- British Open begins Thursday at Royal Birkdale
- The defending champion is Henrik Stenson
Not the British Open, nor the Open Championship. Simply The Open.
It has been that means because the oldest of golf’s 4 majors started in 1860.
The 146th Open takes place this week at Royal Birkdale, a venerable previous hyperlinks north of Liverpool within the northwest of England.
It is the one main outdoors the USA, and requires a unique skillset to grasp the humps, hollows and sea-breezes of hyperlinks golf.
This is seven issues you want to find out about The Open at Royal Birkdale.
The Open rotates round 10 of the world’s greatest hyperlinks golf programs in Scotland, England and, from 2019, Northern Eire once more.
Royal Birkdale was opened in 1889 and is among the recreation’s most celebrated hyperlinks — with two nines fanning into the sandhills of Southport overlooking the Irish Sea.
Most holes run alongside deep valleys between towering dunes, whereas rolling fairways, slopey greens, deep pot bunkers and winds off the North Sea add to the problem.
This yr marks the tenth Open to be staged at Royal Birkdale, stretching again to 1954.
Roll of honor
Royal Birkdale has been the stage for a few of golf’s largest names as champions through the years, and has a behavior of rewarding previous or quickly-to-be a number of main winners. Of the earlier 9 winners, solely Ian Baker-Finch wasn’t already a serious champion or did not go on so as to add to his tally.
Eire’s Padraig Harrington gained the final Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008 for again-to-again Claret Jugs and gained the USPGA a couple of weeks later for his third main.
In 1998 American Mark O’Meara clinched the Open in the identical yr he gained the Masters on the age of forty one.
Australian Ian Baker-Finch gained his sole main at Royal Birkdale in 1991 earlier than struggling a extreme and finally profession-ending collapse in type.
Tom Watson clinched again-to-again Open titles and his fifth and remaining Claret Jug at Birkdale in 1983, whereas countrymen Johnny Miller (1976) and Lee Trevino (1971) additionally triumphed on the Southport hyperlinks.
Arnold Palmer gained the primary of two consecutive Opens at Birkdale in 1961, whereas Australian Peter Thomson gained the primary of 5 opens at Royal Birkdale in 1954 — sparking an unprecedented run of three Opens titles — and gained once more when the event returned in 1965.
A 19-yr-previous Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros exploded onto the world stage when he completed second at Birkdale behind Miller within the 1976 Open. The thrilling younger expertise went on to turn out to be a world No. 1 and the driving pressure in European golf, profitable three Opens (1979, 1984, 1988) and 5 majors in all.
Seventeen-yr-previous newbie Justin Rose holed his strategy shot to the final to complete fourth in his very first main event at Royal Birkdale in 1998. The Englishman tuned professional shortly after however missed 21 consecutive cuts. Now the world No. 12, Rose gained the US Open in 2013 and missed out to Sergio Garcia in a playoff for the Masters in April.
The “Nice White Shark” Greg Norman was fifty three and enjoying on his honeymoon in 2008 after marrying tennis nice Chris Evert. The charismatic Australian had gained the final of his two Opens in 1993 and hadn’t been near a serious title since 1999. However he led by two after three rounds earlier than falling again to complete tied third in his first main look for 3 years.
One among golf’s most notorious missed putts occurred at Birkdale in 1983. Hale Irwin, then a two-time US Open champion, had a few inches for a faucet-in on the par-three 14th within the third spherical. He strolled up and tried to backhand the ball in, however missed utterly. It counted as a stroke and he went on to completed second by one to Watson.
Birkdale can also be synonymous with arch-hoaxer Maurice Flitcroft, who claimed to be a professional and tried to qualify for the 1976 Open on the Southport course — “with Jack Nicklaus and all that lot.”
The forty six-yr-previous crane-operator from Barrow-in-Furness armed himself with a half set of mail-order golf equipment and a few instruction books and tried to study the sport at a close-by seashore earlier than carding no less than 121 — at forty nine over par, the worst rating within the event’s 141-yr historical past — within the Open qualifier down the street at Formby.
Officers weren’t amused and tightened the principles, however Flitcroft tried a number of extra occasions — as an American named Gene Pacecki; as a Swiss skilled beneath the identify of Gerald Hoppy with a false moustache; and as an American referred to as James Beau Jolley.
Every time he was rumbled after a couple of holes, however his legend lived on.
The Open landmarks
This yr marks the fortieth anniversary of the well-known “Duel within the Solar,” the ultimate-day battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry on Scotland’s west coast.
Nicklaus, 37, had 14 majors and was the sport’s huge beast; fellow American Watson, 10 years his junior, was the person of the second, having gained the Masters a number of months earlier for his second main.
After the third around the pair have been three photographs away from the sector, and on a solar-drenched Saturday they pulled clear with golf of a chic commonplace. Nicklaus led by two after 12 holes, Watson fought again to degree it after sixteen and clinched the title by one. The pair have been 10 photographs forward of the remaining.