90th Open - Royal Birkdale 1961
Palmer takes the Open after a late challenge by Rees
Arnold Palmer wanted to win The Open in 1960 because he had won the Masters and the US Open already that year. In 1961 he wanted to win The Open because he had not won either the Masters or the US Open. The runner-up on his debut the year before, Palmer went one better at Royal Birkdale, beating Dai Rees by a stroke. In the process he added to the legend of his attacking style, never taking a backward step, and helped re-invigorate The Open in the eyes of his fellow American golfers.
The wild weather that hit Southport that year was no deterrent to Palmer, and he made five birdies in the first six holes in the teeth of a gale in the second round. He also called a penalty stroke on himself when his ball moved in a bunker though no one else had seen it. Friday’s third and fourth rounds were postponed due to rain and overnight storms that swept away many of the marquees.
On the Saturday morning Palmer had a 69 to take the lead and then in the afternoon he hit his famous 6-iron from thick rough at the base of a bush at the 15th hole (now the 16th). A huge divot and other detritus flew everywhere but the ball arrived on the green, 140 yards away. He secured a 72 and won on a total of 284. Rees was four behind with four to play but made up three strokes to finish one back. He had been playing in The Open since 1935 and this was his last chance. He was a runner-up three times, each time to one of the game’s greats: Ben Hogan in 1953, Peter Thomson in 1954 and Palmer in 1961. Neil Coles and Christy O’Connor Snr shared third place, three behind Rees.
|3||Christy O'CONNOR SR||IRL||71||77||67||73||288|