Royal Troon's past Open Champions

History

Golf historian Alun Evans pays tribute to the eight men who have won the Open at the Ayrshire links

Royal Troon first hosted The Open Championship in 1923 and since then has seen some unlikely winners pick up the Claret Jug and have their names etched in the history of this great Major championship.

1923 – Arthur Havers

Arthur Havers

A golf historian and statistician should start as he means to carry on: the first-ever Open at Troon was the 58th playing of the event, some 63 years after the very first.

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Until 1921 when St Andrews-born emigré Jock Hutchison became the first American to take the Claret Jug (then Walter Hagen went on to claim the trophy for the first of four times the following year), no one from across the pond had won the Open.

So normal service was resumed (surely?) when Arthur Havers from Norwich pipped Walter to reclaim the national treasure just five days after his 25th birthday.

1950 – Bobby Locke

Bobby Locke

Fully 27 years later…and Troon was host to the Open again.

Cotton’s win in 1934, and again in 1948, had helped galvanize the home golfers against the American challenge, albeit diluted in both quality and quantity since the heyday of Hagen and Bob Jones.

From 1950, though, another gang of overseas marauders would replace the dwindling ranks of Yanks in search of the golfing grail, led by Bobby Locke at Troon, the first South African to claim the Jug.

For the next decade, courtesy of Locke, Peter Thomson, Gary Player and Kel Nagle, the Commonwealth would rack up another nine titles.

1962 – Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer made it back-to-back Open victories when he won by six shots, setting a new Championship low of 276, and taking the sweetest revenge on Jack Nicklaus who had brazenly stolen his US Open crown a month earlier – and he was only recently out of the amateur ranks!

Jack was making his Open Championship debut, and was chastened, if not psychologically scarred, by a 72-hole total of 305 which restricted him to a tie of 34th place.

1973 – Tom Weiskopf

Tom Weiskopf

Heavy rain plagued Troon’s fourth Open. By 1973 the Americans, after the exploits of Palmer and Nicklaus a decade and more earlier, had ‘got’ the Open, and seeing six, as here, among the top-10 finishers was now quite the norm.

Indeed, Lee Trevino was hoping to make his Open ‘triple crown’ but it was not to be. The man in form, Tom Weiskopf, prevailed.

His Open success would be one of five wins in an eight-week period on the PGA Tour.

1982 – Tom Watson

Tom Watson

Royal’ Troon since 1978 (the only club to be accorded royal designation by the present monarch) saw the fifth visit here of the Open and a fourth championship for Tom Watson – and all on Scottish soil.

St Andrews would always henceforward deny him the ‘Scottish set’.

Texan Bobby Clampett, in what looked like a Harpo Marx wig, opened with 67, 66 and held a seven-stroke lead over the field at halfway, and through to the 41st hole before he crumbled.

And the man from Missouri’s class won through for another popular win.

1989 – Mark Calcavecchia

Mark Calcavecchia

Following the first play-off at a Troon Open, Mark Calcavecchia became the first American to lift the Claret Jug since Tom Watson in 1983; and the next to come along would be John Daly in 1995.

Evidence, perhaps, as borne out by Ryder Cup matches of the period, that the all-powerful United States no longer held the greatest sway over the rest in matters of men’s golf.

Greg Norman had set the target, with a course-record-breaking 64, for fellow Aussie Wayne Grady and Calcavecchia to match and force extra holes.

The Antipodeans then botched it in the play-off.

1997 – Justin Leonard

Justin Leonard

Troon in 1997 was blessed with glorious weather, much as it had been in 1989.

Masters Champion Tiger Woods made his first professional appearance in the Open, finishing tied-24th, and shot a third round 64.

Darren Clarke showed what he could do, too, leading by two at the midway point on 133.

His nearest rival, Justin Leonard, went one further adrift of the Ulsterman after 54 holes, but a storming 65 in the last round gave him, at 25, his only Major title.

Jesper Parnevik, after a pair of 66s, then shot 74 to tie Clarke – the Swede’s second missed opportunity in four years.

2004 – Todd Hamilton

Todd Hamilton

In one of the biggest upsets in any sport (at least until Leicester City upped the ante in recent months), rank outsider Todd Hamilton defeated Ernie Els in a four-hole play-off to claim the 133rd Open, the eighth held at Troon.

The then three-time Major winner Els couldn’t dismiss his playing partner for the last two rounds in regulation (even bottling a great birdie chance at the death); he then succumbed to the American after a dropping a shot at the third extra hole.

Todd Hamilton, despite sporadic, nomadic success in a couple of decades over a plethora of tours, would never again win on any of them.

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