Thompson Completes a Hat-Trick of Open Wins
The 1956 Open was held at Hoylake. Alongside the well-known names of Henry Cotton, Flory van Donck and Charlie Ward, a truly international field arrived to compete for the title including the young South African Gary Player, South Americans Roberto de Vincenzo and Antonio Cerda and the defending Champion, Australian Peter Thomson. Poor weather conditions during the first day produced high scores. Denis Smalldon had the best round of the day, scoring 68. Argentinian Enrico Bertolino was one behind on 69 and Eric Lester, Al Balding, David Thomas and Peter Thomson followed with 70. Player, van Donck and de Vincenzo were among those scoring 71.
Torrential rain and strong winds affected the scoring for those first out the following day. Van Donck scored 74 while Player and Cotton both had difficult rounds of 76. Smalldon was unable to repeat the previous day’s performance and carded a disappointing 79. Thomson, fortunately going out later in the day, had another excellent round of 70 to finish one stroke in the lead by the end of the day. De Vincenzo and Bertolino were just a stroke behind, having scored 70 and 72 respectively. A gap had opened up between these top three and Angel Miguel and van Donck, who were sitting on a total of 145, five shots off the lead.
De Vincenzo, out early on the third day, had a disastrous round of 79, including 6’s at the 1st and at the 3rd, and his hopes for an Open title slipped away. Van Donck provided the main threat, with an excellent round of 70, finishing three strokes off the lead in second position. Thomson had another confident round and scored 72, leading the field by two strokes going into the final round. Bertolino, with a disappointing 76 was in third place with veteran Open golfer Cotton two strokes behind him and de Vincenzo, Player, Miguel and the American Frank Stranahan one stroke further back.
Van Donck could not sustain his threat during the final round. He carded a six at the 1st hole and although he eventually rescued a decent round of 74, his aggregate of 289 did not seem enough to win. Thomson only needed a round of 76 to take the Open title. De Vincenzo redeemed his third round score with a superb 70 but his finishing total was one shot over van Donck’s target. Player also had an improved round, scoring 71 and finishing with a total of 291.
Thomson’s final round did not display the same confidence as the previous three rounds. He dropped early shots and it looked as if the Championship might slip away, but he recovered well, scoring 74 and finishing on an aggregate of 286, three strokes ahead of van Donck’s total. Thomson had won his third consecutive Open title, with van Donck in second place, de Vincenzo finishing in third and the young Gary Player, playing in his first Open, taking fourth place. Thomson was the first player of the twentieth century to complete a hat-trick of Open wins.