Every July, fans of golf everywhere are captivated by The Open Championship, known to yanks as the “British Open”. This historic golf tournament is a time-honored tradition with roots stretching back well over two hundred years. Over the course of that time, The Open has been credited with expanding the popularity of golf in the United States, particularly during the 1920s, when Americans won an almost unbroken string of victories.
Although countless golfers have made an impact at the tournament, five performances stand out as some of the most memorable. These five historic performances at the British Open not only represent some of the best moments of the tournament, they also had a lasting influence on the sport of golf itself.
Walter Hagen becomes the first American to win the British Open
Beginning in 1922, Walter Hagen’s victory was the starting point of what would be nearly ten years of Americans wins at the tournament. Three of those tournaments would be won again by Hagen before the 1920s had ended. With 11 Majors wins, Hagen’s overall record stands third behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, though his impact on history arguably casts a shadow over both golfers.
Greg Norman defies the odds in 2008
A more recent memory is Australian Greg Norman’s incredible performance in 2008. At over 50 years of age, most onlookers considered Norman’s best golfing days to be behind him, giving him extremely long odds at the outset. Norman would go on to defy, impress, and humble naysayers, and while he ended up third at the end of the tournament, his remarkable performance is one of the most inspiring.
Arnold Palmer kick-starts a new era for golf
Any American golfer worth his salt knows about Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, whose wins at the British Open led to a surge of American interest in the sport. By completely dominating the tournament in 196, in conditions affected by torrential downpours, and seen by television-viewing audiences across America, Palmer became an instant star.
Tiger Woods’ winning streak continues at the British Open in 2000
Still a young, but unquestionably talented, golfer in 2000, Woods already had multimillion dollar endorsement deals but as yet unwritten legacy. The young golfer silenced doubters and made his first indelible mark on the history of the sport starting 1999 with a winning streak that included a victory at the British Open in 2000. While Woods was already a star in America, his British Open win arguably cemented his status as an international phenomenon.
1977: The Duel in the Sun
Many seasoned fans of the sport will tell you that one of their fondest memories is the thrilling battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at the British Open in 1977. Surrounded by excited crowds, Nicklaus and Watson engaged in a remarkable deadlock of a battle. Beyond some of the best golf seen to date by two players who were, at that moment, indisputably the greatest in the world, the chivalry of the sport was also on display. At the end of the day, Nicklaus and Watson highlighted a kind of sportsmanship and camaraderie that seems all too absent in some sports these days.