Skip to main content
History of The Open

The Open's Toughest Weather


Muirfield 1987

Fans shelter behind umbrellas as a storm hits Muirfield

Our series on The Open’s Toughest Weather began with a look back at the diabolical conditions on day three at Muirfield in 2002.

Yet a similarly demanding battle against the elements took place at the same venue 15 years earlier as a fierce storm engulfed the course during round three of The 116th Open.

A scoring average of 75.87 on Saturday highlighted the tremendous challenge facing a field headed by a debutant in Paul Azinger.

We look back on how a difficult day in Gullane unfolded.

A miserable morning

In 2002 several players were able to complete their third rounds before the worst of the weather rolled in, but that was certainly not the case in 1987.

The morning starters were greeted by abysmal conditions, as strong winds and heavy rain battered Muirfield, making low scoring virtually impossible.

The rain and wind eventually eased up somewhat, ensuring the leading groups had more opportunities to make birdies in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, not a single player was able to record a score in the 60s on the par-71 layout. David Frost, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ken Brown and Raymond Floyd each posted one-under scores of 70 – the best of the day.

Sandy Lyle during round three of The 116th Open in 1987

Lyle masters the elements

He may have won The Open at Royal St George’s two years earlier, but it is doubtful Sandy Lyle has ever put together a better round of golf in the Championship than his 18 holes on day three in 1987.

Despite playing in the worst of the conditions, Lyle battled away superbly to card a level-par 71, significantly improving his position as a host of his fellow competitors struggled, or indeed failed, to break 80.

Lyle, who finished his round at around the same time as the leaders teed off, birdied the last to complete what commentator Peter Alliss rightly described as “a great round of golf”.

A solid 70 followed for the Scot on the final day as he finished the Championship in a tie for 17th, a fine effort considering he had started his week with a 76.

Stellar names among those to struggle

Lyle may have found a way to prosper, but a dozen players posted scores in the 80s and many of the game’s biggest names were among those who toiled.

Bernhard Langer slipped out of contention with a 76, while Seve Ballesteros was round in 77 – a year before he would go on to claim the Claret Jug for the third time with another success at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, who had each claimed three Open wins earlier in their distinguished careers, posted respective scores of 79 and 81 on this occasion, while Mark O’Meara shot 82, his highest score of the week by nine.

Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo during the third round at Muirfield in 1987

Azinger equal to the test, but Faldo prevails

Given both the conditions and the fact he was playing in his first Open, the performance of overnight leader Azinger was hugely impressive.

The American held his nerve to shoot 71 and retain a one-shot advantage at the top of the leaderboard, even if he did require a fine putt for bogey on the last to do so.

However, Azinger was ultimately overhauled on the final day as scoring once again proved tricky. His closing 73 - rounded off with costly bogeys at the 17th and 18th - was only good enough for a share of second with Rodger Davis as Nick Faldo famously recorded 18 pars to shoot 71 and win The Open for the first time.

Members of The One Club can watch the full Official Film of The 116th Open at Muirfield in the video player below.

More of The Open's Toughest Weather