Record fifth Open victory for Braid
It was entirely fitting that James Braid should win his fifth and final Open at St Andrews, just a few miles to the north of his birthplace in the coastal village of Earlsferry. But it was strange that he played five full rounds before capturing the title. Not long after he set out on his opening round the calm weather of the morning changed rapidly and dramatically into a heavy thunderstorm. So severe was the downpour that many greens were flooded, in some instances the ball floating over the submerged hole.
There was quite a delay before the committee finally declared that play was impossible and decreed that all scores were not to count. The championship would begin again the following day. Yet Braid, a gentle giant of a golfer, was taking no chances. He had reached the 13th when informed that play had been cancelled, but his quiet methodical nature led him to believe that a mistake might have been made and he insisted on completing the round. His score of 76 matched the best recorded by anyone before the storm. Starting again the next day he returned exactly the same score, but trailed by three shots to the quicksilver George Duncan, renowned for his speed of play, which was encapsulated in his book ‘Golf at the Gallop.’
Braid matched that score of 73 on the second day, but again was overshadowed by a better performance, this time a 71 by Willie Smith, a member of the famous Carnoustie family who had emigrated to the United States and won their Open Championship in 1899. Duncan again posed a serious threat, taking the third round lead with a 71, but lost his short game and putting touch in the final round and slumped to an 83.
Smith ruled himself out with two closing rounds of 80. This allowed Sandy Herd, the man who had first won the Open using a rubber-cored ball in 1902 at Royal Liverpool, to move ahead of the field. But Braid pursued his steady progress and won by four shots with rounds of 76-73-74-76 to set a low scoring record of 299 for a St Andrews Open which beat the previous best, by J.H. Taylor in 1900, by no less than 10 strokes. He became the first player to win the championship five times, achieved in only 10 years, but was already suffering with failing eyesight, a condition that brought to an end his decade of dominance.