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The Most Unforgettable Moments In The History Of The Open

Cian Roche
By Cian Roche
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The Open is the most famous and historic golf tournament in the world.

Unlike the Masters, the tournament moves courses every year but that does not take away from the magic of the tournament.

Here are some of the most unforgettable moments in the history of The Open.

The Duels (Turnberry and Royal Troon)

The Open Championship and its storied history is perhaps defined best by its two most incredible duels.

The original, and to many considered the greatest duel of all time, is of course the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson traded blows back and forth after separating themselves from the field at the 106th Open Championship.

Heading into the final day level at the top of the leaderboard, the pair stayed within three shots of each other throughout the final and pulled off consistently incredible shots.

The momentum swung back and forth between the two, while famously during their final round Watson stood back and said to Nicklaus: “This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?”


Nicklaus simply replied: “You bet it is.”

After a poor start by Watson, the young American clawed his way back into the match and birdied four of the last six holes to win by a single stroke.

The duel was long considered the greatest head-to-head battle of all time until a worthy successor emerged in the summer of 2016.

Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson were the chief protagonists at Royal Troon, as the Swede emerged victorious in Scotland.

A record final score of -20 saw Stenson pick up his first ever major championship in the wind and rain in South Ayrshire.


Mickelson got off to a fast start in the opening round, shooting a record-equaling 63. He joined a list of 27 others who had done so at a major championship and was just millimetres away from setting a new record of 62 when his birdie putt lipped the hole on the 18th.

The American, in search of his second Open title, led the way for the opening two rounds before Stenson took the outright lead at the end of the third round.

With the pair as many as six shots clear of the rest of the field, Sunday was a showdown of two of the major’s sparkling performers.


Stenson notched 10 birdies in his final round to finish three shots clear of Mickelson. Their 11-shot lead over the rest of the field was a new record for the tournament.

Mickelson’s final day 65 was not enough to see him carve his name onto the Claret Jug for a second time, with Stenson carding a final day 63 to win the Open.

His score surpassed Tiger Woods’ 19-under record finishing score in 2000 and the Swede joined Johnny Miller as the only players to ever shoot a 63 on the final day of a major.



Harrington and Garcia cross paths in 2007


Golf is a game of nerves. Most games are won in the six inches between your ears before a ball is even struck.

Sergio Garcia knows this better than most. At Augusta this year, the Spaniard secured his first ever major championship after numerous attempts to write his name in the history books alongside his copmatriots Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal.


On four occasions has Garcia finished second or tied for second at a major championship, unable to hold his nerve in the closing stages.

2007 was one of those years.

Alongside  Padraig Harrington and Andrés Romero of Argentina, Garcia fell short once again in Carnoustie and was forced into a play-off.

Perhaps the most memorable moment on the final day of action and indeed the entire week was when the pair crossed path with one another during the final round.

Holding a one-shot lead, Harrington sent his tee-shot on the last into the Barry Burn and as he went to inspect the damage, he crossed paths with rival Garcia. As the pair approached each other, fans watching from the galleries and at home could feel the tension and high drama arguably the defining moment of the week.

Harrington strode on unflinching, and Garcia lipped putt to win the Open, set the Irishman up to clinch the resulting play-off. Garcia’s long struggle for a major championship would go on.

Jean van de Velde's implosion in 1999

Jean van de Velde was on the verge of a major upset. Having played the 1999 Open Championship unerringly to a large degree, he found himself in the rather unusual position: top of the leaderboard.

The Frenchman had competed just three times previously at the Open; two top-40 finishes in 1993 and 1994, as well as a missed cut in 1991.

So here he was, the man who had only two European Tour wins to his name stepping onto the 72nd hole at Carnoustie with a three-shot lead.

The task was simple: see out the final hole of the tournament in six (6!) shots to win a maiden major.

The par-four 18th hadn’t caused him much trouble at all. On the contrary, during two of his previous rounds on this hole he had made birdie.

His drive didn’t find fairway, but he had the opportunity to safely get himself back on course with a simple chip.

Instead, van de Velde sent another booming shot down in search of the green and at this point the wheels had begun to screech as they dramatically came off. His second shot bounced off the gallery and into the rough.

As he tried to dig himself out of trouble, the Frenchman found the water and all hope began to drain from his face.

Refusing to play from their, he took a drop shot back into the rough and could only find a bunker from the edge of the green.

The crowd watched on in disbelief as only a chip from the bunker would secure victory. Almost adding to this tragic comedy, playing partner Craig Parry managed this feat just moments before van de Velde stepped up.

His shot was well wide of the hole and, to his credit, van de Velde stepped up to sink a putt and secure a play-off.

He would go on to lose the three-man play-off to Peter Lawrie.


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