The Open For The Ages
The Greatest Photos at St Andrews
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David Cannon
Seve Ballesteros 1984 St Andrews

To celebrate The Open For The Ages, in association with HSBC, acclaimed golf photographer David Cannon has shared with us the greatest photos he has taken in Championships at St Andrews.

Over 40 years on from when he first took photographs at an Open, and 38 years after his first Championship taking photos professionally, Cannon has seen it all on a golf course.

His outstanding skills with a camera have ensured that his subjects, and their finest moments, will be immortalised forever.

In part one of this two-part series, we take a look at the first three photos he has selected as his favourites from Open Championships at the Old Course.

Seve Ballesteros, 1984 Open Championship
Seve Ballesteros celebrates at The Open in 1984

David Cannon's Greatest Photos - Seve Ballesteros

The first time Cannon worked at an Open held at St Andrews produced not just one of his best photos, but one of the most iconic sequences in golfing history.

In 1984, The 113th Open was going down to the wire. Tom Watson, seeking his third Open in a row, and Seve Ballesteros, in search of a second Claret Jug, had traded blows on the back nine.

Standing on the 18th green, Ballesteros faced a birdie putt that would give him the lead, whilst unbeknown to the Spaniard, Watson was in a tough position on the 17th hole. What transpired was one of the most iconic moments, and photographs, in the history of golf.

“There were just two of us at that Open,” Cannon said, “and my colleague decided to follow Tom Watson, so it was an easy decision. I followed Seve up 18.

“I picked a spot that wasn’t necessarily straight at him. I mean the putt wasn’t coming anywhere near straight at me but it was a nice background, I was looking for the background.

"And when he actually did the fist pump, the big follow through, I thought 'oh my god'. In a split second you’re thinking, 'I’m in the wrong place', and then he just stood there and milked it. The lovely moment where he smiles at the end of it was almost the last frame of the roll I had left!

Cannon's relationship with Seve had begun many years previously. Cannon recalls a story characteristic of Ballesteros' affable qualities, which the photographer so keenly captured in 1984.

"I played with Seve in 1976 in a pro-am at my home club," Cannon said. "I hadn’t heard this story before, but evidently him and his brother slept in his car in the car park at my club overnight that day. Two months later he was finishing runner-up at Royal Birkdale, so I always had a very big soft spot for Seve.

"Clearly he was the most amazing person to photograph, and because of that I’m naturally drawn to him in every sense as a photographer, as a golfer, everything about him. And there wasn’t a day when I went out with Seve that I didn’t get a great picture."

Cannon also knew this to be true in 1984, despite working in just his third Open Championship, and his first at St Andrews. Still, the young man was at the behest of the technology of the times.

“I ran out of film when Seve started hugging his caddie!” David Cannon

“I mean, I was so excited, you don’t know whether it was going to be right, you know those big long lenses that we work with, you’ve only got about 6 inches of depth of field of focus, so you have to be really concentrating on your focus. And, then the exposure as well, the slide film was really tricky to expose, you had to be so accurate with the exposure."

"It wasn’t until about say 10 or 11 the next morning when I actually saw those pictures," he said. "I knew I had potentially got a good sequence, an amazing sequence. You know you had seen the few pictures in the newspapers, but I hadn’t seen anything like that one.

"So I was really really thrilled when I saw that. And I mean it’s still in my top three most iconic, best-selling, however you want to call it, pictures that I’ve ever taken in my life. The business has changed massively since, but you’ve still got to point the camera, and that’s the one thing that’s still in our favour!”

Cannon, who had ran out of film before Seve had started to hug his caddie, knows why the images of a jubilant Ballesteros have stood the test of time.

"The whole sequence is absolutely amazing when you look at it. That’s the beauty of this sequence, it just sums it all up, the joy of winning the world’s greatest Championship."

Sir Nick Faldo, 1990 Open Championship
Sir Nick Faldo The Open For The Ages Photos 1990

David Cannon's Greatest Photos - Nick Faldo

In 1990, The Open returned to St Andrews.. Unlike in 1984, the identity of the Champion Golfer of the Year was easy to predict long before the end of the final round. It would be the 1987 champion, and unstoppable force that week, Nick Faldo.

"The golf he played that week I think was the best he played," Cannon said. "He won fair and square that week, he demolished Greg Norman, and I think he would openly admit that was the best he played in a major."

Faldo dominated the field and romped to a five-shot victory to capture his second Open title, just four months after he had claimed his second green jacket at the Masters.

On the 72nd hole, Faldo played his approach shot and allowed himself to celebrate for the first time as the ball found the green.

Having set up three different remote cameras that he could control, Cannon knew he would capture the final moments of an incredible tournament from all angles. 

Nick Faldo The Open For The Ages Greatest Photos St Andrews

A remote camera controlled by David Cannon captured Faldo's winning putt from above

Yet whilst the scenes of Faldo's two putts on the green live long in many memories, Cannon prefers the fairway shot for a specific reason.

“My backgrounds are very important to me," he said, "which is kind of a perverse way of describing a photograph. But I’m always looking at what’s behind a subject, because it’s amazing how if it doesn’t work behind it can spoil the image completely. So what’s behind is very important to me.”

"Remotes would often run out of film, and the close-up on the fairway is my favourite, because I was actually holding the camera. Because the background, the crowds, an absolute sea of people got on there.”

As he had done with Ballesteros six years earlier, Cannon had captured Faldo's winning moment. And he also had the pleasure of getting to know Faldo well prior to his Open triumphs.

“They (Seve and Faldo) differed massively. Faldo was an amazing, amazing player, and I’d played with him at the British Youths at Pannal, and I’d seen it first-hand, the difference. It basically just made me surrender my aspirations to be a professional golfer, that one experience.

"But he was a totally different character, you know he didn’t have the flair of Seve, but he had the most amazing brain and the most amazingly driven ethos for the game of golf. He was just amazing to watch and to be able to play with him was amazing really. He’s been a great friend to me."

Both three-time Open Champions, Faldo and Ballesteros could hardly have been more different on the course. One thing they certainly shared, however, was the joy of experiencing iconic moments at St Andrews. Cannon ensured that was captured on film.

Costantino Rocca, 1995 Open Championship
Constantino Rocca The Open For The Ages Photos 1995

David Cannon's Greatest Photos - Costantino Rocca

Many of Cannon's greatest photos are of the winning moments of Open Champions. However, Costantino Rocca's incredible putt in 1995 provides a notable exception.

Rocca came to the 18th hole on Sunday one shot behind leader John Daly, knowing that a birdie would get him into a play-off. After a great drive, Rocca needed to get up and down from just off the green for his three.

His hopes looked to have been dashed when he dramatically duffed his chip shot, and it rolled away just in front of him, failing to reach the green. What happened next, though, was one of the greatest moments in Open history.

“Because he’d flubbed the shot before so badly, and he goes into the Valley of Sin," Cannon said, "you think 'no chance, no chance'. And then he rattles it in and reacts how he did! Amazing moment, amazing moment.

"You love the passion of that guy, don’t you, you know he’s another Seve in a way, he’s got that Latin temperament, I suppose. (It was a) great moment, great moment, the loudest roar probably, with the Seve moment and Justin Rose at Royal Birkdale in 1998.”

Though Rocca managed to make the playoff with Daly, he was emotionally spent and ultimately finished as the runner-up.

“I’m thinking at that moment, after I’ve got that picture on 18, please, please win this," Cannon said. “But sadly he didn’t obviously, so it’s rather devalued an awful lot that picture, because if that had been a picture to win it would have been right up there with the Seve moment."

While Rocca did not win, The Open in 1995 will be remembered not only for Daly's superb triumph, but also for the Italian's zero-to-hero moment on 18. 

"It’s quite rare to get a final putt where there’s an epic moment." Cannon said. "Not what I would call a definitive moment. It’s quite rare for someone to hole a really significant putt on an 18th green, and then go absolutely bonkers.

"It builds up. The Seve one, because it sort of teeters on the brink, there’s a little pause. You say it was a little pause, it was probably a split second where the crowd hadn’t quite reacted fully. And then the crescendo built, and then woof. And Rocca again, it was a huge long putt. You can hear the roar coming, but you’re focusing, or hopefully you’re still focusing on the subject.”

The Open For The Ages is in association with HSBC.