History of The Open
The Greatest Walk in Golf
A history of the final hole at The Open

Jubilation, heartache, celebration and dejection – these are just some of the myriad emotions players have experienced when walking the final hole at The Open.

Whether it’s a Champion Golfer in waiting or a legendary player making their last appearance in golf’s oldest major – there have been plenty of memorable final strides over the years.

Who can forget, for example, Jean van de Velde’s collapse at Carnoustie in 1999 when the Frenchman dumped his ball in the Barry Burn on the 18th and lost the Claret Jug.

Another nearly man was Costantino Rocca, who went from the despair of fluffing his chip on the last at St Andrews in 1995 to ecstasy after holing a putt from the Valley of Sin to force a play-off. 

Or even Shane Lowry's stroll down 18 at Royal Portrush, to the backdrop of football-style chanting from emotional locals who never thought they would see a man from the island of Ireland succeed on home soil.

And ahead of Claret Jug’s return to Royal St George's next year, we’ve cast our minds back to some of the greatest final hole walks in the history of The Open.

Arnie’s army wave goodbye

Arnold Palmer travelled to Scotland to compete in The Open for the first time in 1960 before winning back-to-back Champion Golfer crowns in 1961 and 1962.

The King’s success convinced many American pros to make the journey to Britain and, along with his charismatic personality and attacking style, sealed his widespread popularity.

So it was only right that the seven-time major winner was given a fittingly emotional send-off when he bowed out at St Andrews in 1995 with a salute on the Swilcan Bridge at the last.

Watson bids farewell to Open

Five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson made his final Open appearance at St Andrews in 2015, striking his last putt six minutes before 10pm as the light faded on Friday night.

After 40 years and 130 rounds, the American legend enjoyed every moment of his final walk along the 18th hole as thousands of fans lined the fairway to celebrate his brilliance.

Watson said he remembered a story about Bobby Jones as he walked his final hole: “When I was going up there, I think I had an inkling of what Bobby Jones probably felt.”

Spiritual moment for Faldo

2015 was a year of goodbyes as three-time Champion Golfer Sir Nick Faldo also contested his final Open – and he admitted walking over the Swilcan Bridge was a quasi-religious experience.

Speaking about the moment on the famous final hole, he said: “That split second I looked at the sky. Honestly, I have never done that before. I looked up and saw the clouds. 

“I have never seen anything like that. Someone was up there. Maybe Tom Morris or something. That was my spiritual moment. Amazing.”

Clarke seals maiden major

Emotions were also running high when Darren Clarke held his nerve to clinch his first major title at his 20th attempt with a three-shot victory at Royal St George’s in 2011.

The 42-year-old Northern Irishman fired a final-round 70 to finish five-under, becoming the first winner from the UK since 1999, and Clarke was able to savour every moment of his triumph.

He said: “To walk down the last hole on the Open with a lead like that, knowing before I got onto the green that basically that I’ve won the biggest and best tournament in the world, knowing that I’m about to achieve my lifelong goal, my lifelong dream was very special.”

Mickelson joins illustrious company

Phil Mickelson produced the round of his life to come from five shots behind to clinch his first Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013 – more than two decades after making his Open debut.

It was a special moment for the American as he moved on to five major titles, putting him alongside Seve Ballesteros, Peter Thomson and Byron Nelson in the golfing annals.

As the only man under par, Mickelson was able to enjoy his walk up the last hole and sunk a birdie putt from 15ft to cap off a stunning 66 and be crowned Champion Golfer.

Legend leaves with a birdie

Jack Nicklaus was only ever going to finish his Open career one way. The three-time Champion Golfer waved goodbye in style at St Andrews in 2005 as he posted a birdie on the last.

The Golden Bear was showered with applause as he strolled up the 18th hole before holing his putt. 

“I knew that the hole would move where I hit it; I always make it on the 18th,” he said. 

“I aimed six inches left of the hole, played a six-inch break, hit it and the ball was going along and every other putt going that way missed the hole, but this one gobbled it in. It was like Pac-Man.”

Shane's day

You really had to be there to believe it. The weather was almost biblical during the final round but not one person decked out in green will remember, as Shane Lowry brought thousands to tears at Royal Portrush.

Lowry himself admitted he cried at The 147th Open, so bad was his form. But a year later, inspired by The Open's long-awaited return to Royal Portrush, he produced the greatest four rounds of his life.

During the closing stretch of his third round, where others stood still, he pulled away like a high-speed train and the crowd - drunk with excitement - cheered, chanted and sang their hero home.

Few could have imagined that being bettered on Sunday. But as it became clear the Claret Jug was his, the crowd once again responded and roared him home in some of the most emotional scenes this old Championship has witnessed.

“I'm feeling unbelievably calm, to be honest. I don't know why. It's not going to sink in for a couple of days, is it,” he said.

“It's just incredible to be sitting here with a trophy in front of me. Look at the names on it. I couldn't believe that it was me. I couldn't believe it was happening.

“I thought about it all day but I didn't really let myself think about it until I hit my tee shot on 17. As soon as I hit that tee shot I knew that I couldn't really lose a ball from there, and that's how I felt.”