No tournament does history and drama quite like The Open, so George Cooper buried himself in the history books to pick out eight of the best
What was the best Open Championship? It’s a bit like picking your own child, really. So we’ve picked out eight that had a seismic impact on the history of golf’s oldest major in one way or another…
The epic encounter between Old and Young Tom Morris, with Junior eventually getting the better of his father at Prestwick at the age of 17 – a record that still stands, and perhaps always will.
Harry Vardon and JH Taylor headed to Prestwick tied with five Open victories each. Taylor led by two shots going into the final round, but a 44-year-old Vardon had other plans, overcoming his rival by three to capture a sixth Claret Jug, a record which still stands to this day.
Bobby Jones’ record at The Open reads WD-1-1-1, the last of those victories coming at Royal Liverpool as part of his unprecedented single-season Grand Slam. Jones overturned a one-shot deficit in the final round after Archie Compston slumped to an 82. Jones was the third and most recent amateur to lift the Claret Jug.
The infamous ‘The Duel in the Sun’ between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry. The pair went shot for shot for the first three rounds before Watson birdied four of the final six holes on Sunday to seal a dramatic victory.
Nothing could separate Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros at St Andrews, then the American failed to save par at the Road Hole before his rival holed that iconic birdie putt on 18 to secure his second Claret Jug. Cue an even more iconic celebration.
A prime Nick Faldo going for his fifth major in six years set a 36-hole record, beat his own 54-hole record, and came into the final round leading by four at Muirfield. A miserable stretch from 11 to 14 allowed John Cook to overtake him, before Faldo birdied two of the last four and to clinch it by the smallest of margins.
The ‘Millennium Open’, at St Andrews, in front of 239,000 spectators on the ground and millions watching around the world, saw Tiger Woods post a record 19-under-par score, beating his nearest opponent by eight shots, and securing the career Grand Slam at just 24 years old. We all know what happened next.
The duel that topped the Duel. Imagine going into the final day of The Open one shot off the lead, shooting 65, and still coming up three short. That’s what happened to Phil Mickelson as Henrik Stenson not only carded a 63 – then a record scoreline in a major – while also setting the 72-hole score at 20-under-par.
What was our favourite Open?
So how about The Open from a personal level? The NCG team pick out their favourites for a variety of reasons…
“I fell in love with the game – and Nick Faldo – watching the entirety of the 1990 Open at St Andrews on a tiny TV screen in our family pub, but the 2014 Open at Hoylake holds so many personal memories that will last a lifetime. So I’ll say that one.”Alex Perry
“It will always be Muirfield in 2002 – my first Open as a journalist. I couldn’t believe I was being paid – not very much but still – to go to the Open. I was there from the Saturday before to the Monday after and didn’t miss a shot all week. Twenty years on, the memories remain vivid.”Dan Murphy
“I reached Jordan Spieth just as he almost aced the 14th on the final day the 2017 Open at Birkdale. I then had a grandstand view for what will surely always remain the most exhilarating stretch of holes in Open history.”Steve Carroll
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Open as my parents met at St Andrews in 1990, but I wasn’t there so I’ll go for 2006 at Hoylake. I was 10 and Phil Mickelson gave me his golf ball. I still remember thinking my dad was mates with him because of the way he said, ‘Thanks, Phil.’”Hannah Holden
“2006 at Hoylake will hold a special place in my heart as my first Open and the first time I saw Tiger Woods, but I’ll go for 2016 at Troon. Arguably the greatest head-to-head showdown in the game’s history, and it was incredible how Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson made the whole field seem irrelevant in their iconic tussle.”George Cooper