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The Open: Royal Birkdale´s hosting history

17 July 2017 10:00

The Open Championship is visiting Royal Birkdale for the 10th time this week.

Ahead of Thursday's first round, we take a look at the previous Opens to have taken place at the famous course on England's north-west coast.

 

1954 - Thomson's first title

Birkdale hosted The Open for the first time in 1954, having initially been due to stage the event in 1940 when it was cancelled due to the Second World War.

The new venue produced a new champion, as Peter Thomson became the first Australian to lift the Claret Jug.

Thomson, who would go on to win The Open on four further occasions, recorded a five-under aggregate total to finish one shot clear of fellow great Bobby Locke, Syd Scott and Dai Rees.

 

1961 - Palmer pulls off great escape en route to maiden Open triumph

Rees, who had also been second to Ben Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953, again finished a solitary stroke behind the champion when The Open returned to Birkdale seven years later and it was another legend who pipped him to the post.

On this occasion, Arnold Palmer was the man to triumph, 'The King' improving on his second-place finish as a debutant 12 months earlier.

Palmer's victory was most notable for a memorable second shot at the 15th hole (now Birkdale's 16th), where he somehow found the green from thick rough at the base of a bush. A plaque marks the spot from which his unlikely escape was made.

 

1965 - Open expert Thomson back on top

By the time Birkdale served as host again in 1965, seven years had passed since Thomson's fourth Open triumph in five attempts (and he finished second in 1957).

As defending champion Tony Lema, Palmer and Jack Nicklaus struggled amid poor weather on the final day, Thomson completed rounds of 73 and 71 to finish two clear of Christy O'Connor Sr and Brian Huggett.

Only Harry Vardon can beat Thomson's haul of five Open titles.

 

1971 - Trevino prevails in duel with Lu

Lee Trevino was in red-hot form ahead of the 1971 championship, having triumphed at the U.S. Open and Canadian Open in the lead-up to visiting Birkdale.

Trevino duly completed an unprecedented hat-trick, holding off a charge from Lu Liang-Huan on an enthralling final day. The pair carded identical scores in rounds two, three and four, after Trevino, who defended his title at Muirfield the following year, had shot 69 to Lu's 70 at the start of the event.

 

1976 - Miller the master as Seve breaks through

A final-round 66 saw Johnny Miller win by the emphatic margin of six shots in 1976, but the tournament is perhaps better remembered for the emergence of Seve Ballesteros.

At the age of 19, Ballesteros thrilled the Birkdale crowds in only his second Open appearance and led Miller by two shots after the second and third rounds.

Miller proved a class apart on the final day, but there was still a final flourish from Seve, who pulled off a daring chip-and-run between two bunkers at the last to secure a share of second with Jack Nicklaus.

In his winner's speech, an admiring Miller said: "That chip-and-run between the bunkers on 18 - man, that's a great shot. I was very impressed with that."

 

1983 - Watson joins elite company as Irwin pays for air-shot

Thomson is not the only golfing icon to have claimed their fifth Open title at Birkdale. In 1983, Tom Watson emulated the feat by following up his four previous successes on Scottish soil.

A week that featured an albatross from Bill Rogers ended with Watson requiring a par on the 18th to claim victory. 

The American rose to the challenge superbly, a sweetly struck approach to around 20 feet with a two-iron prompting Watson to raise his arms in triumph, safe in the knowledge that the Claret Jug was all but secured.

At nine under, Watson finished one shot clear of Andy Bean and Hale Irwin, the latter left to rue an astonishing third-round error at the 14th, where he somehow missed the ball as he looked to convert a tap-in. 

 

1991 - Third time lucky for Baker-Finch 

Prior to the 1991 Open Championship, Ian Baker-Finch had twice played in the tournament's final Sunday pairing, in 1984 and 1990, only to come up short.

The Australian was not to be denied for a third time. On this occasion, he set a new course record at Birkdale with a third-round 64 - subsequently beaten by Jodie Mudd's 63 the following day - before surging clear with a sensational start to his last 18.

Baker-Finch birdied five of the first seven holes, turned in 29 and completed a sublime 66 to finish two clear of compatriot Mike Harwood. "All the times I didn't go on and win made me stronger," said the new champion.

 

1998 - O'Meara completes glorious major double

Having shared third behind Baker-Finch on his previous visit to Birkdale, Mark O'Meara made history in Southport seven years later.

Enjoying the standout season of his career at the age of 41, O'Meara became the oldest man to win the Masters and Open Championship in the same year.

The popular veteran beat Brian Watts, who had led after rounds two and three, in a play-off to clinch the Claret Jug.

Tiger Woods missed out on the play-off by one stroke following birdies at three of the final four holes, while Justin Rose excelled as a 17-year-old amateur, memorably holing a pitch for birdie at the last to share fourth place. It remains Rose's best finish at the event.

 

2008 - Norman rolls back the years, but Harrington retains title

If the teenage Rose provided one of the enduring memories of the 1998 Open, it was a much more senior figure who stole the show in 2008, as Greg Norman threatened to pull off an unlikely triumph.

Playing his first major for three years, the former world number one and two-time Open champion used all his experience of links golf to defy strong winds and sensationally lead the way heading into the final round.

Norman could not quite pull off a fairytale triumph, as he fell away on Sunday to share third with Henrik Stenson. Instead, Padraig Harrington prevailed by an ultimately comfortable margin to retain the title he had claimed at Carnoustie 12 months earlier.

The fact Harrington, who was assured of victory after eagling the 17th, won by four strokes with an aggregate total of three over said much for the stern challenge the field faced as gusts battered Birkdale.

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