Our Royal St George’s Recap series looks back on the five most recent Open Championships to have been held at the venue for The 149th Open in 2021.
In this article, we recall Sandy Lyle’s triumph at Sandwich in 1985, which saw the Scot become the first British winner of The Open in 16 years.
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You can also read our Royal St George's Recap for 1981 here.
THE CHAMPION GOLFER OF THE YEAR
Lyle, who had been in attendance at The Open as an 11-year-old when Tony Jacklin won at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1969, delighted the crowd by coming from behind over the closing holes to secure a hugely popular victory.
Strong winds and a challenging layout made scoring tough throughout the week, with Lyle and David Graham the only players under par at the halfway stage.
Lyle looked to have left himself too much to do when he lost three strokes to Graham on day three, before failing to make up significant ground for much of the final round.
However, crucial birdies at the 14th and 15th lifted the home favourite back to the top of the leaderboard and he could afford a bogey at the last as the final pairing of Graham and Bernhard Langer each dropped shots over the difficult homeward stretch.
+2 Sandy Lyle (68, 71, 73, 70)
+3 Payne Stewart (70, 75, 70, 68)
+4 David Graham (68, 71, 70, 75), Bernhard Langer (72, 69, 68, 75), Christy O’Connor Jnr (64, 76, 72, 72), Mark O’Meara (70, 72, 70, 72), Jose Rivero (74, 72, 70, 68)
+5 Anders Forsbrand (70, 76, 69, 70), Tom Kite (73, 73, 67, 72), D. A. Weibring (69, 71, 74, 71)
FROM AGONY TO ECSTACY
Lyle was forced to endure a rollercoaster of emotions on the tough 18th hole before he could celebrate his maiden major triumph.
Holding a one-shot lead over Graham and Langer, the 27-year-old was left with a tricky up-and-down for par from the left-hand rough. Lyle then came up short with his chip and sank to his knees in despair as his ball rolled back towards him, leaving a lengthy par putt.
Within moments, however, he received a huge boost when the scoreboard updated to show that Langer and Graham had both bogeyed the 16th.
Lyle duly two-putted for par to hold on to the lead at two over. For now, all he could do was wait.
LANGER SO CLOSE AGAIN
A perennial contender at Open Championships through the 1980s, Langer came painfully close to forcing a play-off with Lyle.
He and Graham both required a birdie at the last to force a play-off, with the latter failing in that mission as he found a greenside bunker before splashing out short of the pin.
Langer’s hopes looked slim when he also missed the green with his second shot, but he then produced a superb chip that looked like it could find the cup. Unfortunately for the reigning Masters champion, his ball slipped just past the hole, ensuring Lyle was victorious.
Langer and Graham both ended up making bogeys to finish in a five-way tie for third at four over alongside Christy O’Connor Jnr, Jose Rivero and Mark O’Meara, as Payne Stewart earned solo second courtesy of a 68.
A runner-up at Royal St George’s in 1981 and St Andrews in 1984, Langer again contended at Turnberry in 1986 before finishing third for the second year in a row. The German was also third in 1993 - earning his third top-three finish in succession at Sandwich - and 2001.
JACOBSEN TACKLES UNEXPECTED GUEST
Prior to the decisive drama on 18, the hole played host to an unusual incident involving Peter Jacobsen.
A streaker ran across the final green, only to be decisively stopped in his tracks by a rugby tackle from Jacobsen, who quickly bounced back to his feet to take the acclaim of an amused crowd.
As the naked intruder was led away by police, BBC commentator Peter Alliss famously quipped: “What a lot of fuss about a little thing like that.”
O’CONNOR’S STUNNING START
Lyle claimed the prize everyone craved, but another player was responsible for the most spectacular individual round of the week.
On day one of the Championship, O’Connor carded a remarkable 10 birdies – including an Open record of seven in a row – as he went round in 64 to set a new benchmark at Royal St George’s.
The Irishman’s sensational performance lifted him into a four-stroke lead at six under, with Lyle and Graham among his nearest rivals.
O’Connor could only muster a six-over 76 the following day, but he nevertheless remained in the hunt for the rest of the week and played alongside Lyle in the final round.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Victory for Lyle heralded something of a golden era for British golf following a 15-year major drought, which dated back to Jacklin winning the 1970 U.S. Open the year after his Open success.
Lyle went on to win the Masters in 1988, a feat emulated by his close friend Ian Woosnam in 1991, while Sir Nick Faldo racked up six major triumphs from 1987 to 1996, including three victories at The Open.
Faldo’s first Open win came two years after Lyle’s breakthrough, with Greg Norman securing the Claret Jug at Turnberry in between the two British successes.