SANDWICH, England – A look at key anniversaries of the 140th British Open next week at Royal St. George’s:
5 years ago (2006): Tiger Woods hit only one driver over four days at brown and baked Royal Liverpool – and that tee shot wound up in another fairway – as he won his third British Open and his first in England. His win came one month after missing a cut for the first time in a major, and two months after his father died of cancer. The runner-up for the third time at a major was Chris DiMarco, whose mother had died of a heart attack that month.
10 years ago (2001): David Duval captured his only major championship, emerging from a four-way tie for the lead going into the final round by shooting a 67 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Ian Woosnam, among the leaders, was penalized two shots on the opening hole when his caddie discovered an extra driver in his bag.
20 years ago (1991): Ian Baker-Finch had a 64-66 weekend at Royal Birkdale to secure his lone major championship. After a 64 on Saturday to take the lead, he birdied five of the first seven holes in the final round and shot 29 on the front nine. He won by two over Mike Harwood and Fred Couples.
25 years ago (1986): In a year that became known as Greg Norman’s “Saturday Slam” – he was in the lead after three rounds at all four majors – this was the only one he got. In a masterful performance, the Shark seized control with a 63 in the second round and was equally dominant in fierce wind to win by five shots over Gordon Brand. In the field that year was PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, who was on vacation in Britain when he decided to try to qualify for the Open. Beman missed the cut.
50 years ago (1961): Arnold Palmer revived American interest in golf’s oldest championship by going across in 1960 to St. Andrews in pursuit of a modern grand slam. A year later at Royal Birkdale, Palmer won the claret jug. He took the lead with a 69 in the third round, then closed with a 72 to hold off Dai Rees for a one-shot win. His victory inspired Americans to again make the British Open a major that was not to be missed.
75 years ago (1936): In the first major championship course set up at over 7,000 yards, Alf Padgham had closing rounds of 71-71 for a one-shot victory at Royal Liverpool. There was drama on and off the course. Padgham’s clubs had been locked away in a pro shop going into the final day, and he had to throw a brick through a window to get them. On the course, he birdied the last hole. Jimmy Adams needed to birdie at the last to force a playoff, and his 30-foot putt looked good the whole way until it viciously rimmed out.
100 years ago (1911): Harry Vardon matched James Braid’s record of five Open titles, winning at Royal St. George’s in a playoff over Arnaud Massy. It was the only playoff that didn’t go the distance because Massy, in a poor lie on the 35th hole, picked up his ball and conceded. The top eight on the leaderboard either had won or would win a British Open.
150 years ago (1861): Old Tom Morris won the first of his four titles in a driving rain at Prestwick, avenging a loss to Willie Park Sr. a year earlier in the inaugural Open. The field had only 18 players. Eight of them were amateurs, and six of those withdrew without even returning a score. The tournament organizer, Col. James Fairlie, might have given the championship its name by saying that it was “open to the world.” To this day, the winner is introduced as the champion golfer of the year.