It’s that time of year, the evenings are long and balmy(!) and the British Open is here. 2012 sees the world’s golfing elite descend on Royal Lytham near Blackpool and they are in for quite a test, particularly if the wind picks up over the Irish sea! To mark the start of this great sporting event we’ve picked our top 5 open moments:
‘The duel in the Sun’, 1977
35 years ago Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus were at the top of their game and were way out in front on their own at the Turnberry course. With the weather unusually hot, the two were paired together on the final day and they didn’t disappoint, the scoring was low and the rivalry fierce.
With the lead changing hands throughout the day, Watson lead going up the last. Nicklaus then found thick rough from the tee while Watson was able to get to within 18 inches of the hole and just needed that to lift the Claret jug for the first time. Cue a miraculous shot out of the rough from Nicklaus to within 35 feet and then a wonderful putt leading to an unlikely par forcing all of the pressure onto Watson for his short putt. He held his nerve and sank the putt for the win, in a great show of sportsmanship after the winning putt Nicklaus was the first to put his arm round Watson.
Jean Van Der Velde, 1999
With that brilliant battle in the mind we go to the other extreme with Jean Van de Velde’s nightmare at Carnoustie. The unheraded Frenchman had put himself into a brilliant position and only needed to card a double bogey 6 on the 18th to claim France’s first open in nearly 100 years. What happened next will go down in folklore and the video below is perhaps all that can do it justice. It should always serve as a warning to any golfers who have thought “can it really be that hard to hit the ball out of the water?”.
Rocca vs Daly, 1995
From the ridiculous to the sublime with another great duel, this time between the Italian Constantine Rocca and America’s ‘big’ John Daly. Then in his pomp, Daly was the comfortable clubhouse leader with Rocca needing two strong holes at the difficult 17th and 18th. A brilliant bump and run from the infamous road at 17 lead to a 6 ft putt being sunk for par. Rocca then needed to find the cup from 60 feet to force a playoff after a woeful approach shot at the 18th. He somehow managed to hole it and with it he sank to his knees (great reaction on the youtube clip below). Daly eventually won in the playoff but Rocca’s epic scrambling will live long in the memory!
Darren Clark, 2011
A thunderous wind had depleted a strong field at Royal St. Georges and the time had come for the 42 year old Ryder Cup hero to step up and win his first major. Having long been one of the most popular members of the tour, Clark received a rapturous reaction when he holed his final putt.
The win was made all the more emotional with Clarke dedicating his win to his wife who he had lost 5 years earlier. All this was done with his usual dignity and humility as well as a customary pint of Guinness.
Tom Watson, 2010
A second appearance for Tom Watson and perhaps an even more incredible performance than his taming of the Jack Nicklaus all those years ago in 1977. Some 33 years after that win Watson was, incredibly, on the verge of doing it again at the age of 59.
Leading the field going into the 18th Watson only needed a par to claim his 6th open win. Unfortunately Watson hit his approach at the last over the back of the green and could only card a bogey to tie with Stewart Cink, who he eventually lost to in a playoff. Despite losing this is a perfect reminder of why the British Open is so great, you never know what will happen. All that is certain is that there will be great moments!
We hope these 5 great Open memories have got you excited for tomorrow’s Open and have motivated you to get out on the course and get better at golf!