Bill Rogers, the Champion Golfer of the Year for 1981, was the only man to finish under par in The 110th Open Championship at Royal St George's.
Now, The Open is set to return again to Royal St George’s in 2021 for The 149th Open Championship, 40 years on from Rogers' famous victory.
Speaking to TheOpen.com, the American discusses the keys to victory at Sandwich, and the holes to pay attention to, for all those aspiring to claim the Claret Jug on the Kentish coastline.
Royal St George’s has a number of memorable holes on the front nine, including the par-3 third hole, which was the only par 3 without bunkering on The Open Championship rota until Royal Portrush re-joined in 2019.
Rogers, like many others, believes the par-4 fourth hole, named 'The Keeper's' and one of the most famed on the layout, is a key hole to conquer early in the round.
“Obviously the fourth hole, with the big sand trap that somehow I was able to avoid in 1981, that’s such a memorable hole and a very difficult par-4,” he said.
Much of the difficulty stems from the sightline impact of the gargantuan 'Himalaya' bunker guarding the ‘Elysian Fields’ fairway beyond.
“The Himalaya bunker is such a challenge,” Rogers said, “and the hole in itself is hard enough, but you’re visually very challenged on that hole.”
While the front nine at Royal St George's offers many challenges, the biggest danger arguably lies in the middle of the back nine.
“The par-5 14th, that’s such a pivotal hole and such a difficult hole. It’s kind of one of those holes that looms in the back of your mind all day,” Rogers added.
While Rogers played the 14th hole expertly over four days in 1981, many players have fallen foul of its treacherous difficulty, with out-of-bounds running down the entirety of the right side of the hole. Dustin Johnson’s challenge in 2011 famously ended as he veered out-of-bounds with a loose iron shot, with Darren Clarke eventually claiming victory that year.
“You know it’s always there,” Rogers said. “And that you’re challenged with one of the most difficult tee shots in championship golf.”
Other holes Rogers believes will play a key role are the par-3 16th and par-4 12th.
“I remember 16, the par-3,” said Rogers, who birdied it in his third round in 1981. “Thomas Bjorn had a doomsday hole there (in 2003), that’s an important hole.
“But those two holes, 14 and 16, are very difficult and important, and there’s a few holes that you can drive real close to the green, the 12th hole being one, and it’s just a very interesting golf course to play.”
Rogers birdied the 12th in the final round of The 110th Open to re-establish a healthy lead, a lead that he would not relinquish for the rest of the Championship.
Keys to Victory:
Patience is often considered the greatest virtue in links golf and Open Championships, and it was a virtue Rogers displayed in abundance during his superb victory in 1981.
Rogers believes, however, that patience is even more important than usual at Royal St George’s, as the contenders for The 149th Open will likely face tough conditions at some point.
“(The key) is always patience,” Rogers said, “and if you throw in difficult conditions on that golf course, you have to be a solid ball-striker with all the shots. So the key to a Champion winning at Royal St George’s, or any Open venue, is patience. You have to be extraordinarily patient when you’re in a Championship week.
“The golf course as a whole is so memorable. It’s a difficult golf course and you’re always on edge because it’s such a challenge, and such a difficult golf course.”
You can listen to Bill Rogers’ Tales of The Open episode here, or on your preferred podcast platform.