British Open history: The 9 Open Championships held at Royal Birkdale

By Doug Ferguson
Published on
British Open history: The 9 Open Championships held at Royal Birkdale

SOUTHPORT, England — A capsule look at the nine previous Open Championships held at Royal Birkdale:

Year: 1954

Winner: Peter Thomson.

Score: 283.

Margin: 1 shot.

Runner-up: Bobby Locke, Dai Rees, Sid Scott.

Prize: 750 pounds.

Summary: Ben Hogan did not return to defend his title, and Thomson won the first of his five Open Championship titles. Thomson was tied with Rees and Scott going into the final 18 holes. Thomson bogeyed the final hole from a bunker to close with a 71, leaving Locke a chance to catch him. His birdie putt came up short.

Year: 1961

Winner: Arnold Palmer

Score: 284.

Margin: 1 shot.

Runner-up: Dai Rees.

Prize: 1,400 pounds.

Summary: In his second trip to the Open Championship, Palmer seized control with a 69 in the third round, including a 6-iron from behind a bush on the 16th hole that eventually led the club to place a plaque there to commemorate the shot. He had a one-shot lead over Rees going into the final round. Palmer extended his lead to four shots with four holes to play, but Rees rallied within one shot before Palmer finished him off with a 72 for a one-shot victory.

Year: 1965

Winner: Peter Thomson

Score: 285.

Margin: 2 shots.

Runner-up: Brian Huggett, Christy O'Connor Sr.

Prize: 1,750 pounds.

Summary: Thomson closed with a 71 for his fifth Open Championship title, and some measure of validation. Some argued that he won his previous four claret jugs in the 1950s against weaker competition, but he conquered a field at Royal Birkdale that included Arnold Palmer and Masters champion Jack Nicklaus. Thomson took the lead with a 72 in the heavy rain and wind of the third round, then held off a late charge from defending champion Tony Lema, who took double bogey at the last.

Year: 1971.

Winner: Lee Trevino.

Score: 278.

Margin: 1 shot.

Runner-up: Liang-Huan Lu.

Prize: 5,500 pounds.

Summary: Trevino was tied for the lead after each of the first two rounds, then took the outright lead over "Mr. Lu" of Taiwan with a 69 in the third round. Trevino, coming off victories in the U.S. Open and Canadian Open, went out in 31 in the final round to build a five-shot lead and still was three clear when he drove into a sand hill on the 18th and took a 7. Lu could only manage a 5, allowing Trevino to join Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan as the only players to win the U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same year. Tiger Woods joined that group in 2000.

Year: 1976

Winner: Johnny Miller

Score: 279.

Margin: 6 shots.

Runner-up: Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus.

Prize: 7,500 pounds.

Summary: Similar to his U.S. Open victory at Oakmont three years earlier, Miller closed with a 66 and overcame a four-shot victory to capture his second major. But as much as this showed Miller to be more than the "Desert Fox" for his victories in Arizona, Royal Birkdale is where the world first became aware of Seve Ballesteros, who showed a magical imagination in getting through the sand dunes. The 19-year-old Spaniard closed with a 74, threading a pitch shot through bunkers onto the 18th green. He would be heard from again.

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Year: 1983

Winner: Tom Watson

Score: 275.

Margin: 1 shot.

Runner-up: Andy Bean, Hale Irwin.

Prize: 40,000 pounds.

Summary: Watson won his fifth Open Championship — on his fifth course, and first in England — by closing with a 70. Craig Stadler led after the first two rounds, and Watson took a one-shot lead into the final round. Among the contenders were Nick Faldo until three bogeys over the final seven holes. Watson was tied for the lead when he holed a 20-foot birdie on the 16th. Needing a 4 on the final hole, he hit 2-iron from 213 yards to 20 feet for two putts and the win. Irwin whiffed a 2-inch putt on the 14th hole of the third round, and that ultimately came back to cost him.

Year: 1991

Winner: Ian Baker-Finch

Score: 272.

Margin: 1 shot.

Runner-up: Mike Harwood.

Prize: 90,000 pounds.

Summary: The last time Baker-Finch was tied for the 54-hole lead was in 1984 at St. Andrews, and he closed with a 79. This time, he completed the best weekend in Open history with rounds of 64-66. Tied with Mark O'Meara going into the last day, Baker-Finch birdied five of the first seven holes and withstood a gallant bid from Harwood. Richard Boxall was three behind in the third round when he broke his leg on a powerful swing at the third, and left the course on a stretcher. O'Meara would get his due on the return to Birkdale.

Year: 1998

Winner: Mark O'Meara

Score: 280.

Margin: Playoff

Runner-up: Brian Watts.

Prize: 300,000 pounds.

Summary: O'Meara closed with a 68 to become at age 41 the oldest man to win two majors in one year. The Masters champion nearly lost his ball on the sixth hole, finding it with seconds to spare. Watts had one leg out of the bunker on the 18th to hit a terrific blast to 3 feet for par to force a four-hole playoff. O'Meara took the lead with a 5-foot birdie on the 15th in a playoff — Watts missed from about that range — and he had two-putt pars the rest of the way. Tiger Woods birdied three of the last four holes to finish one shot out of the playoff. Justin Rose, a 17-year-old amateur, tied for fourth. Eighteen-year-old Sergio Garcia, also an amateur, tied for 29th.

Year: 2008

Winner: Padraig Harrington

Score: 283

Margin: 4 shots.

Runner-up: Ian Poulter.

Prize: 750,000 pounds.

Summary: Padraig Harrington showed up with an injured right wrist and uncertainty whether he could go 72 holes in his title defense. He became the first European in more than a century to win the Open Championship in successive years. First he had to overcome 53-year-old Greg Norman, who took a break from his honeymoon with tennis great Chris Evert and nearly became golf's oldest major champion. Norman had a one-shot lead with nine holes to play until he staggered home with too many mistakes in the wind and shot 77. Harrington put it away with a 5-wood to 4 feet for eagle on the 17th hole. He closed with a 69 and won at 3-over 283. Ian Poulter was the runner-up. It was the first major Tiger Woods missed as a pro because of reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to