8 of the Very Best Open Championships
Over the years, The Open Championship has produced many dramatic conclusions. There have been occasions where it has been won by a moment of genius, others when somebody has left the field trailing in his wake and others when it has ended in heartbreak. Here, we look at eight of the very best.
1977 Tom Watson, Turnberry
Arguably the greatest Open of them all with the world’s two best players, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, at the peak of their form. During four glorious days in July they traded blows for 72 holes in what became known as The Duel In The Sun. Nicklaus would birdie a hole, Watson would come straight back with one of his own. Watson would strike a stunning approach, Nicklaus would do the same thing. It was a spectacular exhibition and when they came to the final hole Watson led by a shot. Nicklaus carved his drive into a horrible spot, somehow managed to gouge the ball onto the green and holed for an unlikely birdie, but Watson had already struck his approach to a couple of feet and tapped in to win by one.
2016 Henrik Stenson, Royal Troon
If 1977 was the greatest of them all, then 2016 wasn’t far behind it. Earlier in the year we had already witnessed incredible drama at The Masters, when Jordan Spieth suffered a meltdown and handed the Green Jacket to Danny Willett, and at the US Open, where Dustin Johnson three-putted from nowhere on the final green to allow Spieth to win. This was different, with Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson producing wonderful golf over the final two days. It seemed certain that Mickelson was destined to win his second Claret Jug but the Swede produced the round of his life on the Sunday, reducing Royal Troon to 63 blows and breaking Mickelson’s heart.
2006 Tiger Woods, Hoylake
Remarkably, Woods used his driver only once in 72 holes. When he arrived at Hoylake he couldn’t believe how hard and fast the fairways were and devised a strategy that he stuck with for all four days. He consistently hit a two iron from the tee, with the aim of keeping the ball in play. It worked perfectly and he won the tournament with an 18-under-par total of 270, two shots better than Chris DiMarco.
2000 Tiger Woods, St Andrews
This was the first of Woods’ Open masterclasses. He played 72 holes at the Old Course without once finding a single bunker. That was remarkable enough, but he also finished the week without a single three-putt - an incredible achievement when you consider the size of most of the greens on the most famous links course on the planet. His winning total was 269, 19 under par, and he beat Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn by eight strokes.
1970 Jack Nicklaus, St Andrews
Tony Jacklin was the defending champion and raced to the turn in 29 shots on the opening day before being forced off the course because of a downpour. When he returned, the magic was gone and he came home in 38 for a 67. As the tournament reached its conclusion, Doug Sanders came to the 72nd hole requiring a par to win. He left his first putt three feet short. As he stood over the tiddler, he spotted an imaginary piece of grass on the green and bent down to remove it. He then missed the putt. Jack Nicklaus then beat him in an 18-hole playoff the following day after hitting his drive through the back of the final green.
1984 Seve Ballesteros, St Andrews
Seve Ballesteros was at the peak of his considerable powers when The Open returned to St Andrews once more in 1984. He was in contention from the start and went into the final round on 207, nine under par and two shots behind joint leaders Tom Watson and Ian Baker-Finch, of Australia. Ballesteros finished with a round of 69, the highlight of which was his birdie putt on the 72nd hole, which fell in the side of the hole and prompted one of the most famous scenes of celebration the world of golf has ever seen. Ballesteros repeatedly punched the air in delight. Behind him, Watson was coming to grief on the famous Road Hole, his chances over when he ended up on the road. Ballesteros eventually won by two shots.
1995 John Daly, St Andrews
John Daly had failed to live up to the hype he had created when winning the US PGA Championship in sensational fashion in 1991, but he arrived at St Andrews and discovered that the wide open fairways were to his liking. The big American shot rounds of 67, 71, 73 and 71 to record a total of 282, six under par, and then waited to see if anybody could catch him. Italy’s Costantino Rocca came to the last requiring a birdie to force a playoff. He drove just short of the 18th green but then completely fluffed his pitch shot. He pulled out his putter and struck the ball more in hope than expectation and watched in disbelief as it tracked through the Valley of Sin, up over the green and disappeared into the hole. He fell to his knees, beating the ground in disbelief. Unfortunately, he was spent and lost a four-hole playoff to Daly.
2007 Padraig Harrington, Carnoustie
Sergio Garcia led the field after 54 holes and seemed certain to be on the verge of winning his first major. But he stumbled in the final round at Carnoustie and Harrington appeared to take control of the tournament - until he came to the final hole. The Irishman put his drive into the Barry Burn. He dropped the ball under penalty and, unbelievably, put his third shot in the water guarding the green. From there he pitched on to the putting surface and holed out for a double-bogey six. Garcia came to the hole requiring a par to win, but his putt for victory slid by the cup. The two men headed off to a four-hole playoff, during which Garcia’s tee-shot at the par-three third hole struck the flag and ended up miles from the hole. Harrington held his nerve to win. Garcia had to wait a further 10 years before that first major victory.
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