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Peter Thomson
Peter Thomson's 1955 victory at St. Andrews was his second of three straight Opens, and part of a run of four titles in a five-year period. (Getty Images)

10 greatest golfers on the Old Course

By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Thousands of players have walked the fairways of St. Andrews, but only a handful of golfers have distinguished themselves at the home of golf. Here's a look at 10 who stand above the others at the Old Course:

No. 1: Tiger Woods. How can you argue with a guy who is 2 for 2 at St. Andrews as a professional? Woods set a new standard for excellence in 2000 (the middle of the Tiger Slam), when he shot four rounds in the 60s, finished 19 under and won by eight shots. He won again in 2005, although only at a mere 14 under, and beat Colin Montgomerie by five.

No. 2: Jack Nicklaus. He won two of his three Open Championships at St. Andrews and finished second once. His 1970 win required a playoff to beat Doug Sanders, while his 1978 victory came by two shots over four players, including Hall of Famers Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw, and inexperienced Simon Owen, who led by one with three holes remaining but withered down the stretch under the Nicklaus heat.

No. 3 Bobby Jones. OK, this one deserves an asterisk since Jones was an amateur. Still, he beat the best players in the world – amateur or professional – to win the 1930 British Amateur there. It was his second victory at St. Andrews and set in motion the historic Grand Slam. It also continued the long-lasting love affair between Jones and the town of St. Andrews that continues to exist today.

No. 4: Seve Ballesteros. His 1984 victory was his fourth of his five major championships. He made a birdie on the final hole to set what then was a record of 12 under and beat Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer by two shots. Seve afterwards dedicated the win to his mother Carmen, who had not seen him win a tournament.

No. 5: Nick Faldo. Sir Nick was in control the whole week and set a standard at 18 under in 1990 that remained until Tiger Woods came along. Faldo won by five shots over Payne Stewart and Mark McNulty. He lapped the field by keeping his tee shot in play and out of the bunkers. He putted magnificently and showed the precision that would eventually make him a six-time major champ and World Golf Hall of Famer.

No. 6: Sam Snead. Slammin’ Sammy only played in three Open Championships and won at St. Andrews in 1946, when he triumphed by four shots over Johnny Bulla and Bobby Locke. He made the trip overseas in 1937 to compete at Carnoustie and tied for 11th, but didn’t return for nine years (there was no tournament for six years because of the war). Despite his victory, Snead didn't return to defend his title and instead waited another 16 years before competing at the 1962 Open at Troon, where he tied for sixth. He never again played in the Open.

No. 7: Tom Watson. Watson won five Open Championships, but none of them came at St. Andrews. He had a chance to break the tie with Peter Thomson and James Braid for winning the most Claret Jugs, but was denied by Seve Ballesteros at the Old Course in 1984.

No. 8: Bobby Locke. The South African loved to play the Open Championship, especially at St. Andrews. He won there in 1957, the last of his four titles, and could have won at the Old Course on three other occasions. He tied for ninth there in 1939, tied for second in 1946 and was fourth in 1955.

No. 9: James Braid. A member of the original Big Three, along with Harry Vardon and John Henry Taylor. Braid won the Open Championship five times, twice at St. Andrews. In 1905 he coasted to a five-stroke win over Taylor. In 1910 he came from two shots back after 54 holes and beat Sandy Herd by four shots. Two years later he retired from active tournament competition, but continued to play the Open through 1928.

No. 10: Peter Thomson. No list of great Open champions would be complete without Thomson, who won the Claret Jug five times, including in 1955 at St. Andrews. The Australian won the Open three straight years (1954-56) and four times in a five-year stretch. In his victory at the Old Course, Thomson began the final round with a one-shot lead and wound up with a two-stroke victory.

Remarkable events never fail to occur and great champions are always produced when St. Andrews hosts the Open Championship. Perhaps this year’s champion will also be worthy of adding his name to this prestigious list.

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