News & ToursJuly 16, 2008

Birkdale Memories III: Remembering the Opens

Royal Birkdale has a rich history in the British Open, and we've captured much of it in the pages of Golf Digest and Golf World. Here's a look back at some favorite anecdotes culled from the pages of our magazines.

O'Meara's Break in '98

Mark O'Meara won the claret jug the last time the Open was played at Birkdale, a decade ago. In his story for Golf World that week, John Hawkins noted that the week did not pass without a rules controversy:

"On the sixth hole of the third round, O'Meara lost his approach second shot in the right junk. After a three- or four-minute search failed to turn up his ball, he began walking back to the fairway, at which point an unknowing patron found the ball and stuck it in his pocket.

"If there was a point of contention to the matter, it was whether O'Meara returned to the ball and identified it within the five-minute allotment. After much hand-wringing, the referee in the match decided he had, and thus, O'Meara was granted a free drop.

'There was a lot of miscommunicating,' said O'Meara, who admitted he'd gotten a huge break. 'The USGA was on the phone, the R&A was on the phone. It was like Watergate out there. Nobody would make the call.' "

The Land of 40-Yard 8-Irons

Ian Baker-Finch won at Birkdale in 1991 with rounds of 71-71-64-66, but seven years later the wind wiped out the field in Saturday's third round. Birkdale played to a stroke average of 77.49, and as Golf World reported, there were nine holes that day--Nos. 1 and 2, 6 through 9, 11, 16 and 18--that had a total of only 11 birdies.

"When I got to the range I was amazed at how hard it was blowing," Jim Furyk said. "Fred Couples was hitting next to me, and he was hitting 8-irons, joking around and teeing them up, and they would go about 40 yards and then start coming back at us."

A Classic from Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins, writing for Golf Digest during the 1991 Open at Birkdale:

"The lobby of the Prince of Wales Hotel was where you could observe crusty old

R&A officers, who are easily identified by their gray hair, gin-red faces, navy blazers and neckties of dark blue gaily speckled with oxtail soup. You stand and stare at the gorse and thatch in their noses and hear one say to another, 'Yes, quite so. That was the year of Henry Cotton, Lord Derby and that business with the casual water.' "

--Mike O'Malley

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