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History of The Open

Stories of St Andrews


Magical Moments at the Old Course

Jack Nicklaus waves goodbye to the home of golf, 2005

St Andrews is not called the home of golf for nothing. The iconic venue has stood the test of time for hundreds of years and has become synonymous with The Open Championship.

From Tom Kidd’s success in 1873 to Zach Johnson’s triumph in 2015, the famous Old Course has played host to a catalogue of memorable moments in the history of golf’s original major.

Many of the game’s greatest players have been crowned Champion Golfer on the Fife links, including Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo.

In fact, no course has held the battle for the Claret Jug more often than the hallowed ground of St Andrews - a place that is cherished by players and fans alike.

And as the Old Course hosts The 150th Open, we have delved deep into the Championship archives to look at some of the most magical moments.

1873 - Kidd uses insider knowledge

Where better to start than The Open that started it all off?

The 13th Open was the first to be played at St Andrews, the first Championship to be played on an 18-hole course and the first time the winner was awarded the Claret Jug.

It also brought about the end of Young Tom Morris’ domination of golf’s original major after winning four successive titles as Tom Kidd etched his name into Open history.

Kidd was a caddie at St Andrews and his know-how proved the difference in conditions that were challenging to say the least following days of relentless torrential rain.

His rounds of 91 and 88 saw him win by just one shot from Jamie Anderson, becoming the first player to win The Open on his debut as Morris Jnr shared third place with Bob Kirk.

1900 - The Great Triumvirate dominate

The legendary trio of Harry Vardon, James Braid and J.H. Taylor - otherwise known as the Great Triumvirate - were virtually untouchable at The Open from 1894 until 1914.

In the 21 Open Championships held in those two decades before the outbreak of the First World War, the three men combined to win the title of Champion Golfer 16 times.

And their stranglehold on the Claret Jug was clear for all to see in 1900 as they finished 1-2-3 at St Andrews, with Taylor the man to come out on top for his third Open title success.

It was a sensational display from Taylor, who beat Vardon by eight strokes - with Braid a further five behind - as he recorded four rounds in the 70s for a winning total of 309.

Taylor and Vardon held the lead after the first round with scores of 79 but Taylor pulled away from there on in, shooting a final round of 75 to set the best score yet at the Old Course in The Open.

1927 - Bobby Jones puts demons to rest

Bobby Jones’ first time at St Andrews was not a happy one. Playing the venue for the first time in 1921, the American amateur had a nightmare in the third round and tore up his card.

But six years later, Jones put his Old Course demons to rest in spectacular fashion, becoming the first amateur to win the title back-to-back following his win at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1926.

Jones was only the second player to lead outright from start to finish since The Open was extended to 72 holes, opening up with a record score of 68 after going out in 32.

He put on a putting masterclass, which included a 40-yard effort on the 5th in the first round, while followed up with rounds of 72 and 73 to extend his lead to four strokes.

A final round of 73 saw him finish on a total of 285, a new Championship record by an incredible six strokes, before being lifted onto the shoulders of the crowd in celebration of his triumph.

Arnold Palmer 3

1960 - Palmer draws the crowds as Nagle shocks

Arnold Palmer was undoubtedly the star attraction of The 89th Open at St Andrews in 1960, with golf's biggest star competing in the Championship for the first time.

Palmer’s appearance had a significant impact in raising The Open's global profile and he would go on to the crowned Champion Golfer in each of the next two years.

But at the Old Course that year the popular American was bested by a shock Champion in Kel Nagle as the Australian claimed the Claret Jug on the 100th anniversary of The Open.

The 39-year-old had never previously finished inside the top 10 at a major, yet Nagle was inspired as he held his nerve in the face of a trademark final-round charge from Palmer.

Palmer birdied the 13th, 15th and 18th holes to shoot 68 in the final round but despite Nagel bogeying the 15th, he parred the final two holes to win by one stroke.

1970 - Nicklaus takes advantage of Sanders' misfortune

Jack Nicklaus won back-to-back Opens at St Andrews but it was his victory at The 99th Open that is most vividly remembered after one of the most dramatic conclusions.

Doug Sanders had finished runner-up to Nicklaus at The Open in 1966 but after a fine recovery from the Road Hole Bunker on the 17th, he needed just a par down the last.

On the green in two, his first putt came up three feet short. He stood over the second putt before pausing to remove a burnt piece of grass on his line, addressing the ball once again.

His putt missed on the right after an unconvincing stroke, leaving him tied with Nicklaus on 283, meaning the two players returned to St Andrews for the first 18-hole play-off the next day.

Nicklaus led the play-off by four after 13 holes but that was cut to just one by the last, with the Golden Bear getting up and down for birdie to win before holding his putter aloft in celebration.

1984 - Ballesteros celebrates second Open in style

Seve Ballesteros won two of his three Open titles at Royal Lytham & St Annes but his most famous triumph unquestionably came at the home of golf in 1984.

Tom Watson had won five of the last nine Opens – including each of the last two – and was ominously positioned as the final groups reached the back nine of the Old Course.

Yet although Watson and Bernhard Langer both looked strong throughout, nothing was going to stop the lovable Spaniard from achieving his "moment of glory".

Seve Ballesteros 1984 St Andrews

His celebration following a successful birdie putt at the 18th for a final round 69 ranks among the most iconic in sporting history, and further endeared Seve to the British crowds.

In the years that have passed you can bet thousands of visitors to the Old Course have had Seve - and his jubilant celebration - in their mind upon reaching the final green.

1995 - Rocca putt wows the world

Two words instantly come to mind when The 124th Open is mentioned: Costantino Rocca.

While the Italian missed out on lifting the Claret Jug to John Daly, his putt from the Valley of Sin on the final hole at St Andrews left an indelible impression on The Open as one of the greatest ever shots.

Rocca pushed Daly all the way on the final day, only for his efforts to prove in vain as the American was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year after a four-hole play-off.

Daly finished the Championship on six-under after a 71 to sit top of the leaderboard but Rocca was still on the course and knew he needed a birdie down the last to tie the leader.

His chance appeared to have gone after he duffed his pitch into the Valley of Sin but against the odds, Rocca knocked his ball up the steep slope from 65 feet and into the hole before sinking to his knees in sheer jubilation as the crowd roared. Simply magic.

2000 - Flawless Woods puts on a show

The Open returned to St Andrews for the Millennium year and the Old Course was treated to perhaps the most complete performance ever seen around its famous links.

Having already won the US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes earlier in the year, Tiger Woods produced an equally dominant display to clinch the first of his three Claret Jugs.

Woods was in complete control from start to finish, never finding a bunker across the four rounds, while he only made three bogeys - and they all came at the weekend when he was out of sight.

Tiger Woods celebrates victory in The 129th Open

His 19-under-par tally was a record for any major at the time and his total of 269 was a record for The Open at St Andrews as he completed the career Grand Slam in style.

Woods was victorious again at St Andrews five years later, winning by five shots from Colin Montgomerie, and has repeatedly called the venue his “favourite course in the world”.

2005 - Nicklaus bids farewell in style

Woods may have lifted the Claret Jug again at The 134th Open but even his brilliance could not upstage the legendary Jack Nicklaus as he made his final major appearance.

The three-time Champion Golfer of the Year called time on his storied relationship with The Open at the age of 65 at the home of golf in a farewell that could not have been more fitting.

Rapturous applause and cheers echoed around the famous venue as spectators showed their love for the Golden Bear, greeting every shot with louder and louder roars of approval.

After nailing his drive down the final fairway, Nicklaus waved goodbye one final time as he stepped on the Swilcan Bridge - joined by playing partner and fellow Open legend Tom Watson.

And although he missed the cut, Nicklaus finished with a memorable 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to shoot a magnificent even-par 72 in his final competitive round.