Royal Birk­dale rich with his­tory and lynkis

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MICHAEL K. BOHN

Great Bri­tain’s 146th Open Cham­pi­onship be­gan Thurs­day at Royal Birk­dale Golf Club in Southport, England, just north of Liver­pool on the Ir­ish Sea.

Nine men formed the club in 1889, and mem­bers moved it to the present lo­ca­tion in 1897 and con­structed an 18-hole course. It was then, and re­mains to­day, open ground dom­i­nated by ridges and ham­mocks, a sea­side expanse the Scots called links or lynkis. The Old English term for the rough ground near the seashore was hlin­cas, plu­ral of hlinc; the term “links” has noth­ing to do with con­nec­tions, such as pieces of a chain.

The club wel­comed fe­male mem­bers in 1890, and the first sig­nif­i­cant tour­na­ment held on the course was the 1909 Ladies’ Bri­tish Open Match Play Cham­pi­onship.

Royal Birk­dale has pro­duced me­morable high­lights dur­ing its pre­vi­ous nine Opens.

1954, Peter Thom­son — The first of many

A field of 320 play­ers played two qual­i­fy­ing rounds July 5-6 on two cour­ses, with the top 100 ad­vanc­ing to the 72-hole tour­na­ment. Book­ies favoured South African and three-time Open cham­pion Bobby Locke be­fore the start and listed him at 3-1. Af­ter the sec­ond round, England’s Bill Spence led the field with a 5un­der 141 (par was 73). Ar­gen­tine An­to­nio Cerda was one back, and four play­ers trailed by two, in­clud­ing English­man Sid­ney Scott, who shot a course record 6un­der 67 in the sec­ond round. Fifty-twoyear-old Gene Sarazen, who won the 1932 Open, ad­vanced to the fi­nal 36 holes.

Four men shot 4-un­der 69s in the third round dur­ing the morn­ing of the fi­nal day — Scott, Locke, Welsh­man Dai Rees and Aus­tralian Peter Thom­son. Scott, the first of the four to fin­ish the af­ter­noon round, shot a 72 for an 8-un­der 284. Rees needed only a par-4 on the 440-yard 18th to edge by Scott by a stroke, but missed a five-footer and made bo­gey.

Thom­son, 24, who had fin­ished sec­ond in the pre­vi­ous two Opens, posted a 283 to take the lead with only Locke still on the course. Need­ing a birdie on 18 to win, he faced a 35-foot putt. Al­though Locke re­port­edly coined the phrase, “You drive for show and putt for dough,” he came up short. The Open win would be the first of many for Thom­son, he would win again in 1955, 1956, 1958, and 1965.

1961, Arnold Palmer — Wet and wild

The first day’s weather was re­mark­ably mild, and three play­ers led the field at 4-un­der 68 — Dai Rees, South African Harold Hen­ning and Aus­tralian Kel Na­gle (par had been re­duced to 72). But overnight rain and gale winds on Day 2, Thurs­day, July 13, didn’t de­ter Amer­i­can Arnold Palmer who bested the field with a 1-over 73, a re­mark­able score given he carded a seven on the 16th hole. That score in­cluded a one-stroke penalty af­ter the wind moved his ball in a bunker af­ter he had ad­dressed it. He trailed lead­ers Rees and Hen­ning af­ter the first 36 holes.

“I’ve played in worse con­di­tions be­fore,” Palmer said to re­porters after­ward, “but not much.”

The night be­fore the fi­nal two rounds, storms blew down tem­po­rary build­ings and tents and forced can­cel­la­tion of play. On Satur­day morn­ing, with crews blot­ting the soaked greens with blan­kets and tow­els, an ag­gres­sive Palmer shot a 69, which in­cluded a 4-un­der 32 on the front nine. In the af­ter­noon’s fi­nal round, he birdied the par-5 14th hole and that gave him the mo­men­tum needed to best run­ner-up Rees by one shot.

1965, Peter Thom­son — No. 5

Tony Lema, the de­fend­ing cham­pion, led the field in the first round on July 7 with a 5-un­der 68 (back to par-73), and one re­porter wrote of his “smooth, in­do­lent swing.” Bet­ting favourites, Amer­i­cans Jack Nick­laus and Palmer, trailed by five and two strokes, re­spec­tively. Lema and Aus­tralian Bruce Devlin led af­ter 36 holes with 4-un­der 140, and Palmer was one back. Palmer, al­ways a gam­bler, cut the dog­leg in the sixth hole but got into trou­ble and bo­geyed the hole.

The New York Times cap­tured Thom­son’s dra­matic vic­tory: “In a tu­mul­tuous fin­ish that was in doubt all the way down the stretch, the jaunty 35-year-old with the rhyth­mic swing scored birdies on the last two long holes to shake off Tony Lema’s chal­lenge and win by two strokes.”

This was Thom­son’s fifth Open ti­tle — his first had been at Royal Birk­dale in 1954.

1971, Lee Trevino — Bat­tle with ‘Mr. Lu’

Amer­i­can Lee Trevino, paired with England’s Tony Jack­lin in the third round, felt the wrath of the home crowd as the two bat­tled for the lead. The gallery roared in sup­port of Jack­lin and cheered when Trevino missed a putt. After­ward, a still sim­mer­ing Trevino told the press, “At one stage I felt like go­ing into the gallery with my put­ter.”

The book­ies had favoured Trevino be­fore the Open’s start on July 7 be­cause of his wins at the U.S. and Canadian Opens dur­ing the pre­ced­ing 19 days. And in­deed, Trevino led af­ter the third day at 11un­der; Jack­lin and Tai­wanese golfer Lu Liang Huan were one back.

“Mr. Lu,” as the me­dia dubbed him, en­deared the fans by smil­ing and doff­ing his lit­tle blue hat af­ter nearly ev­ery shot. Trevino posted a 31 on the out­ward nine and built a six-stroke lead over his pair­ing part­ner Lu. But that ad­van­tage dwin­dled pre­cip­i­tously on the back nine, and Trevino led by only one on the 18th tee. Lu’s sec­ond shot beaned a woman, Lil­lian Tip­ping, in the gallery, but the shaken player ral­lied to birdie the fi­nal hole. Trevino did as well and won the 100th Open with a 14un­der 278. (Ms. Tip­ping was not se­ri­ously hurt.)

1976, Johnny Miller — Fi­nal round course record

A 19-year-old Span­ish new­comer, Sev­e­ri­ano (Seve) Balles­teros, led by two shots on July 9 af­ter the first three rounds. On the first two of those days the weather was mis­er­able, but not the usual wind and rain. Rather, the tem­per­a­ture hit 90 de­grees on the dry and dusty course, con­di­tions that led to a small brush fire.

The course was par-72, and the lay­out was dis­tinctly asym­met­ri­cal: 34-38-72. The front nine had no par-5s, but the in­ward nine boasted four, all over 500 yards, in the last six holes.

Amer­i­can Johnny Miller surged to the front on the last day, leav­ing be­hind Balles­teros, who was plagued in the last round by er­ratic driv­ing, as well as Nick­laus, Masters champ Ray Floyd, and oth­ers.

Miller, two be­hind Balles­teros at the start, fired a course-record 66 to win by six strokes over the Spa­niard and Nick­laus. Rookie Bri­tish pro, Mark James, also shot a 66 that day.

1983, Tom Wat­son — No. 5

Amer­i­can Craig Stadler, the PGA Tour money leader the pre­vi­ous year, set a high stan­dard in first round scor­ing with a 7un­der 64. (Yes, Open of­fi­cials had again changed the course lay­out, re­duc­ing par from 73 in 1976 to 71 (34-37). On Day 2, though, an un­known English club pro, De­nis Dur­nian, posted a 28 on the front and broke the Open record for the out­ward nine. He ended up with a 66 and later fin­ished tied for eighth for the Cham­pi­onship.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Wat­son rose to the front at the end of the third day, July 16, at 8-un­der, one stroke ahead of Stadler. And the keen com­pe­ti­tion con­tin­ued in the fourth round, with eight play­ers tied for the lead at one point. Wat­son changed all that when he birdied 11, 13, and 16 and led by one stroke.

He parred the par-5 17th and scorched his 2-iron ap­proach on the par-4 18th to within 18 feet. He eas­ily two-putted for his fifth Open Cham­pi­onship. Amer­i­can Hale Ir­win tied for sec­ond, one stroke be­hind Wat­son, and an er­ror in the third round likely kept him out of a tie with Wat­son. With his ball two inches from the cup on num­ber 14, he lazily at­tempted to tap it in with the back of his put­ter — and whiffed.

1998, Mark O’Meara — Ma­jor No. 2

Tiger Woods, com­ing off his PGA Tour Player of the Year award in 1997, tied John Hus­ton for the first-round lead with a 4un­der 66 in wet and windy con­di­tions. In round two on July 17, lousy weather pushed Woods to a 73, putting him tied for sec­ond be­hind Amer­i­can Brian Watts who stood at 3-un­der.

Also with Woods at 2-un­der was a 17year-old am­a­teur, English­man Justin Rose, who was born in South Africa, and fin­ished the round with ea­gle-birdie. His 66 tied the 18-hole Open record for an am­a­teur.

Watts led af­ter day three at even par, with Masters win­ner Mark O’Meara tied for sec­ond with two oth­ers; gallery favourite Rose was in fifth place.

“Ev­ery hole, I got an ova­tion all the way up the hole,” Rose said to re­porters after­ward. “It was in­cred­i­ble — peo­ple shout­ing out my name.”

O’Meara and Watts were tied at even par at the end of round four, with Tiger’s sparkling 66 plac­ing him in third. But the crowd’s high point came when Rose holed a pitch from the rough for a birdie on 18 and a tie for fourth, the best fin­ish by an am­a­teur since 1921.

O’Meara beat Watts in a four-hole play­off by two strokes and gained his sec­ond ma­jor cham­pi­onship of the year.


Arnold Palmer with the cham­pi­ons tro­phy and medal af­ter his win on July 15, 1961.


Peter Thom­son proudly holds the Claret Jug on July 9, 1954.


Johnny Miller throws his golf ball to the crowd af­ter win­ning on July 10, 1976.

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