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History of The Open
How Ballesteros beat the best at Royal Lytham
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The 117th Open
Seve Ballesteros celebrates winning The Open in 1988

Seve Ballesteros overcame the elements, delays in play and the world's best golfers to claim the Claret Jug for the third time in The 117th Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

In one of the most memorable Opens of the past 50 years, and not just for the world-class golf, Ballesteros got his title charge off to a great start, opening up a two-shot lead with a brilliant 67, one of only three Thursday rounds in the 60s.

After Friday on the difficult Lancashire links, however, it was Zimbabwe’s Nick Price who emerged from the pack, equalling Ballesteros’ 67 the day prior to lead the Spaniard by a single stroke at five under par, with defending Champion Nick Faldo a further two shots behind in a share of third place.

Price had finished second at The Open six years earlier, and was looking to take a step up in a career that was solid if unspectacular at the time. If his position at the halfway stage of the Championship was a positive one, the presence of Ballesteros - the previous Champion at Royal Lytham - and Faldo close behind underlined the size of the task facing Price.

The 117th Open | Official Film

Ballesteros, Faldo and Price would never mark a score on Saturday, however, as the arrival of torrential rain introduced an unexpected twist to proceedings. After an early suspension, the course was soon declared unplayable. A number of players were able to complete some holes, but rules dictated that all scores had to be discarded due to less than half of the field finishing their rounds.

After Saturday’s play was washed out in its entirety, the third round began anew on Sunday, with players going out in three-balls. Although he had been granted an extra day to mull over his lofty position, leader Price held his nerve superbly and continued his strong challenge with a 69 that put him two clear of Ballesteros and Faldo, with Sandy Lyle - the Champion of 1985 at Royal St George's - a further shot adrift. 

For the first time in The Open’s history, the Championship would be decided in regulation play on a Monday, and the fans who returned for the fifth day of play were treated to a mouth-watering final grouping.

Price, at seven under par, was looking for his first major title, but needed to fend off two of the most popular players in the field in Faldo and Ballesteros, whose pedigree had already seen them claim three Open Championships between them. It was a rare final-day three-ball in The Open and, naturally, the trio drew in enormous crowds.

1988 Royal Lytham The Open Seve Ballesteros

Price came under increasing pressure in the early stages of Monday’s play. After six holes, he was still out in front on seven under, but only one clear of Ballesteros, Faldo and Lyle, who had all made up ground.

Three of the previous four Open Champions were now breathing down Price’s neck and Fred Couples had also moved firmly into contention as consecutive eagles at the sixth and seventh lifted him to five under.

At that point, a five-horse race for victory was in prospect, but the battle for the Claret Jug would come down to a dramatic shootout between Price and the swashbuckling Ballesteros.

Both players eagled the par-5 seventh, as Couples had before them, and a slew of birdies followed as the leading pair surged to 11 under through 13 holes, now five shots clear of Faldo in third.

After Price and his rival had dropped shots at the 14th, a key moment arrived two holes later, when a celebrated moment of Ballesteros magic saw him seize an advantage he would not relinquish.

A spectacular approach to the par-4 16th from Seve came tantalisingly close to going in the hole and his tap-in birdie put him one clear with two to play.

That advantage was then doubled at the last as Price’s fine challenge was finally snuffed out. Price succeeded where his rival had failed by finding the 18th green in two, but Ballesteros’ renowned short-game prowess came to the fore as he almost holed his chip from a tricky lie.

Price could not convert a lengthy birdie attempt and ultimately three-putted, but he had only been beaten by one of the great Open final rounds, a stunning 65 that ensured Ballesteros was crowned the Champion Golfer of the Year for the third time.

The first Monday finish in Open Championship history ended with Ballesteros celebrating the fifth and final major victory of his storied career, having provided another example of what a remarkable player he was.

I Was There | Royal Lytham & St Annes 1988