OPEN GOLF: Lytham through the agesJuly, 2012
Alun Evans recalls some of the best Championships at Lytham
ROYAL LYTHAM is jointly the fifth-most-used peripatetic Open venue (and for any Major) since 1860. St Andrews (28 times), Prestwick (24), Muirfield (15), Sandwich (14) lead the field; and this year Lytham will tie Hoylake, along with the only American course, Oakmont (8 US Opens; 3 PGA Championships) on 11. Here is the story of the first 10.
1952 Bobby Locke
The Open didn’t return to Lytham until 1952. Bobby Locke won his third Open in four years, as had Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon and James Braid. Only three Americans − Gene Sarazen (aged 50), Frank Stranahan and Jimmy Hines – deigned to compete.
1958 Peter Thomson
Sarazen was the sole US player when Peter Thomson won his fourth of five Open titles in 1958. The US Tour was much more lucrative with the onset of regular televised sport, and without the Americans, the Open as a major event was slowly dying. Then it was resurrected by the first visit of
Arnold Palmer two years later and became a Major. Dave Thomas equalled Thomson’s score − the only Welshman to tie for the Open – but lost in a play-off.
1963 Bob Charles
Charles became the first ‘lefty’ to win a Major championship. The New Zealander beat American Phil Rodgers in the second consecutive 36-hole play-off in a Lytham Open. There has not been a play-off there since. The R&A adopted the concept of a ‘par’ score for the first time: the Americans had been doing so in their Open as far back as 1906.
1969 Tony Jacklin
Jacklin became the first Englishman to take the Claret Jug since Max Faulkner in 1951. In a top 10 that included five previous Open champions (Charles, de Vicenzo, Thomson, Nicklaus and Nagle), Davis Love III’s father, Davis Love Jr, claimed sixth spot.
Royal Lytham is jointly the fifth-most-used peripatetic Open venue (and for any Major) since 1860.
1974 Gary Player
Player won his third Open. Since his first Open win in 1959 he had also collected two Masters, two PGAs and a US Open. The ‘bigger’ ball (1.68” diameter against the British 1.62”), was now compulsory. Apart from Ben Hogan, every Open winner from 1951 onwards competed in 1974.
1979 Seve Ballesteros
A rollercoaster final round put the exciting young Spaniard on the Major map. He almost won at Birkdale three years earlier; now he thrilled with his sheer shot-making and scrambling genius. He was the youngest Open winner at 22 years 3 months 12 days, since Willie Auchterlonie in 1893.
The Spaniard became the first repeat winner of the Open at Lytham, when, playing a much more measured game than that of his wild youth, he claimed the Claret Jug for the third and last time in 1988. It marked the end of Seve’s Majors successes, too. Along with his three Opens he’d donned two Green Jackets at Augusta. Rain washed out the third day’s play, disappointing a crowd of 36,000, so play was taken into a Monday at Lytham for the first and only time.
1996 Tom Lehman
The first Open to be classed as a PGA Tour event. In 1988, the winner’s purse was £80,000; in 1996 it was £200,000. Lehman was the first American champion here since Jones in 1926, courtesy of a 54-hole total of 198, still a record. Tiger Woods tied the all-time amateur Open low on his debut.
2001 David Duval
His only Major success, birdieing all the par 5s in his final round. Ian Woosnam tied 3rd place, his best finish in a Major since 1992. Having birdied the 1st on Sunday to take the lead, the Welshman’s caddie Miles Byrne told him there were 15 clubs in his bag. The par-71 course measured 6,905 yards. ◆