The Open’s 10 Most Famous Moments

Michael Weston, 19th June 2019

the open famous moments

We take a trip through time and look back at the 10 most famous moments in Open Championship history. Where does the time go?

Seve’s jig

Seve Ballesteros, St Andrews, 1984

Golf’s archives are littered with iconic Seve moments – but this one might just top the lot.

When the “People’s Champion” – donning that smart navy sweater -holed a 15-footer at the last, he jigged on the spot and punched the air in delight.

It’s a celebration that still gives you goosebumps. Give it a go when you win your weekend roll-up… if you haven’t done so already!

Bernard Gallacher: “Everyone wants to win at St Andrews because it’s the Home of Golf, and Seve’s victory is an iconic moment in the sport’s history. It was a great victory for Seve, and it also felt like a victory for the European Tour.”

Miracle man

Ben Hogan, Carnoustie, 1953

The American travelled to Scotland four years after his near fatal car crash to compete in his one and only Open Championship – which, of course, he won.

The reining Masters and US Open champion opened with a 73, and improved with each round, capping off a solid tournament with a birdie on the final hole and a course-record 68.

It was his ninth and final Major, and despite promising to return, he never did.

Wet wet wet

Jean van de Velde, Carnoustie, 1999

Who can forget this one? Van de Velde surrendered a three-shot cushion on the final hole and lost in the subsequent play-off.

Paul Lawrie took advantage, but it’s hard not to picture the hapless Frenchman wading around Barry Burn every time the 1999 Open is mentioned.

It was heart breaking. Even now it’s hard to watch – go on, though, have a look back. Why the 2-iron… why?

Bernard Gallacher: “It was extremely painful to watch Jean Van de Velde’s collapse in 1999. He’d battled away for 71 holes to establish a 3 stroke lead but threw it away when he momentarily lost his composure and attempted unnecessarily to hit one of the most difficult shots in golf. Talk about unintended consequences! This moment just goes to show what an pivotal role psychology plays within golf.”

Par for the course

Nick Faldo, Muirfield, 1987

Ah, yes, that bright yellow sweater. This wasn’t just the year of Faldo’s iconic jumper, however – the 116th Open will forever be remembered as the year Muirfield was ‘Faldoed’.

The Englishman carded 18 pars on his final round for a one-shot victory over Paul Azinger and Rodger Davis.

It was far from boring; when Faldo was asked a question, he did what he had to. Major number one of six was secured in professional style.

Find out who would win in a hypothetical match between Faldo and Greg Norman by visiting our interactive Open winners index.

Tiger’s tears

Tiger Woods, Royal Liverpool, 2006

Woods has three Open titles to his name, but his last, 13 years ago, was surely the most emotional.

Two months after his father, Earl, had passed away, no one knew for certain what kind of Woods would show up on Merseyside.

The great man put on a masterclass, however, and plotted his way round Hoylake with unerring precision.

A great outpouring of emotion followed on the final green, before Woods held the Claret Jug aloft.

Bernard Gallacher: “Tiger’s victory at Royal Liverpool exemplified why he was better than anyone else around. He demonstrated some superb course management on a fast-running course, using a driver only 4 times over 72 holes. I love the “This one’s for Dad” quote from his caddie Steve Williams and their emotional embrace on the last green said it all.”

Rocca’s heroics in vain

Constantino Rocca, St Andrews, 1995

Surely not, not from down there. Of course he holed it, this is the sort of thing that happens at The Open.

Rocca needed a birdie on the final hole to force his way into a play-off, but when he fluffed his chip shot into the Valley of Sin, the challenge looked done and dusted.

However, he followed up with one of the most extraordinary putts in Open history, finding the bottom of the cup from 65 feet.

It was a putt worthy of winning the Claret Jug. Sadly for the Italian, John Daly had other ideas.

The ‘Duel in the Sun’

Tom Watson & Jack Nicklaus, Turnberry, 1977

This was the year Watson edged Nicklaus in the thriller later dubbed the ‘Duel in the Sun’.

The Americans had made the final round a two-horse race and they quickly went about trading blows on a fiercely hot day.

Despite being three shots behind at one stage, Watson regrouped and took the lead for the first time on the 17th. He closed with a 65 to pip his great rival by a single stroke.

Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson played out their own epic battle at Royal Troon in 2016 – but has there ever been a greater duel than this one from 42 years ago?

Bernard Gallacher: “Here you had two players at the top of their game, battling each other for golf’s most coveted title. It was like no one else was playing ! In fact, third place was 10 strokes behind Jack. My abiding memory of this moment was two friends leaving the last green arm in arm, having both given it their all. It’s just a shame there had to be a loser.”

Sanders’ agony

Doug Sanders, St Andrews, 1970

Sadly, Sanders’ missed putt is memorable for all the wrong reasons. The hesitation, the bending down to wisp away a wisp of dirt and the desperate follow-through after he pushed his short putt for victory agonisingly past the hole.

Every time you watch it back, you somehow hope for a different outcome – unless, of course, you’re Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear won the 18-hole play-off the next day.

Record-setting Woods

Tiger Woods, St Andrews, 2000

This was Woods’ first Open Championship victory – and his greatest. Quite simply, the 24-year-old was unstoppable in compiling rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 69 to win by eight shots.

En route to the second leg of the “Tiger Slam”, Woods never found a bunker. There have been plenty of dominant Tiger displays over the years, but this was one of his very best.

History repeats itself… almost

Padraig Harrington, Carnoustie, 2007

What is it about Carnoustie? Well, a treacherous 18th hole adds to the drama, and it’s witnessed plenty of that over the years.

Harrington must have had Jean Van de Velde on his mind as he stuttered down his final hole. He held a one-shot lead, before finding the water twice and racking up a double-bogey six.

However, the Irishman dodged a bullet when Sergio Garcia bogeyed the final hole, and he then came through a four-man play-off to become the first Irish winner of The Open since Fred Daly in 1947.

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