10 Memorable British Opens – The New York Times

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After last year’s tournament was canceled because of the pandemic — the first time since World War II — the British Open is back.

The Open will be staged this week at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent, England. The last time it was held there was in 2011, when Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland won by three shots over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

The event, the final major of the season, was first played in 1860 and has long provided stunning moments. Here, in chronological order, are 10 British Opens that stand out.

Ben Hogan was the champion in the only British Open he competed in, winning by four strokes.

Tied for the lead entering the final round, Hogan shot a four-under 68, which included a birdie at No. 5 when he chipped in from the bunker.

Hogan’s victory capped what ranks as one of the most remarkable seasons in golf: Only four years after he was seriously injured in a car accident, Hogan also won the Masters and the United States Open.

Arnold Palmer won by a shot over Dai Rees, although it was not only the final result that was significant; it was also that Palmer, the most popular player in the game,was appearing in the British Open for the second year in a row.

Palmer, who had finished second in 1960, would inspire other American players to make the long trip. The British Open began to assume a larger stature. Palmer won the tournament again in 1962.

All Doug Sanders, one of golf’s most colorful figures, needed was to convert a three-foot putt on the final hole and he would be the champion.

He missed it. The next day, in an 18-hole playoff, he lost to a fellow American, Jack Nicklaus, by a shot. On the 18th hole, Nicklaus hit a 360-yard drive that went through the green. He chipped to about eight feet away and made the putt for his first major title since 1967.

For Nicklaus, who would win three British Open titles, that was considered a drought.

Nicklaus, who had already won the Masters and U.S. Open, was going for the grand slam (winning all four majors in the same year).

With one round to go, he trailed the leader, Lee Trevino, by six strokes. Nicklaus made quite a charge in the final round, shooting a five-under 66, but Trevino held on to win by a stroke. England’s hero, Tony Jacklin, came in third, two shots back.

Hubert Green, who finished third, 11 shots back, put it best when describing the battle between Tom Watson and Nicklaus: “I won this golf tournament. I don’t know what game those other two guys were playing.”

Watson and Nicklaus both shot a five-under 65 in the third round. In the final round, Watson recorded another 65 to win by one. Nicklaus made a 32-foot birdie putt on the final hole, forcing Watson to convert his two-footer for the victory. The tournament is known as the “Duel in the Sun.”

Watson, going for his third straight British Open, and sixth overall, made a bogey on the Road Hole, No. 17, losing by two strokes to Seve Ballesteros.

For Ballesteros, who trailed by two shots heading into the final round, it was his second Open championship. He had won the title in 1979 and would win for a third time in 1988. (Ballesteros also captured the Masters in 1980 and 1983.)

One of the most enduring images of the 1984 Open was the fist pump Ballesteros gave after his final putt on 18.

Golf can be a cruel game, as Jean van de Velde found out at Carnoustie.

Leading by three on the par-4 final hole, he made a triple bogey, resulting in one of golf’s most heartbreaking meltdowns. He lost in a playoff to Paul Lawrie.

This tournament also has an enduring image: van de Velde standing in the water at 18, realizing that he would have to take a penalty stroke instead of trying to hit the ball.

With one hole to go, the impossible was about to happen.

Watson, at age 59, was going to capture the British Open. All he needed was one more par and he would become the first player to win a major in his 50s.

Watson’s second shot ended up over the green. He putted to about eight feet away, but then missed the next one for par. He lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.

Mickelson had not been at his best in previous British Opens. In 19 appearances, he had recorded only two Top 10s.

This time, because of a final-round five-under 66, he won by three strokes over Henrik Stenson. Lee Westwood, who was the leader heading into Sunday, faltered with a 75 to finish four back.

The victory put Mickelson closer to the career grand slam. At 51, he has yet to achieve it.

As in 1977, it was a two-man battle. Mickelson, seeking his second British Open, was on fire from the start, with rounds of 63, 69, 70 and 65. Stenson was better, setting a record for the fewest strokes, 264, in a major championship.

They were tied with five holes to go on Sunday. Stenson, who shot a final-round 63, birdied 14, 15 and 16. At 15, he made a 51-foot putt from off the green. J.B. Holmes finished third, 14 back.

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