80th Open - Royal Portrush 1951
Faulkner Holds the Field at Portrush
The only time – so far – that The Open had been held outside Scotland or England was in 1951 on the magnificent links at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. In 2014 The R&A announced that The Open would return at a later unspecified date. The wait for a British winner of The Championship that followed Max Faulkner’s victory in 1951 was not quite so long, but it did take until Tony Jacklin won at Lytham 18 years later.
Faulkner was a flamboyant character, who dressed in brightly coloured clothes in an era when golfing attire was usually more sombre. He had been a runner-up twice in the Irish Open at Portrush and rounds of 71 and 70 put him in the lead. The myth about the evening before the final two rounds was that Faulkner was signing autographs and adding: “Open Champion 1951”. A more accurate telling of the tale suggests that after a 70 in the third round that put him six strokes ahead, he signed an autograph for a young boy, whose father asked that the words “Open Champion” be added because, “you are going to win, aren’t you?” Faulkner did as requested but then thought: “My God, I’d better not lose now.” Alternatively, the whole thing might just have been the creation of his ghostwriter on a London newspaper, a young Ian Wooldridge.
In reality, Faulkner closed with a 74 for a total of 285 and had to wait for Antonio Cerda to finish but a 70 left the Argentinian two shots behind. He would be a runner-up again two years later. Charlie Ward was third and Fred Daly, the 1947 Champion who was playing at his home club, tied for fourth place. Having flown home that night, the next day Faulkner played in a Fathers v Sons cricket match at his son’s school.