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Player Feature

Peter Thomson


Arguably the finest stretch of results The Open has ever seen

Peter Thomson Claret Jug 1965

The 80th Open will be remembered for many things: the charismatic winner Max Faulkner, the first Open played outside of Great Britain and the debut of Peter Thomson.

Faulkner might have walked away with the fame and glory but Thomson was the new star. After finishing sixth on his debut, he produced arguably the finest stretch of results the famous old Championship has ever seen.

He arrived at Royal Portrush as an unknown 21-year-old from the northern Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.

He would go on to win The Open on five occasions, including consecutive victories in 1954, 1955 and 1956 as he became only the fourth player to complete a hat-trick.

There is no doubt that Thomson learned a great deal from watching Faulkner that week in 1951 and the Australian caught the eye with a superb Open debut.

His talent was obvious from the off but what he went on to achieve was extraordinary.

Links golf can be a tough craft to learn but Thomson was a Champion Golfer of the Year within 36 months of his debut, holding off Bobby Locke, Dai Rees and Syd Scott at Royal Birkdale in 1954.

It sparked a run of four Open titles in five years, with 1957 the lone blemish on his copybook, before he made it a quintet in 1965. Only Harry Vardon has won more.

Thomson first started to play golf during the war but with courses largely empty, his talent was undiscovered until his late teens.

A professional career seemed a pipedream so he gained a chemistry diploma in 1945 and went to work for a rubber technologist, helping to design and make golf balls. Four years later, he decided to go for it.

Thomson earned enough money to travel to Britain and aged just 21 he virtually stole the show at Royal Portrush.

Bobby Locke, one of the greats of that era, immediately took him on a tour of South Africa where they played 63 head-to-head exhibition matches.

Thomson was runner-up to Locke at The Open in 1952 and then again to Ben Hogan a year later. A Claret Jug success seemed inevitable and in 1954 it came, with further successes in 1955, 1956 and 1958.

But perhaps his most famous victory came in 1965 – the first Open to be televised. Thomson later admitted: “For the last 40 years I’ve been ignoring them, but I’m now beginning to be a bit more proud of myself.

Peter Thomson Remembrance Carnoustie 2018
“I didn’t want to be a public star. I had a very joyful time, playing a game that I loved for the sheer pleasure of it. I don’t think I did a real day’s work in the whole of my life.” Peter thomson

Thomson later stood as a Liberal for the legislative assembly in Victoria and reported on golf as a writer for newspapers and magazines, staying in touch with the game he loved.

He died in 2018 aged 88, and was honoured at The 147th Open at Carnoustie with his name displayed on the first tee blocks.