Harry Vardon won the first of his as yet unequalled six Open titles at Muirfield in 1896. By winning a 36-hole play-off, he stopped his friend and rival JH Taylor from winning a third successive Championship.
Both Vardon and Taylor had made their debut in 1893 and Taylor had gone on to win the next two Opens. It looked unlikely that Vardon would open his account when he posted a first round of 83, 11 strokes behind leader Sandy Herd’s 72, and six behind Taylor.
The course had been lengthened by over 600 yards since its first Open in 1892 and was said to play around four strokes harder.Herd dropped to fifth with rounds of 84, 79, and 85, while Taylor added scores of 78, 81 and 80 for a total of 316, 11 strokes higher than Harold Hilton’s winning score four years earlier.
Freddie Tait, the amateur, with a closing 77, and Willie Fernie, the Champion 13 years earlier, tied for third place, three behind. Vardon had two 78s and then closed with his own 77 to tie Taylor. He needed a 4 at the last to win but played safely and made sure of his 5.
Due to a tournament planned for nearby North Berwick the following day, the play-off did not take place until the day after that.
Taylor was out in 43 to Vardon’s 38 in the morning and never made up the difference. Only two behind at the last in the afternoon he tried for a 3, found a greenside bunker and took 6.
Vardon won by four with rounds of 78 and 79 to Taylor’s 80-81.Old Tom Morris, days before his 75th birthday, played in The Open for the 34th and last time.
He withdrew after failing to break 100 in his first three rounds.