The British Open, known as ‘The Open Championship’ outside of the US, is the oldest of the 4 golf majors tournaments, dating back to the 1860s. With such a long history, there has certainly been a long list of unforgettable performances, the following five included.
1. Padraig Harrington 2008
In 2008, Padraig Harrington made history by winning his second straight British Open and becoming the first European to win two consecutive Opens in over 100 years. The last person to achieve this prior to Harrington was James Braid in 1906. It wasn’t easy. During the first 12 holes it looked like a tight race between Harrington and Aussie legend Greg Norman, but soon the Irishman went from two up to one down following two consecutive Bogies. In the end, Harrington would triumph in the last round with a 2 putt for birdie on hole 15 and an eagle on hole 17, putting him in first place with a 4 stroke lead.
2. Harry Vardon 1896 & 1914
Golf legend Harry Varndon holds the record for the most wins at the British Open with 6 all time wins. It’s hard to say what his most impressive, memorable win was. However, for his first ever win in 1896, he went head to head with fellow golfer J.H. Taylor in a 36 hole playoff. Fittingly, his last victory was also over Taylor in 1914.
3. Gene Sarazen 1973
In 1973, at the age of 71, Gene Sarazen defied odds when he made a remarkable hole in one on the 8th hole. Even more remarkable is that he used a 5 iron to make the 123 yard shot and his ball bounced not once but twice before rolling into the cup. Talk about ramatic. Also known as “The Squire”, Gene Sarazen went on to become the oldest competitor to play in the British Open when he made his final appearance in 1976.
4. Jean Van de Velde 1999
In 1999 the stage was set for Jean Van de Velde to become the first Frenchman to win the Open Championship since 1907. All that stood between Van de Velde and history was the 18th hole, at which he’d arrived with a 3 shot lead. After a series of horrible shots, Van de Velde ended up in a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard. As fate would have it, Lawrie would win by 3 strokes in the 4 hole play off to win the 1999 British Open.
5. Watson vs. Nicklaus 1977
The 1977 Open Championship can only be described as epic and is perhaps one of the most memorable in its history. Two American golf legends, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, proved they were in a league of their own. While Watson went on to win, Nicklaus never trailed during the 3rd round. Watson would come back in the end, finishing one stroke ahead of Nicklaus. So impressive was their dominance throughout the competition that the 3rd place winner finished 11 strokes behind Watson and 11 behind Nicklaus.
“Open Champions,” The Open Championship
“British Open History,” Ticket City
“The Sarazen Saga,” Augusta.com