Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments in British Open History

Richard Leivenberg@@richiemarketingContributor IIIJuly 16, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments in British Open History

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    Alessia Pierdomenica/Associated Press

    When the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool ends, there will no doubt be a dramatic event, a miracle shot and perhaps even a marvelous finish.

    From outright miracles to hideous-to-watch debacles, the Open Championship is riddled with memorable moments throughout its 154-year history.

    You can summarize Open Championships as great golf played on the most challenging courses, often in the most difficult weather conditions. 

    It is golf played on hallowed grounds throughout Great Britain on courses where the sport was born.

    As Tom Watson said to Jack Nicklaus as they dueled in the sun in 1977 at Royal Turnberry, “This is what it’s all about.”

    We have scoured the vaunted history of the Open Championship to find the most memorable of those moments.  The choices were made based on drama, skill and historical impact.  The pros who made these moments are etched in Open Championship lore.

    Read on to view the 10 most memorable moments in British Open history.

10. Nick Faldo, 1987, Muirfield

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    Associated Press

    Sometimes par is good enough.  Sometimes it’s even memorable.

    Nick Faldo not only shot par to win his first major and become the first Englishman to win the Open Championship since Tony Jacklin in 1969.  He did so by shooting par on every hole in the final round. No birdies.  No bogies.  Just pars.

    It was a remarkable display of consistency and determination in the face of winds so stiff that four holes playing into the wind had to be shortened.

    By virtually standing still for 18 holes on Sunday, he surpassed Paul Azinger who had led by one stroke going into the final round.  But, Azinger bogeyed the last two holes to give Faldo the first of his three Open Championship wins.

9. Seve Ballesteros,1984, St. Andrews

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    Seve Ballesteros outplayed perennial Open champ Tom Watson to win his second Claret Jug and fourth major title.

    Tied going into the 17th hole, Ballesteros took the lead when Watson bogeyed, and he parred.

    Then Ballesteros took matters into his own hands, securing the win with a masterful 15-foot putt for a birdie on 18.

    It was his second win at an Open, but it was his joyous fist-pumping celebration that everyone remembers, which so epitomizes his love of life and golf.

8. Padraig Harrington, 2007, Carnoustie

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    Sergio Garcia may have never had a better chance at winning a major title. Ahead by six strokes on Sunday, he had only to play within himself to garner the victory.

    But he didn’t figure on a surging Padraig Harrington who scrambled his way back into contention as the day wore on.

    When Harrington double-bogeyed on 18, all Garcia had to do to win was knock in a seven-foot putt. Instead, he two-putted, sending the Open Championship into a playoff.

    Harrington went on to beat Garcia in the four-hole playoff, becoming the first Irishman in 60 years to win the Claret Jug. And Garcia still hasn’t won a major.

7. Constantino Rocca, 1995, St. Andrews

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    John Daly has created some of golf’s most brilliant and wayward performances. It was hard to know which Daly would show up at St. Andrewsthe skilled pro who won the 1991 PGA Championship or the lost soul who had spent time in rehab.

    Daly was actually sitting in the clubhouse with what appeared to be an insurmountable lead when Costantino Rocca stepped up to a 60-foot putt to tie on the last hole. When the ball curved and swayed into the hole, it sent the golf world into a frenzy and the match into a playoff.

    Daly ultimately won the title, but Rocca took the prize for most memorable moment.

6. Lee Trevino, 1972, Muirfield

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Lee Trevino won at Muirfield in typically wild fashion that included one of the event's most memorable chip shots.

    Jack Nicklaus was in the clubhouse holding a share of the lead.  Trevino was on the 17th hole when he seemed to implode, whacking his drive into a pot bunker.  He then bladed his bunker shot across the green, and all seemed to be lost.

    But this was Trevino, always unflappable and always with a miracle up his sleeve.  Without hesitation, he walked up to his ball and chipped it in for a birdie. He then parred the final hole and took the Claret Jug for the second year in a row.

    His consecutive victories marked the first time it had been done since Arnold Palmer 10 years earlier.

5. Phil Mickelson, 2013, Muirfield

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    USA TODAY Sports

    At five shots behind the leader going into the final day, Phil Mickelson didn’t seem to have a chance to win the Claret Jug. 

    It took two of the best shots he has ever hit with a 3-wood as part of a five-under round of 66 to capture the third leg of a career grand slam.

    With four birdies over the last six holes, Mickelson finished with a three-shot win over Henrik Stenson.  He also passed Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods.

    It was Mickelson’s lowest final round in his 80 majors, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

4. Ben Hogan at Carnoustie, 1953

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    DENNIS LEE ROYLE/Associated Press

    Ben Hogan’s win at Carnoustie was memorable for being part of the “Hogan Slam” in which he won five of the six tournaments he entered including three majors.  He was unable to enter the PGA Championship that year because it overlapped with the Open Championship, but he probably would have won that too.

    He held that record until Tiger Woods won the final three majors of 2000.

    Carnoustie was part of Hogan’s amazing comeback from his nearly fatal car accident in 1949.  Competing in the Open for the first time, he won by four shots, shooting a course record 68 on the final day.

3. Jean van de Velde,1999, Carnoustie

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    There are collapses and then there is Jean van de Velde’s horrific on-camera collapse at Carnoustie.

    As memorable golf outings go, this is not one you would want to be part of. But Van de Velde’s fall from grace ranks at the top of many ignominious sports lists.

    Van de Velde held a seemingly insurmountable lead going into the 18th hole at Carnoustie. Holding a three-stroke lead, he only needed to shoot a six or less to win the Claret Jug.

    It began with an errant tee shot and instead of laying up, the Frenchman hit a long iron into the rough. His third shot ended up in the water, and he finalized his nightmarish hole by shooting a triple bogey.

    He then went into a playoff with Paul Lawrie who ended up winning the title.  His fate and his Open Championship memory were sealed in time.

2. Tiger Woods, 2006, Royal Liverpool

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    MATT DUNHAM/Associated Press

    Tiger’s win may not only be one of the most memorable wins at an Open but also the most sentimental.

    It was just two months after his father, Earl, had passed away, and Tiger chose this moment to memorialize his father with a great win.

    Tiger took apart the course at Hoylake with a precision that we have rarely seen in golf.  He used his driver only once while figuring out ways to avoid the treacherous pot bunkers.

    After sinking the final putt to win, the normally staid champion broke down in tears.  It was both a chilling and wondrous moment for the man and for the Open.

1. Tom Watson vs. Jack Nicklaus, 1977, the Royal Turnberry

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    Robert Dear/Associated Press

    Even though Watson won this tournament, which gained fame as “The Duel in the Sun," it was truly a battle of champions that no one will ever forget.

    Nicklaus had won the Open twice and Watson once when they met at Turnberry.

    It was clear from the beginning that they were playing in their own world when they each shot 65s on Saturday to separate themselves from the pack.

    They entered Sunday readied for a head-to-head contest.

    “This is what it is all about,” Watson said to Nicklaus on the 16th hole. 

    “You bet it is,” said the Golden Bear.

    They battled each other for 17 holes when Nicklaus finally missed a four-footer.  Watson then took a one-stroke lead going into the last hole.

    Nicklaus sank a long 35-foot putt on 18, but it was not enough to overcome Watson who tapped in for the victory and a memorable end to a great tournament.