Apologies to Greg Norman and Sir Nick Faldo, Nick Price and Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf and Arnold Palmer, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor, great golfers all. In the imaginations of some, each would doubtless stride into in a roll call of epic Open moments. Subjectivity is a cruel blade and with it they did not make the cut on this occasion.
Only Bobby Jones of history’s majestic warriors made my list. Anybody who sparks a ticker-tape parade in New York, as Jones did after winning the Open in 1930, gets my vote whether I saw him or not. The rest were recollections from my youth, when, in the memory at least, summers burned the landscape gold, and later, observations of a professional nature that stirred the pen, or rather the keyboard.
Winning did not always leave the strongest imprint. As we know catastrophe can be every bit as dramatic as success. Who shall ever forget the sight of Jean van de Velde knee deep in the Barry Burn during the mother of all chokes? Some victories were valued for their significance rather than the manner of delivery, inviting Tony Jacklin and Sandy Lyle to sit at this high table. Others speak for themselves.
1. 2000: Tiger Woods too good for the Old Course at his peak. Won by eight shots, avoiding all 112 bunkers en route to his first Open crown and career grand slam at 24.
2. 1979: A 22-year-old Seve Ballesteros went from pillar to car park at Royal Lytham only to swashbuckle his way majestically to the first of his three Open titles.
3. 1977: The Dual in the Sun at a baked Turnberry saw Jack Nicklaus post final rounds of 65-66 and still come up a stroke short of Tom Watson, who closed with two 65s.
4. 2009: Stewart Cink spoiled the greatest story never told, denying 59-year-old Tom Watson in a play-off after the old boy missed an eight-foot par putt to win.
5. 1969: Tony Jacklin took a two-shot lead over Doug Sanders into the final round at Royal Lytham and maintained it to become the first Englishman to win the Open for 18 years,
6. 1995: John ‘lights out’ Daly overpowered St Andrews only to be caught at the last by Constantino Rocca, who holed a 50-footer for a play-off. Big John prevailed in shoot-out.
7. 1970: Doug Sanders became a beacon for the broken hearted at majors, missing a two-and-a-half footer to win at St Andrews and thus handing victory to Jack Nicklaus.
8. 1985: Sandy Lyle overcame a three-shot deficit on the final day at Royal St George’s to prevail by one from Payne Stewart for a first British win since Jacklin.
9. 1999: Jean van de Velde, pants rolled up in the Barry Burn, drowned a 3-shot lead at Carnoustie’s 72 hole. Paul Lawrie, starting ten back, said thanks via a play-off.
10. 1930: A week after winning the Amateur Championship Bobby Jones won the Open at Hoylake en route to the grand slam, subsequently adding US Open and US Amateur.Reuse content