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The 149th Open Royal St George's

Great final days


The Open's best conclusions


The final round of The 149th Open promises to be a thriller, with Louis Oosthuizen leading Collin Morikawa by one and the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm within striking distance.

Ahead of the decisive day of action at Royal St George’s, we take a look back at six great final days at The Open.


Forty-four years have now passed since the ‘Duel in the Sun’, but many who witnessed Tom Watson’s extraordinary battle with Jack Nicklaus will still have vivid memories of the action.

The two Americans were quite simply in a class of their own at Turnberry, as they surged clear of the field amid glorious weather conditions on Scotland’s west coast.

A thrilling two-horse race reached a fitting conclusion on the 18th as Watson and Nicklaus exchanged moments of brilliance.

Leading by one, Watson all but guaranteed victory with a magnificent approach shot to within a few feet, but Nicklaus was not yet finished.

Showing the class and grit that would ultimately deliver a haul of 18 major wins, the Golden Bear played a superb rescue shot from thick rough on the right, before draining a mammoth putt that prompted rapturous applause and ensured Watson had to make his short putt to seal victory.

Nicklaus then demonstrated great sportsmanship by urging an excited crowd to fall silent for his rival’s final putt. Watson made no mistake to seal his second Claret Jug and the two men walked arm in arm from the green having delivered as fine a contest as you could hope to see.

The third-placed Hubert Green finished 10 shots adrift of Nicklaus in third.


The career of Seve Ballesteros was filled with iconic moments, but the most memorable surely came at the home of golf in 1984.

Watson, now with five Open wins to his name and looking to tie the great Harry Vardon’s record of six triumphs, was again in the thick of the action on a gripping Sunday.

Yet it was Ballesteros who sealed victory on St Andrews’ final green, triggering one of the most famous celebrations in sporting history.

After a curling putt from around 15 feet sneaked into the back of the hole, the ever-charismatic Seve was the epitome of ecstasy, pumping his fist and flashing that magnetic smile as he basked in the glory of his finest hour.


Seve was once more the central figure four years later at Royal Lytham & St Annes, where he had claimed his maiden Open success in 1979.

On this occasion, inclement weather led to the first Monday finish in The Open’s history and groups of three on the final day, meaning Ballesteros was joined by Nick Price and Nick Faldo in a star-studded trio.

The challenge of defending Champion Faldo could not be sustained this time, but Ballesteros and Price each hit top form in another captivating Open duel.

A six-hole passage from the sixth to the 11th summed up the standard of play from the leading pair. Price played those holes in four under but went from one ahead to one behind as Ballesteros covered the same stretch in six under.

Ballesteros’ precision approach to three inches at the 16th provided another highlight and he wrapped up victory with some trademark short-game magic on the final hole, almost chipping in from the left of the green. Price had played beautifully on the final day but he would have to wait another six years to get his hands on the Claret Jug. This, once again, was Seve’s day.


The final day of The 128th Open proved memorable for very different reasons.

This was the week when Carnoustie became known as ‘Carnasty’, as a combination of thick rough and poor weather led to unusually high scoring.

For 71 holes, Jean van de Velde handled conditions better than anyone and the Frenchman stood on the 18th tee on Sunday holding a three-shot lead. What followed remains hard to believe 22 years on.

Even after a wild drive and a wilder second that bounced back off a grandstand and just about avoided the Barry Burn, van de Velde still had plenty of room for error. Yet he then chunked his third into the burn and stunned the crowd by taking off his shoes and socks to climb into the water hazard as he considered playing the ball where it lay.

Good sense eventually prevailed but, after taking a drop, the long-time leader then found a greenside bunker with his fifth, prompting more groans of despair.

To his immense credit, Van de Velde somehow got up and down from the sand to at least rescue a triple-bogey seven and earn a place in a play-off with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard.

A truly incredible day culminated in Lawrie birdieing the final two extra holes to claim victory on home soil. Remarkably, the Scotsman had begun the final round 10 shots off the lead, but a stunning 67 gave him an unexpected chance he seized in glorious fashion.


Muirfield played host to a similarly thrilling conclusion in 2002.

For the first time in Open history, a four-man play-off was required to determine the Champion Golfer, with Ernie Els eventually beating Thomas Levet in sudden-death after Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby had been eliminated in the initial extra holes.

Yet that was by no means the only drama on the final day. Much earlier, Gary Evans had threatened to pull off one of the most unlikely Open wins in history as he surged to the top of the leaderboard.

Evans ultimately missed out on the play-off by one shot, his hopes cruelly dented as he lost a ball on the par-fifth 17 after pulling his second shot left. The Englishman rescued a magnificent par by finding the green with his fourth and sinking a huge putt, but he then bogeyed the last.

Els’ magnificent bunker play was key to his triumph. A phenomenal sand save on the 13th in regulation play was followed by more bunker brilliance on his 77th hole as he finally saw off the affable Levet.


Watson and Nicklaus have both conceded their own duel was bettered by the brilliance of Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson in The 145th Open.

Just like in 1977, the top two separated themselves from the field in 2016 before putting on a wondrous exhibition on the final day.

Having started Sunday one behind, Mickelson was at his brilliant best as he put together a 65 for a 17-under total of 267 that would surely have been enough for victory 99 times out of 100.

Unfortunately for the Champion of 2013, Stenson was even better. The Swede was virtually faultless in a stunning 63, which was rounded off with a lengthy birdie putt on 18, enough to post a record 20-under aggregate.

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