in the Centenary Open of 1960. His determination to win the title inspired a new generation of golfers and was instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the world’s oldest championship.

Lytham - 1996

Lehman Breaks the American Jynx
11-July-2001 12:55(BST) - 2001 Mar-July

The legendary Bobby Jones had captured the first Lytham Open in 1926 as the most talented and successful amateur golfer of all time. In the intervening years to 1996 no other American had been successful in the championship at Lytham, despite many periods of domination in the game.

That odd quirk in the records was finally laid to rest when Tom Lehman finally squeezed home ahead of fast-finishing duo Mark McCumber and Ernie Els. Lehman had played the American PGA tour for 13 years with only a couple of tournament victories to his name when he arrived at Lytham to take part in his third Open in Britain, having finished 59th at Royal St George's in 1993 and 24th at Turnberry the following year.

He made his mark right from the start, opening with two rounds of 67, a half-way score matched only by Ireland's Paul McGinley with 69-65. Then Lehman turned up the heat with a devastating third round of 64 which gave him a six shot lead over the field.

His position appeared unassailable, but the magic of the previous day had vanished with the morning dew and shots began to slip away. Mark McCumber, with a final round of 66 and Ernie Els with 67, set a target of 273 which Lehman was struggling to beat until he once more took command at the tough 12th hole. The angled green is threatened by a circle of six bunkers, with out-of-bounds close on the right. Lehman's perfectly struck four-iron settled down eight feet from the hole and gave him a much needed birdie.

He later described his final round of 73 as "not pretty, but gritty." It was enough to keep him two shots ahead of the rest.

The preceding was furnished by The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and OpenGolf.com

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