With the Open Championship contested this week, all eyes will be on Royal Troon and the annual battle for the Claret Jug. The Open or British Open is the oldest of the four major championships, and the only to be contested outside the United States. First played in 1860, the event has hosted the greatest players from every era, and we wanted to examine a few of the top performances over the past 150 years.
Harry Vardon, 1914 (Prestwick Golf Club)
At the top of the list we pay homage to one of the great players of the previous era of professional golf, the legendary Harry Vardon. His performance at Prestwick in 1914 was a wonderful showing that earned a three-shot victory, but it is on this list not because of any singular moment or round, but rather because it was the sixth Open Championship Mr. Vardon would capture in his illustrious career. At 44, he was the oldest champion in tournament history, a mark that would stand until 1967 when Roberto De Vicenzo won at Hoylake. His record of six titles, still stands.
Photo cred: http://www.lwgc.co.uk/
Nick Faldo, 1990 (St. Andrews, Old Course)
While Vardon was the greatest player in the UK at the turn of the 20th century, next on the list is the greatest modern British player, Nick Faldo. In 1990, Faldo put on one of the most memorable performances in Open history, marching to a five shot victory on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Over 72 holes, he found only one bunker and recorded no three-putts. He won the title again in 1992 and is the last Englishman to record a victory at the Open Championship.
Seve Ballesteros, 1984 (St. Andrews, Old Course)
St. Andrews makes its second appearance on our list, as the site of an iconic win for Spaniard Seve Ballesteros. Although he captured five major titles in his career, it was his 1984 performance at the Open Champion that he believed to be his finest. Although starting Sunday two-shots back of the lead, Seve played tremendous golf down the stretch to edge out fellow Hall of Famers Tom Watson, the defending champion, and Bernhard Langer. His birdie putt on the 18th hole and celebration afterward has become one of the most iconic in modern history. Check it out here: .
Tom Watson, 1977 (Turnberry)
Dubbed “The Duel in the Sun,” the 1977 showdown between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus was some of the greatest golf ever played by these titans of the game. It was Watson who emerged victorious, after shooting 65-65 to beat Nicklaus by one stroke. It came down to the final two holes, where Watson birdied the 17th and Nicklaus missed a three foot putt to settle for par. This was the first time Watson led the tournament all week. On the 18th, Nicklaus dropped a 40-foot birdie putt, but Watson answered with his own birdie to capture the win and set a new Open scoring record by eight shots. Tournament highlights can be seen here:
Tiger Woods, 2000 (St. Andrews, Old Course)
The most dominant performance in the history of the Open Championship belongs to Tiger Woods. For those not born before the summer of 2000 it is hard to describe just how amazing Tiger was during this period. He won three majors, including the U.S. Open, British and PGA Championship, setting scoring records in two of the three. At the Old Course, he fired a record-breaking 19 under par. Not only the lowest total in Open history, it was the lowest in any major, until Jason Day found -20 at the 2015 PGA Championship. He beat runner-ups Thomas Bjørn and Ernie Els by eight strokes. As if this wasn’t enough, the victory was also the final piece of the career Grand Slam for Tiger, an honor only shared by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
What is your favorite Open Championship performance? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.