Royal Birkdale famous shots
Royal Birkdale has seen some truly memorable Open Championship moments.
Our editor, Dan Murphy, made the trip to the coast to re-create some of the most famous shots that had been witnessed over the years.
It was described as the loudest roar ever heard on a golf course when the 17-year-old amateur Justin Rose holed his pitch shot at the final hole of the ’98 Open to finish in a tie for fourth.
Rose says: “I wish I could remember exactly how loud it was. I went completely numb when that ball went in. It was a pretty special ending, you couldn’t have written it any more dramatically. I haven’t watched the video for a good few years, but in the past when I hadn’t been playing well, it was good to put it on and I always cranked the volume up to maximum when we get to the last shot.
While England melted in a heatwave, a blazing youth burnt up the tinder links with a heady mix of charm and violence, imagination and humility. At Birkdale’s final hole the young Severiano Ballesteros was faced with a ruinous pitch over two cavernous bunkers.
The only option seemed to be to hit a high wedge and accept the inevitability of a 30ft putt. Seve saw something different.
He took out his nine-iron and punched his ball out of the wispy rough, running it up through the dust between the bunkers, bringing it to a halt 3ft from the pin. John Jacobs, the coach who three years later would captain Seve in the first of his Ryder Cups, said: “That shot alone convinced me that Seve was a genius.”
After a wayward drive on the 16th, Henry Longhurst described Palmer’s ball as lying at “the bottom of a small, sandy bank, buried deep in some blackberry bushes”.
Any mortal would have wedged his ball back to the fairway, but Palmer played with a swagger that tilted him between triumph and disaster. He took a six-iron and smashed his ball on to the green through a blizzard of discarded vegetation. Palmer went on to win the Open by a shot and a plaque now marks the spot of the heroic deed.
The most memorable shot on his way to a four-shot victory was a stunning 5-wood approach into the par-5 17th. After finding the fairway from the tee, the Irishman, who at the time had a two-shot lead at five over par, was left with 272 yards to the flag at the back of the green.
The wind was hard off the left and the green’s entrance was narrow, forcing him to start the ball over the grandstand in the left rough and trust the wind to push the ball back.
He hit the perfect shot, carrying the greenside trap by a matter of yards and releasing down to four feet from the flag. He duly rolled in the putt for his second eagle on that hole during the week to set up the win.