The British Open’s Most Memorable Moments

July 18, 2017

- Grant Whittington

Golf’s most treasured major once again takes centre stage as the world’s elite congregate at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England for what will be the 146th Open Championship. From minor miracles to dramatic finishes to the most unpredictable of conditions, this is golf being played where it all began – on the sacred grounds and greens throughout Great Britain. If you fancy comparing odds for this year’s Open champion, be sure to take a look at the latest recommended bookmakers.

The event’s spectacular history has been riddled with some of the games most memorable moments. Here are our magnificent seven.

“The Duel in the Sun” (1977)

It was clear that Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson were playing in their own universe such was their supremacy, culminating in arguably the most thrilling one-on-one battle ever contested in a major. Both players shot 65s on the Saturday to separate themselves from the rest of the pack going into Sunday’s climax and were tied all the way through to the 16th hole of the final round.

Nicklaus missed a short birdie putt on the par-5 17th hole to tie Watson, who had reached in two and birdied. On the par-4 18th hole, Nicklaus recovered from the rough and sank a brave birdie putt, which forced Watson to tap home his short birdie putt to taste glory. Sportingly, Nicklaus thrust his arm around Watson’s shoulder, and they walked off to the scorer’s tent.

Celebration Time (1984)

The much-missed Seve Ballesteros saw off the threat of five-time champion Watson with a terrific birdie on the 18th green to secure his second Open title. What followed was one of the most iconic celebrations in the history of golf; a triple fist pump becoming his cherished trademark victory salute. Ballesteros described the putt he holed on the 18th green at St Andrews  as “the happiest moment of my whole sporting life”.

PARdon Nick’s Brilliance (1987)

Nick Faldo’s 1987 triumph was unadulterated consistency personified as he nailed Par on every hole in the final round to become the first Englishman to win the Open Championship since Tony Jacklin 18 years previously. This remarkable run of unerring ball striking in the cool, misty surroundings saw him overtake Paul Azinger who had led by one stroke going into the final round.

Pulling A “Van De Velde” (1999)

A disintegration to rival any. Jean Van De Velde had one and a half hands on the Claret Jug when he arrived at the final hole of the 1999 Open Championship needing only a double bogey six to become the first Frenchman since 1907 to win a major tournament.

Despite birdying the hole in two prior rounds, his disastrous finale started with a wayward tee shot and after skirmishes into the rough and his third shot flying into the water, Van De Velde eventually made a 10-footer for triple-bogey to force a playoff with Paul Lawrie who ended up winning the title as a result of this unforgettable collapse.

Woods Tears Of Joy (2006)

Gruelling injuries coupled with well-documented personal struggles make it convenient to forget that Tiger Woods was once a golfing phenomenon who dominated the sport throughout the 2000’s. His life really began to unravel after the death of his father Earl which makes his faultless performance in the 2006 Open one to treasure, coming just two months after the loss of his dad.

Tiger took apart the course at Hoylake with an accuracy rarely seen in golf and the moment the typically unruffled champion broke down in tears after sinking the final putt is one etched in Open history.

Watson Rolls Back The Years (2009)

There was no sign of 59-year-old Tom Watson fading away into the abyss following his agonising tilt at claiming a sixth Open eight years ago and in the process become the eldest man to win a major title.

Having led after the second and third rounds, the legendary American missed an eight-foot putt to win the tournament and ended up falling short in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. Such was Watson’s popularity with the Turnberry crowd; Cink even admitted that he was rooting for his opponent.

And Who Could Forget Last Year…(2016)

Henrik Stenson became the first Scandinavian to win a major title when he claimed victory at Royal Troon with a record-breaking score of -20. However, it was the awe-inspiring standard that both he and runner-up Phil Mickleson (-17) produced over the 72 holes that made this contest all the more remarkable.

The two frontrunners were tied with five holes to play until Stenson made an 18-foot birdie on the par-3 14th and a 50-footer for birdie at the next hole. The Swede’s 10 birdies in his final round of 63 proved to be pivotal in holding off Mickelson and his bogey-free 65. Ironically, Mickelson shot a 63 of his own that week in the first round and was a fraction away from shooting the first 62 in major history.

Who is next in line to raise aloft the coveted Claret Jug? Jordan Speith has been installed as favourite to win the Open and you can find our latest odds here.

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