5. 2002: Muirfield: Four-man four-hole playoff
One of the most charming things about the British Open is its four-hole aggregate playoff. In effect since 1985, a number of British Opens have been decided in this way. But in 2002, four men were tied after the final round; the most ever at the British Open. After posting low scores early in the day, Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet were tied for first. Ernie Els did not play as well but managed to tie the threesome at -6. After four extra holes, Els and Levet were tied, so sudden death was needed. On the first extra hole, Ernie Els won the 2002 British Open.
4. 1970: St. Andrews: Jack Nicklaus lets loose
On the last hole of the 1970 British Open, Doug Sanders had an opportunity to win the Claret Jug and defeat Jack Nicklaus, the man who would go on to win more majors than anybody else. All Sanders had to do was make a three foot putt. But the shot was on a diagonal downhill angle. Sanders missed the shot badly, forcing an 18-hole playoff with Jack Nicklaus. The next day, Jack Nicklaus sank an eight foot putt on the final hole to defeat Doug Sanders. Overjoyed, Jack Nicklaus threw his putter in the air. Click here to see Jack Nicklaus in the 1970 British Open.
3. 1962: Troon: Arnold Palmer Mania
Although Jack Nicklaus was the greatest golfer of his era, and perhaps of all time, Arnold Palmer was the most popular. But Arnold Palmer had his own mini-era of dominance at the British Open. After finishing second by just one stroke at the 1960 British Open, Arnold Palmer would win the following year. In 1962, the “troops” were at “Troon” as “Arnie’s Army” showed up in record numbers. Arnold Palmer was even more dominant in 1962, winning with a score of -12. Arnold Palmer’s victory at the 1962 British Open is credited with revitalizing the event in the eyes of the world.
2. 2009: Turnberry; Tom Watson suffers a heartbreaking loss
Words cannot describe the sadness in most golf fans’ hearts over the narrow defeat of Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open. Had he won, Tom Watson would have shattered the previous record of the oldest man at win a major by 11 years of age. Needing only a par to win the British Open, Tom Watson made a bogey on the final hole to force a playoff with Stewart Cink. During the four-hole overtime, Tom Watson could not keep up with Cink who won the 2009 British Open. Still, Tom Watson’s courageous performance made this one of the most memorable Open’s ever.
1. 1977: Turnberry: “The Duel in the Sun”
Although he lost in 2009, Tom Watson scored a victory at the greatest British Open ever played. Commonly referred to as “The Duel in the Sun,” Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus put on a display of golf that may never be matched. After notching identical scores in each of the first three rounds, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus finished at least 10 shots ahead of the third place finisher. Even on Sunday, they both shot incredibly well. After making a birdie on 17, Tom Watson was forced to also birdie 18 to win after Jack Nicklaus made a 40 foot putt on the final hole. The victory gave Tom Watson his second British Open crown. And he would go on to win five British Opens in nine years.
All historical data found at “The Open’s” official website