The Open Championship gets underway in July, and the oldest golfing major gets set to welcome the best players on the circuit to ensue in battle once more. The Open was first played in 1860 and is often regarded as one of the most prestigious events not just in golf, but across the whole sporting calendar owing to its vast and rich history.
The Open is the last of the four golf majors and is always played in the United Kingdom; this year’s event being held at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Betting on Open Championship 2019 winner is expected to be high on the agenda, with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson amongst the early favourites. Prior to this year’s event, which tees off on the 18th July, let’s take a look at the Open archives and reflect on some of the most memorable moments the tournament has produced.
Doug Sanders v Jack Nicklaus 1970
Doug Sanders enjoyed a rather successful career in golf, winning 20 events on the PGA Tour, but was never able to win a major, with the Open in 1970 easily being his best chance to do so. In fact, only two-and-a-half feet separated Sanders from golfing folklore, but he fluffed his lines when it looked easier to putt. That miss on the 18th meant a playoff would follow and Jack Nicklaus managed to beat Sanders by just one stroke. So close, yet so far.
Padraig Harrington v Sergio Garcia 2007
It’s fair to say that both Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia were two of the best golfers in the world during the 2007 Open, but the latter’s collapse with the win in sight will likely still hurt the Spaniard to this day. In the final round, Garcia was six shots clear of Harrington at the start of the day but the Irishman managed to close the gap to just one. Garcia only needed par to win but he agonizingly lipped his putt which meant a playoff ensued. Harrington got his nose in front and ultimately never looked back, claiming the first of his two Open wins.
John Daly v Constantino Rocca 1995
The 1995 Open at St Andrews was one of the best in the tournament’s history, but try telling that to Constantino Rocca. The Italian journeyman had a relatively low-key career and he’ll always be remembered for putting one of the most outrageous shots the tournament has ever witnessed, forcing a playoff with John Daly. ‘Long John’ was somewhat perplexed by the excellence of Rocca’s putt on the 18th, and rightly so, but he made sure the Open wasn’t to elude him as he finished off Rocca at the second time of asking. You have to feel for the Italian after that.
Henrik Stenson v Phil Mickelson 2016
Royal Troon played host to the 2016 Open which saw Henrik Stenson claim his only major to date, and what a win it was from the Swede. Stenson was initially struggling behind early pacesetter Phil Mickelson, but the duo entertained the golfing world with one of the tensest final rounds the tournament has seen. The lead seemed to change constantly but as the last few holes approached, Stenson demonstrated his excellence and recorded three birdies from the last four to post a score of 63 and finish on -20, a tournament record.
Seve Ballesteros v Tom Watson/Bernhard Langer 1984
The legendary Seve Ballesteros was no stranger to winning at the Open, with three successes in a glittering career that spanned four decades. The Spaniard’s win in 1984 is arguably his best and certainly most memorable, which generated one of the most iconic celebrations that the Open has ever witnessed. Ballesteros, Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer were all battling it out to take the Claret Jug but it was the former who come up trumps, birdieing the 18th which generated the world-famous triple fist pump that has become synonymous with the Open.
Tiger Woods 2000
The most famous name in golf was just demonstrating his stunning golfing ability at the turn of the century, when he set (what was) a new Open record by winning on 19-under par. Tiger Woods won the 2000 Open by eight shots from Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els, which also made him the youngest player to win by such a large margin across all four majors (since been bettered). As you can imagine, Woods was simply irresistible in his quest for glory and he had very little trouble with the notoriously difficult bunkers, landing his fourth major at the ripe age of 24.
Jean Van de Velde’s collapse in 1999
This is still one of the biggest implosions that the Open has ever witnessed, and something that Jean van de Velde is still likely to be haunted by for the rest of his days. It almost feels unfair on winner Paul Lawrie, as the tournament is mainly remembered for van de Velde’s inability to take home the Claret Jug when he effectively had one hand on it. In the final round, van de Velde triple bogeyed the last which allowed Lawrie the victory via a playoff – which was the biggest final round comeback of a major tournament.
The Duel in the Sun 1977
It only seems right that two of the game’s best ever players treated the watching world to one of the best-ever finales that sport has ever witnessed, let alone a golf major. Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus were in essence, playing on their own in the last two rounds where the term ‘Duel in the Sun’ was phrased from. They were quite literally matching each other’s efforts and producing some of the finest shots they’ve recorded in their illustrious careers. In the end, it was Watson who took the glory after he sank a two-foot putt to record a 65 in the final round and by doing so, picked up his second successive Open. Nicklaus though, was full of praise for Watson and duly put his arm around Watson to congratulate him after what was a herculean effort from both players.