Most Dramatic Open Moments

By: | Tue 18 Jul 2017 | Comments


The Open Championship is the greatest tournament of them all. If you doubt then you have never attended the tournament. Just ask the players what it means to them. The best in the business have all won it - Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson, Lee Trevino, Tiger Woods, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Gary Player. They are names that stir amazing memories. There have also been some surprise champions - Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie, Todd Hamilton, Bill Rogers.

And the drama. Oh, the drama. Here, we relive some of the most unforgettable moments in Open history when disaster struck and dreams of glory were cruelly snatched away.

1999, Carnoustie

Jean Van de Velde came to the final hole needing a double-bogey six to win The Open. He hit a poor drive that somehow staying above ground but then it all went wrong. He carved his second way right and then, unforgettably, hit his ball in the Barry Burn, took off his shoes and socks and clambered into the water. "Has he lost his mind?" asked Peter Alliss. In the end, he had to hole a brave putt for a seven. But his race was run. He joined a three-man playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, but his brain was fried and he was never a factor in the four-hole playoff. Afterwards, the Frenchman said: "It's fine, it's only golf. Nobody died out there."

1970, St Andrews

Doug Sanders came to the 18th needing to hole a 30-inch putt to beat Jack Nicklaus by a shot. As he stood over the putt, Sanders spotted something on his line - or did he? He bent down to remove it and as he did so, the legendary golf commentator Henry Longhurst was heard to mutter: "Oh dear." Sanders should have walked away and then taken his stance again, but he didn't and the ball did not even touch the hole. He lost an 18-hole playoff to Jack Nicklaus the following day. Years later, he said: "I am better now. Some days I can go an hour without thinking about it."

1995, St Andrews

John Daly was safely in the clubhouse on 282, six under par. Costantino Rocca, of Italy came to the 18th needing a birdie to force a playoff. He hit a terrific drive, short left of the treacherous green. Rocca chose to pitch the ball and hit a shot that would have embarrassed an 18-handicapper. It was a stone-cold duff. He then changed to his putter and watched in disbelief as the ball rolled and rolled and rolled - and disappeared into the hole. He fell to the floor, beating the ground. He was ecstatic. Sadly, he was also spent and Daly went on to win the four-hole playoff easily.

1997, Royal Troon

Darren Clarke had been knocking on the door for several years. He was a prodigious talent and a regular winner on the European Tour and he finally played himself into contention to win The Open at Troon in 1997. Playing in the final group on the final day, he seemed to be cruising towards The Claret Jug. But then he came to the second hole, where he proceeded to hit the most horrific of shanks. His moment had gone.

1978, St Andrews

Tommy Nakajima came to the 17th hole in the third round tied for the lead on four under par. The 17th is, of course, the Road Hole, and it has claimed many victims over the years. The Japanese golfer came to grief in spectacular fashion. He was just short of the green in two and chose to use the putter for his third. He got the line slightly wrong and his ball trickled into the Road Hole bunker. It took him four shots to get out and he eventually walked off the green with a nine, his hopes gone. The hole was briefly renamed The Sands of Nakajima.

1994, Turnberry

The tournament was won by Nick Price, who went on to claim the US PGA Championship a few weeks later. For a time, he looked unbeatable, but he should never have won the 1994 Open. For reasons known only to himself, Jesper Parnevik, of Sweden, chose to play the final round without once looking at the leaderboard. Playing in the penultimate group, he made five birdies on the back nine and came to the final hole leading by two shots. As he stood in the fairway contemplating his second shot, Parnevik heard a roar which turned out to be Price holing an outrageous putt for an eagle at the 17th. The Swede convinced himself that he needed a birdie to win. He went for the flag, pulled the ball to the left and took three more to get down. It was only as he walked off the final green that he looked at the leaderboard and realised that the bogey had cost him The Open.

2001, Royal Lytham

Ian Woosnam was looking to add to the Green Jacket he had won at Augusta 10 years earlier and walked out for the final round with a great chance of winning The Open. And he made the perfect start, striking his tee-shot at the opening hole to six inches and tapping in for a birdie. It was the perfect start. But when he was standing on the second tee his caddie, Miles Byrne, discovered an extra driver in the bag. “You’re going to go ballistic,” he told Woosnam.  “We have 15 clubs.” Woosnam threw the spare into a bush and declared the two-shot penalty. “I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth,” said the Welshman, who never recovered and eventually finished in a tie for third.

2009, Turnberry

Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus produced a never-to-be-forgotten performance at the 1977 Open at Turnberry. Watson prevailed in what became known as the Duel in the Sun and, 32 years later he returned to Turnberry and almost became the oldest champion in major history. Aged 59 years and just nine months after having a hip replaced, Watson rolled back the years and came to the 18th leading The Open by a shot. He found the fairway with his drive and then hit what he later described as his best shot of the week. But he hit it too well and the ball finished through the back of the green. He chose to putt the next shot when the smarter option might have been to chip it. The ball rolled eight feet beyond the cup and he never looked like holing the next. Watson faced Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff, but he was physically and emotionally spent. Cink was two under in the playoff, Watson was four over. "It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn’t it?” Watson said. “It wasn’t to be. The dream almost came true.” 


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