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The Greatest Walk in Golf

The Greatest Walk in Golf

Jubilation, heartache, celebration and dejection – these are just some of the myriad emotions players have experienced when walking the final hole at The Open.

Whether it’s a Champion Golfer in waiting or a legendary player making their last appearance in golf’s oldest major – there have been plenty of memorable final strides over the years.

Who can forget, for example, Jean van de Velde’s collapse at Carnoustie in 1999 when the Frenchman dumped his ball in the Barry Burn on the 18th and lost the Claret Jug.

Another nearly man was Costantino Rocca, who went from the despair of fluffing his chip on the last at St Andrews in 1995 to ecstasy after holing a putt from the Valley of Sin to force a play-off. 

Or even Shane Lowry’s emotional walk down 18 at Royal Portrush this year, where the locals shed tears at the sight of a man from the island of Ireland winning on home soil.

Arnie’s army wave goodbye

Arnold Palmer travelled to Scotland to compete in The Open for the first time in 1960 before winning back-to-back Champion Golfer crowns in 1961 and 1962.

The King’s success convinced many American pros to make the journey to Britain and, along with his charismatic personality and attacking style, sealed his widespread popularity.

So it was only right that the seven-time major winner was given a fittingly emotional send-off when he bowed out at St Andrews in 1995 with a salute on the Swilcan Bridge at the last.

Watson bids farewell to Open

Five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson made his final Open appearance at St Andrews in 2015, striking his last putt six minutes before 10pm as the light faded on Friday night.

After 40 years and 130 rounds, the American legend enjoyed every moment of his final walk along the 18th hole as thousands of fans lined the fairway to celebrate his brilliance.

Tom Watson in his final Open appearance at St Andrews, 2015

Watson said he remembered a story about Bobby Jones as he walked his final hole: “When I was going up there, I think I had an inkling of what Bobby Jones probably felt.”

Spiritual moment for Faldo

2015 was a year of goodbyes as three-time Champion Golfer Sir Nick Faldo also contested his final Open – and he admitted walking over the Swilcan Bridge was a quasi-religious experience.

Speaking about the moment on the famous final hole, he said: “That split second I looked at the sky. Honestly, I have never done that before. I looked up and saw the clouds. 

“I have never seen anything like that. Someone was up there. Maybe Tom Morris or something. That was my spiritual moment. Amazing.”

Clarke seals maiden major

Emotions were also running high when Darren Clarke held his nerve to clinch his first major title at his 20th attempt with a three-shot victory at Royal St George’s in 2011.

Clarke's winning putt

The 42-year-old Northern Irishman fired a final-round 70 to finish five-under, becoming the first winner from the UK since 1999, and Clarke was able to savour every moment of his triumph.

He said: “To walk down the last hole on the Open with a lead like that, knowing before I got onto the green that basically that I’ve won the biggest and best tournament in the world, knowing that I’m about to achieve my lifelong goal, my lifelong dream was very special.”

Mickelson joins illustrious company

Phil Mickelson produced the round of his life to come from five shots behind to clinch his first Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013 – more than two decades after making his Open debut.

It was a special moment for the American as he moved on to five major titles, putting him alongside Seve Ballesteros, Peter Thomson and Byron Nelson in the golfing annals.

As the only man under par, Mickelson was able to enjoy his walk up the last hole and sunk a birdie putt from 15ft to cap off a stunning 66 and be crowned Champion Golfer.

Legend leaves with a birdie

Jack Nicklaus was only ever going to finish his Open career one way. The three-time Champion Golfer waved goodbye in style at St Andrews in 2005 as he posted a birdie on the last.

Jack Nicklaus waves goodbye to the home of golf, 2005

Shane’s day

You had to be there to really see it. The Open’s return to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush was a long-awaited and emotional occasion, capped by the most extraordinary of endings.

Shane Lowry, from County Offaly in the Republic of Ireland, admitted he sat and cried at The 147th Open. A year later, it was everyone else with a tear in the eye.

Lowry put together the four best rounds of his life to win the Claret Jug. He charged ahead at the end of his third round on Saturday, and the atmosphere generated by the crowd was electric.

Lowry putts for glory

It was so raucous that it was hard to imagine it being matched on Sunday but, in the howling wind and driving rain, Lowry’s game stood strong and those who followed him and cheered for him for 18 holes were not going to let a bit of Atlantic weather put them off.

As he walked down 18, Lowry looked like a kid at Christmas. The locals cheered, chanted and sang their man home in one of the most emotional wins in Open history.