Our new 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.
To begin, we head back to 1981 and The 110th Open, where Bill Rogers took home the Claret Jug.
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THE CHAMPION GOLFER OF THE YEAR
In only his second appearance at The Open, Rogers dominated a star-studded field to claim an emphatic four-stroke victory.
A second-round 66 lifted Rogers into the 36-hole lead at two under and he remained at the top of the leaderboard thereafter, ending the week as the only player to have broken par.
-4 Bill Rogers (72, 66, 67, 71)
E Bernhard Langer (73, 67, 70, 70)
+3 Raymond Floyd (74, 70, 69, 70), Mark James (72, 70, 68, 73)
+4 Sam Torrance (72, 69, 73, 70)
WHERE THE TOURNAMENT WAS WON
Rogers, a runner-up at the previous month’s U.S. Open, was five shots clear at the start of the final day but faced a stern test of his nerve when a double-bogey at the par-5 seventh cut his advantage to a single stroke.
However, the Texan responded brilliantly with three birdies in his next five holes and his lead never really came under threat thereafter. A four-under total ensured he finished comfortably clear of a 23-year-old Langer.
ROGERS’ NARROW ESCAPE
He may have been celebrating by the end of the week, but Rogers was almost disqualified in unusual circumstances on the Championship’s opening day, when he lost track of time on the practice putting green.
“By all accounts I could have very easily missed my tee time,” Rogers explains in his Tales of The Open audio documentary on The Open Podcasts. “My caddie and I, both of us completely lost all thought of where we were and what time it was.
“John Whitbread, a sports writer, walked out and said: ‘Bill, I believe your tee time is right now.’ And sure enough, I looked over and I noticed that my group was on the tee box. My caddie and I had to sprint to the tee and made it just in time. Had it been a minute more, I would have missed my tee time and had John not come out there I’m sure I would have missed it completely!”
GOLDEN BEAR SHOWS HIS CLASS AFTER SHOCKING START
Strong winds made scoring tough on the Kent coast, particularly on the opening day when not a single player broke par.
Jack Nicklaus, who had remarkably finished inside the top six at the last 15 Open Championships, suffered more than most as he carded a 13-over 83.
To his immense credit, Nicklaus improved on that score by 17 shots the following day, shooting 66 to make the cut.
He ended the week tied for 23rd at 10 over, the same score as the reigning Champion Golfer Tom Watson, the 1969 Champion Tony Jacklin and Arnold Palmer, 51, who was still going strong 20 years after his first Open win.
Remarkably, there were three holes-in-one at Royal St George’s 16th hole during The 110th Open. Gordon J Brand and Roger Chapman each managed the feat on day two, while fifth-placed finisher Torrance boosted his cause significantly with a final-day ace.
SNAKE IN THE GRASS
Ten years earlier, at the U.S. Open, Lee Trevino raised plenty of laughs by pulling a rubber snake out of his bag and tossing it to Nicklaus at the start of the play-off that would decide the tournament.
On this occasion, a real snake slithered past Trevino on the fairway at Royal St George’s, prompting an amusing reaction from the two-time Open Champion!
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Having been dethroned by Rogers, Watson regained the Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 1982 and claimed his fifth Open victory at Royal Birkdale 12 months later.
Rogers ended 1981 with seven worldwide wins to his name, enough to make him the leading points-scorer in the McCormack rankings, the unofficial forerunner to the Offficial World Golf Rankings. However, he would go on to play in just five further Opens before stepping away from the professional game due to burnout.