It’s that time of the year when golf enthusiasts spend four days sat in front of the television watching the greatest major on the circuit. Yes the British Open is once again upon us and with Royal Birkdale the destination, it’s guaranteed to be a must watch event. To get us in the mood we here at the MALESTROM have come up with some of our favourite and most memorable moments this storied occasion has thrown up.
A 22 year old Seve Ballesteros at Royal Lytham.
Back in 1979 Seve Ballesteros became the youngest British Open winner in 86 years and the third youngest winner of all time with victory at the blustery Lytham & St Annes. At just 22 years old the mercurial Ballesteros spent the majority of the final round missing the fairway, but his mesmerising recovery play and deft touch on and around the green was a sight to behold. It was on the 16th hole that Seve struck his tee shot into the car park and taking advantage of the free drop, conjured up an approach to within 20 feet of the pin, the rest as they say is history.
Jean Van de Velde – need we say more?
Oh lordy lordy! It was back in 1999 a charming and handsome Frenchman played three days of perfect golf before suffering a severe case of how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Golfing fans worldwide hid behind the sofa as Jean Van de Velde teed up on the 18th hole at Carnoustie needing only a six to secure Open glory, in what can only be described as a memorable moment you’d like to forget. Having hit a wayward drive back onto the 17th, Van de Velde proceeded to find the deep rough with his second before shanking his third into the Barry Burn river.
Then things got very strange much to the annoyance of Peter Alliss, Van de Velde rolled up his kecks and for a moment appeared to be considering the unthinkable. It was calamitous stuff culminating in Van de Velde rescuing a 7 before losing a three way play off to Paul Lawrie, who by the way recorded the biggest final day turnaround in Open history. Word on the street was, due to Van de Velde having a three shot lead going into the 18th his name had (literally) already been engraved on the Claret, que sera, sera.
Henrik Stenson’s record breaking victory!
Fully deserving of his place on the list, the big Swede’s 72 hole 20 under par set a new record for the lowest score at the British Open. His epic battle with Phil Mickleson who himself carded an incredible 17 under (enough to win any major) enthralled the vast crowds at Royal Troon. Stenson holed a remarkable ten birdies in that final round of 63, and to underline just what a special round of golf it was, take into consideration the fact that he also had two bogeys! The quality of golf on show was of the highest calibre as the rest of field were left trailing in their wake. It was Stenson’s often unreliable putting which secured victory as he holed from all over the place, to become the first Scandinavian to win a major title, in what many feel was the best round of all time.
Farewell Golden Bear, hello Tiger.
At St. Andrews in 2005, we saw the British Open say farewell to one of golf’s all time great’s Jack Nicklaus. As he posed on the Swilcan Bridge and waved goodbye to the adoring masses on the 18th, a 29 year old Tiger Woods was stalking his prey in the final round of the Championship, devouring any that stepped in his way. This was his second victory in the Open, winning with what was at the time a record setting total of 19 under par. With such a dominant performance it seemed Jack’s total of 18 Majors would be under threat from Woods, but given his injuries and issues in his personal life it looks like Tiger won’t be adding to his 14 titles anytime soon.
Ian Baker-Finch wins The Open.
When The 120th British Open Championship rolled into Birkdale in July 1991, the name of 30-year-old Australian golfer Ian Baker Finch was not on the lips of many. Despite this the largely unknown pink shirt clad Aussie, with his impeccable iron play and steely putting gained a memorable victory over Mike Harwood by 2 strokes. Baker-Finch carded a magnificent 29 on the front nine, that included birdies on the first five of seven holes. His game largely fell apart after the tournament, and he’s also remembered for a certain drive at St Andrews in 1995, but despite this he remains a hero in the hearts of those there at Birkdale that day.
The Wild Thing swings his way to victory at St. Andrews!
Daly’s bleached mullet hair, rock and roll attitude and booming drives made an unlikely pairing with the home of golf, yet they became firm friends in 1995. A 66-1 outsider at the start of pre-tournament, Daly played the golf of his life to secure the Claret Jug. His chief rival that year came in the squat but talented form of Constantina Rocca, the plucky Italian pulled of a memorable 60-foot putt from the ‘valley of sin’ to secure a four hole play-off which The Wild Thing eventually took. With his Reebok jacket, ex-wives and pack of ciggies a round habit, Daly didn’t fit the typical mould, which is all the more reason his momentous win should be celebrated.
Justin Rose arrives on the scene at Royal Birkdale.
It was way back in 1998 at the very place where this weekend’s tournament takes place, that a fresh faced 17 year old amateur by the name of Justin Rose burst onto the golfing scene. Playing with a youthful freedom and naivety, Rose holed a spectacular 45 yard pitch shot on the 18th hole of the final round to the astonishment of the roaring crowds, in what was a truly memorable British Open moment. Rose turned professional the following day a week before his 18th birthday, he would go on to miss the cut in his first 21 tournaments, but the current world number 12 has more than made up for it since, becoming the first Englishman to win the US Open for 43 years when he was victorious in 2013. Here’s the shot at the closing hole that catapulted him into the big time.
Who knows what magic Royal Birkdale will throw up this weekend, but we wager that the 146th British Open will be another enthralling four days of golf. What are your favourite Open memories? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.