The Best Final Rounds At The Open

The Best Final Rounds At The Open
By Daniel Kelly Updated

Later today, one player will become the Champion Golfer of the Year for 2017.

By lifting the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale, the winner will have beaten more than 150 players to claim the most precious title in the sport.

The Open gives golfers the chance to become immortal with their final round performances. While some golfers are expected to win, others come from the pack to win the title.

Here are four of the best final rounds by Open champions, and one from a player that came so close to doing it.

Tom Watson - 1977

The king of The Open, Watson won the Claret Jug on five occasions, but nothing beat his performance at Turnberry in 1977, when he and Jack Nicklaus faced off in the 'Duel in the Sun'.

The duo began the final round level on -7, with a three-shot gap back to the rest of the field. The last 18 holes would prove to be a straight shootout between two of the best to ever play the game.

Over the course of the final round, the duo made 11 birdies, with Watson providing seven of them. He also made two bogeys, while Nicklaus had a blemish-free card.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq-7_6U-yLc

From the 2nd to the 17th holes, Nicklaus was never trailing, but a birdie on the penultimate hole gave Watson the sole lead for the first time in the round.

He birdied four of the last six holes to win his second Open in three years. Over the course of the next six years, he would win three more.

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Watson's one-stroke win over Nicklaus paled into comparison to the ten-shot gap to third place, such was the duo's dominance.

Paul Lawrie - 1999

When Paul Lawrie began his final round at the 1999 Open Championship, he was in a tie for 14th place and ten shots behind the leader. He would end the day as the Open champion.

Horrible weather and penal rough at Carnoustie made for high scoring, but when the leaders on Sunday starting moving towards the pack, Lawrie began to inch forward.

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On a testing Sunday, he was one of only two players to shoot in the 60s. His final round of 67 was two-shots better than anybody else produced.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1f4bsHO3eA

Six birdies and two bogeys in the final round gave the Scot a closing total of +6 as the leaders struggled on the back-nine.

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Lawrie had not led the tournament until leader Jean van de Velde triple-bogeyed the final hole to force a playoff. From there, Lawrie defeated van de Velde and Justin Leonard by three strokes, for the most unlikely of wins.

Ernie Els - 2012

Els' round of 68 at Royal Lytham & St Annes may not seem overly special on paper, but when it's compared to his rivals on the same day five years ago, the class shines through.

Ten years after his maiden Open win, the South African started the final day, six shots behind overnight leader Adam Scott in a tie for fifth place.

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Starting two groups ahead of Scott, that gap became seven-shots after Els bogeyed the second hole, but on the back-nine he played as close to flawless golf as possible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8babN4iNPhU

Without a birdie on the front nine, Els recorded two bogeys before he reached the turn. On the way home, he made four birdies (including one on the 18th) and five pars to set the clubhouse target for Scott.

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Somehow, the Australian bogeyed the final four holes, to hand Els an unlikely one-shot win and his second Claret Jug.

Of those who started the final round in the top-ten, Els was the only one to shoot an under-par round, and it was one of the lowest round of the days.

Henrik Stenson - 2016

Going into the final round of the 2016 Open Championship, the Claret Jug looked like it would be going to Phil Mickelson for a second time, or to Henrik Stenson for his first major win

Stenson had a one shot lead over Mickelson, but he was six clear of the rest of the field. 39 years after the 'Duel in the Sun', the fans were hoping for a modern-day version. What they got, surpassed the 1977 battle.

Both players went head-to-head with no more that a shot separating the duo until the 15th hole when Stenson birdied the par-4.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPCjkwif4cs

With three holes to go, Stenson never looked back and beat Mickelson by three shots. The Swede's round of 63 remains the joint-lowest in the history of the majors and equaled the score Mickelson set in the opening round.

Throughout the 18 holes, Stenson made ten birdies and only two bogeys. His birdie on the last created even more history. He became the first player to win the Open at -20, and the putt ensured his score of 264 was the lowest ever in the history of major golf.

Phil Mickelson - 2016

The 2013 champion is the only player on the list not to win the title thanks to his final round, but it still remains one of the best in recent memory.

Mickelson did something his partner Stenson could not do in the final round - go bogey free. Starting the final round, one shot off the lead, he led after the first hole and was joint-leader with only five holes to play.

Four birdies and an eagle gave the American a final round of 65. Excluding Stenson, it was the best round of the day by two shots.

He may not have won at Royal Troon, but the round was one for the ages.

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