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History of The Open

The Story Of


The 100th Open

Lee Trevino and his wife celebrate his Open victory in 1971

Golf’s original Championship will celebrate a huge milestone in 2022 when St Andrews plays host to The 150th Open.

Ahead of that Championship, we look back on another landmark occasion, The 100th Open at Royal Birkdale in 1971.


Trevino the man to beat

There was no doubting which player arrived at Royal Birkdale in the best form.

Lee Trevino was looking to complete a unique hat-trick of wins following his successes in the U.S. Open and Canadian Open within the previous three weeks.

Trevino had only played in two Opens, but a third-place finish the previous year at St Andrews – where he led after 54 holes – proved he was more than capable of thriving on a links course.

And he made an ideal start to his bid for glory at Birkdale, birdieing the first hole en route to a four-under 69 that lifted him into a share of the opening-day lead with Tony Jacklin, Howie Johnson and Vicente Fernandez.

Lee Trevino on the practice range at Royal Birkdale in 1971

Lee Trevino on the practice range at Royal Birkdale

Past Champions make their mark

Many of the strongest challenges to Trevino came from recent winners of The Open.

Jacklin, the Champion two years earlier at Royal Lytham & St Annes, matched Trevino’s scores of 69 and 70 in round one and two to share the 36-hole lead on seven under, while Roberto De Vicenzo and Gary Player – who had lifted the Claret Jug in 1967 and 1968 respectively - were just two shots back at the halfway stage.

The defending Champion, Jack Nicklaus, was also ominously placed at the end of day two following successive rounds of 71, which left him three off the lead. The Golden Bear had been four under after four holes on day one, only to finish with back-to-back sixes.


A three-horse race … and then there were two

While the likes of Nicklaus, Player and De Vicenzo were all well-positioned midway through The 100th Open, 24 hours later the Championship looked set to come down to a three-way battle between Trevino, Jacklin and Lu Liang-Huan.

Consecutive scores of 70 had left Lu as the nearest rival to Trevino and Jacklin after two rounds and that remained the case as the trio pulled clear of the field on day three.

Lu Liang-Huan is watched by Roberto De Vicenzo at Royal Birkdale in 1971

Lu Liang-Huan holes out as Roberto De Vicenzo watches on

A second 69 of the week for Trevino ensured he led Jacklin (70) and Lu (69) by one, with every other player at least four shots off the pace.

Yet Jacklin’s hopes of regaining the Claret Jug were severely damaged early in round four. After Trevino had birdied the first to reach 12 under, the Englishman recorded a costly double-bogey at the second, leaving him with significant ground to make up.


Trevino takes control

Trevino certainly capitalised on Jacklin’s slow start. Playing in the final group alongside Lu, the man known as ‘Super Mex’ moved firmly into pole position with an extraordinary putting performance on the front nine.

Trevino followed his opening birdie with further gains at the fourth, fifth and sixth to reach 15 under, yet his par saves on the second and eighth were even more impressive.

He was able to convert from 20 feet on the second after Lu had drained a mammoth birdie putt, and Trevino then holed a similarly long attempt for par on the eighth, prompting an unforgettable celebration.

Seemingly amazed that yet another putt had found its target, Trevino collapsed face-first onto the putting surface, much to the amusement of the spectators surrounding the green.

When Lu bogeyed the ninth to slip back to 10 under, Trevino was five clear and had one hand on the Claret Jug, but the drama was far from over.

Lee Trevino celebrates a putt in the final round of The 100th Open

Trevino celebrates one of his many impressive putts during the final round

A dramatic finish

Although he made bogeys at 10 and 14, Trevino was still three ahead of Lu with two to play, having matched his partner’s birdies on the 13th and 15th.

Yet the leader then endured a terrible time of things on the penultimate hole, where he ran up a double-bogey seven after dragging his drive left and failing to escape a sand hill at the first attempt.

Lu could only make par on the first of Birkdale’s two closing par-5s, meaning Trevino retained a slender lead heading to the 18th tee.

There was then a further twist in the tale as Lu’s second shot on the 18th flew towards the gallery on the left of the fairway at high speed and struck a spectator on the head. The unfortunate incident, from which the spectator thankfully recovered, left Lu shaken, but also represented a stroke of fortune as his ball bounced back into the fairway to leave a relatively simple approach shot.

He duly got up and down from 150 yards for a remarkable closing four, but it was not enough to deny Trevino, who regained his composure to finish with a superb birdie of his own.


A masterful long-iron shot – fired straight at the flag – left Trevino at the back of the final green in two, and he subsequently putted up close before converting a two-footer for victory with no hesitation.

The Champion finished on 14 under, one clear of Lu and two ahead of Jacklin, who had fought back to finish with a 71.

Trevino and Jacklin would then be involved in a similarly thrilling finale at Muirfield 12 months later, which culminated in the former successfully defending the Claret Jug.

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