BRITISH OPEN ’21: A look back at key anniversary years
A look at some of the key anniversaries this year at the British Open:
150 years ago (1871)
The British Open has been canceled because of a pandemic, two World Wars and from lack of a trophy. It’s the latter that brings us to 1871. Young Tom Morris won the previous year for the third straight time, giving him outright ownership of the championship belt. The next spring, discussions turned from Prestwick making a new belt to whether other Scottish clubs could get involved to share the cost. The idea lost momentum, and 1871 came and went without the Open being held. It was agreed in 1872 to rotate it among Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh, and a new trophy was created: the claret jug.
125 years ago (1896)
Harry Vardon was 11 shots behind after the opening 18 holes as the British Open at Muirfield appeared to be a battle between Sandy Herd and defending champion J.H. Taylor. But in the final round, Herd faltered to an 85 and Vardon shot 77 with a bogey on the last hole. Taylor shot 80, leaving him on 316 with Vardon and setting up a 36-hole playoff. Vardon broke out to a six-shot lead only for Taylor to rally, trailing by two after the first 18 holes. Vardon made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole for a three-shot lead that sealed it. Vardon shot 78-79 to Taylor’s 80-81 to win the first of his record six Open titles. This was the last time Old Tom Morris played the British Open. He was 72
100 years ago (1921)
Jock Hutchison won his second straight major, this time in a playoff at St. Andrews. Hutchison had ended 1920 by winning the PGA Championship at Flossmoor Country Club in Chicago. Hutchison made a hole-in-one on No. 8 and then drove within inches of the cup on the ninth for another eagle. He shot 72, followed with a 75 and had a one-shot lead. But he shot 79 in the third round, and a closing 70 left him tied with Roger Wethered, who shot 72-71. Hutchison never trailed in the 36-hole playoff, winning by nine. He was from St. Andrews but had become a U.S. citizen. The following year, Walter Hagen because the first American-born player to the British Open.
75 years ago (1946)
The British Open resumed after seven years because of World War II. Among the few Americans who journeyed across the Atlantic for the first post-war Open was Sam Snead, who declared when the train pulled into St. Andrews, “What abandoned course is this?” It was the Old Course, and Snead quickly came to adore it. Snead was in a threw-way tie for the lead after 54 hoes with Johnny Bulla and Dai Rees. Snead closed with a 75 for a four-shot victory when Bulla shot 79 and Rees blew up to an 80. Snead was the first American to win the British Open since 1933, and he didn’t return until 1962.
50 years ago (1971)
In the final major of the year (the PGA Championship was in February in Florida), Lee Trevino became the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the U.S. Open and the British Open in the same year. To win the claret jug, he had to hold off Liang-Huan Hu of Taiwan, affectionately known as “Mr. Lu,” who charmed the Royal Birkdale galleries and came within a stroke of being the first Asian to win a major. Trevino had a one-shot lead going into the final round when he shot 31 on the front nine to build a five-shot lead. He was three ahead when he drove into a sand hill on the 18th and made a 7. Lu could only manage a 5 and lost by one. Trevino also won the Canadian Open, giving him three national opens in one month.
25 years ago (1996)
Tom Lehman won his only major and became the first American professional to win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He set a 54-hole record at 198 that gave him a six-shot lead. Nick Faldo came from six behind Greg Norman on the last day to win the Masters, but not here. He missed four putts inside 7 feet. Lehman was briefly challenge by Ernie Els and Mark McCumber, but held on with a 73 to win by two. Jack Nicklaus was one shot behind at age 56 going into the weekend until a 77 in the third round. Tiger Woods played his last major as an amateur and tied for 22nd. Years later, Els reflected on the final hour of 1996. He was in the clubhouse needing Lehman to drop two shots, as a 20-year-old Woods was asking Els whether he should turn pro. “Tom made pars and Tiger turned pro. I was (expletive) either way.”
20 years ago (2001)
Two years after he lost the No. 1 ranking for good, David Duval captured his first and only major at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He was seven shots behind Colin Montgomerie going into the weekend until a 65 gave him a four-way share of the lead, and 13 players were separated by one shot going into the final round. One of them was Ian Woosnam, who tapped in for birdie on the opening hole, only to discover on the next tee box he had an extra driver — making that 15 clubs — in his bag and was assessed a two-shot penalty. Duval established himself quickly with three birdies on the outward nine, and a collection of good par saves as his challengers faded.
10 years ago (2011)
Darren Clarke had not been in serious contention at a major in some 10 years and no one considered the 42-year-old from Northern Ireland much of a threat. But a pair of 68s gave him a share of the 36-hole lead with Lucas Glover, an a 69 made him the man to catch. Phil Mickelson made a run until he missed a 3-foot par putt on the 11th hole. Dustin Johnson was poised to track him down until a 2-iron for his second on the par-5 14th sailed right and went out-of-bounds. Clarke closed with a 70 for a three-shot victory. Northern Ireland had its third champion in the last six majors. The amazing run of success was a catalyst toward the British Open finally be awarded again to Royal Portrush.