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Golfing Classics: The 5 best UK Opens of all time

The UK Open is already one of golf’s biggest prizes, but it had an extra shine to it this year, with it being the 150th tournament of its proud history.

© Photo by tsg pixels on Unsplash

The UK Open is already one of golf’s biggest prizes, but it had an extra shine to it this year, with it being the 150th tournament of its proud history.

St Andrews was the setting. It’s the 30th time that the Old Course has hosted the tournament, and it is also the scene of the first-ever 18-hole championship in 1873 — not to mention Tiger Woods’ debut tournament 122 years later.

But it’s not just St Andrews that has seen classic tournaments. All across the UK golfing circuit are courses that have seen some spectacular events, from The Belfry to Royal Troon.

This article looks at five of the finest.

Muirfield, 2013

You could have forgiven Phil Mickelson for thinking that it was never going to happen. After 21 years of competing in ‘golf’s original major’, he had never landed the ultimate prize of winning the UK Open.

Come July 21st, 2013, however, and things were starting to look different. Mickelson embarked on what his caddy called the ‘best round of his career’, shooting a closing round of 66 as he came steaming back from five behind.

His victory was aided by some spectacular misses from big names around the circuit. Adam Scott dropped a string of bogeys between the 15th and 17th holes, Lee Westwood missed shot after shot, and even the great Tiger Woods suffered a pair of bogeys halfway through.

In the end, Mickelson, nicknamed Lefty, left his competitors trailing with his five-under final round, which was four shots better than any of his rivals. His place in the golfing hall of fame was assured.

The Royal Troon, 2016

2016 saw one of the greatest run-offs in history between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, with the former equaling the Majors record round with a score of 63 and setting an Open record of 20 under par across the event.

Many fans were pleased to see Stenson pick up his first Major, especially as he was the underdog to the famous Mickelson. The intense ending was crowned by Stenson’s incredible final putt that sent the crowd wild as it sank into the hole.

The Troon tournament was also the last time the prize fund totaled seven figures. As if it wasn’t enough to practically have a lottery jackpot to share between players, the following year saw the amount leap to $10.25 million, making it the first eight-figure pool in the tournament’s history.

Carnoustie, 1953

When it comes to successful golfing years, few match Ben Hogan’s in 1953. The American is still the only player ever to land the big three events – the Masters, the US Open, and the British Open – in the same year. All coming just four years after suffering a serious injury in a car accident.

The British leg was an astounding achievement just in itself. After improving over each round, Hogan entered the final day tied for the lead. His 68, four-under par with him, secured him the trophy, with the highlight being a beautifully chipped effort from the bunker at number 5.

St Andrews, 1984

In the early 80s, Tom Watson was on the run of his career. By the time of the ’84 British Open, he’d swept up five consecutive Opens, and winning the trophy at St Andrews would make it a record-equalling six.

Heading into the final round, Watson was tied for the lead, and he found himself duking it out with the great Seve Ballesteros. Tied with two holes to go, Seve dramatically scored a two-point swing to put his name on the famous trophy for the second time.

The Spaniard went on to win it a third time four years later, securing his own place as a golfing legend, while Watson continued his extraordinary career until well into the new millennium, making a famous appearance at the 2009 UK Open.

Turnberry, 1977

Still on the subject of Mr. Watson, we’ve decided to save his most famous Open appearance until last. Known as ‘The Duel in the Sun’, the epic showdown between Watson and Jack Nicklaus goes down in golfing folklore as one of the most captivating in history.

The pair matched each other over the first three rounds at the first-ever Turnberry Open and pulled away from the rest of the group in their pursuit of the trophy. By the last six holes they were ten shots ahead, so that everyone knew that it came down to just the two of them.

As they took it to the final hole, their class really started to shine through. Nicklaus putted a 32-foot monster to get a birdie, but Watson somehow matched him to record a famous victory by one shot.

Third-placed Hubert Green summed up the drama by saying: “I won this golf tournament. I don’t know what sport those other two guys were playing.”

Fans, too, agreed that the duel was something that didn’t quite belong on this planet.

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