July 15, 2008

Key moments at Royal Birkdale

no.1

1976, Round 1: Tom Watson opens his defense of the title he won for the first time at Carnoustie the previous year with a drive into a fairway bunker, leading to a triple-bogey 7. He would miss the cut.

no.4

1991__, Round 4:__ Ian Baker-Finch holes from six feet for his third consecutive birdie. The third-round co-leader would go out in 29 and win his first and only major title.

no.6

1954__, Round 3:__Peter Thomson's second shot at the 468-yard hole catches the towering sand hills right of the fairway, leaving him a blind shot of 100 yards. He pitches to five feet, saves par on the hardest hole on the course, and goes on to win the first of five Opens.

1983: The sixth green is vandalized on Friday night by supporters of Dennis Kelly, a convicted killer. Slogans are cut into the turf, forcing players to lift and place on the putting surface for the rest of the tournament.

no.9

__1983, Round 2:__Denis Durnian, a 33-year-old English club pro, two-putts from 10 feet for a par and a front nine of 28, the lowest nine in major-championship history. (Brad Faxon matches the feat at the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera.)

1991, Round 3: Englishman Richard Boxall, two off the lead, hits his tee shot. There's a sound like a gunshot, and Boxall collapses. His left tibia has snapped. He is rushed to the hospital.

1998, Round 1: Tiger Woods hits his tee shot 20 yards short of the green at the 411-yard hole, chips up and makes the putt for a birdie. His opening 65 gives him a share of the lead. Despite a third-round 77, Woods, 22, finishes third, a stroke out of the playoff.

no.10

1991, Round 3: Davis Love III goes out in 30 to get into contention, then makes a momentum-killing quadruple-bogey 8.

no.13

1976, Round 4: Johnny Miller chips in for an eagle. Playing competitor Seve Ballesteros, 19, shakes his hand. Miller's closing 66 earns him a six-stroke victory.

no.14

1983, Round 3: In a rare lapse of concentration, Hale Irwin whiffs a tap-in for par. He would finish the tournament one stroke behind the winner, Tom Watson.

no.15

__1998, playoff:__After Mark O'Meara and Brian Watts tie at 280, O'Meara starts the four-hole playoff with a birdie for a one-stroke lead that helps carry him to the title.

no.16

1961, Round 4: Arnold Palmer excavates rough, brambles and shrubbery on his 6-iron second shot right of the fairway at what was then the 381-yard 15th hole. The miracle shot finds the green, and Arnie wins by a shot for his first Open victory. A plaque marks the spot.

1965, Round 4: Defending champion Tony Lema misses a birdie putt that would have tied him for the lead, then closes 5-6. Peter Thomson earns his fifth and final Open. Lema dies in a plane crash the next year.

no.17

1954, Round 4: Peter Thomson's second shot on what was then the 510-yard 16th catches a bunker short and left of the green, leaving him the hardest shot in golf: the long bunker shot, from an awkward stance. From about 25 yards, he blasts out, the ball finishing inches from the hole for an easy birdie. He goes on to win his first of five Opens by a stroke.

1961, Round 2: As Arnold Palmer plays his third shot on what was then the 16th hole, from a small greenside bunker, the wind causes the ball to move. He calls a penalty on himself, turning a 6 into a 7. He still shoots a 73 on one of the worst weather days in Open history, with gale-force winds. It was one of the finest rounds of his career, and set up his win.

1971, Round 4: Lee Trevino, who earlier in the round held a five-stroke lead, pulls his tee shot into the scrub and sand hills. A lash with a sand wedge barely moves the ball, and he chokes and mutters his way to a 7. He still has a one-shot lead, however, just enough for victory in the 100th Open, becoming the fourth player to win the U.S. and British Opens in the same year.

1983, Round 1: Bill Rogers, the 1981 champion, holes a 1-iron from the fairway at the 526-yard hole for a double eagle -- or what the Brits call an albatross.

no.18

1971, Round 4: Lu Liang Huan, known as Mr. Lu, needs an eagle to catch Lee Trevino. He pulls his 5-wood approach into the gallery, felling Mrs. Lillian Tipping. He makes birdie; Trevino does, too, and wins by a shot. Lu later hosts the Tippings on an all-expenses-paid trip to his homeland, Taiwan.

1976, Round 4: Seve Ballesteros hits an audacious chip-and-run shot between two bunkers for a birdie and a tie for second place with Jack Nicklaus. Seve has "arrived." Seven years earlier, Nicklaus made Birkdale history when he conceded Tony Jacklin a missable putt in the Ryder Cup, halving their match and the team competition.

1983, Round 4: Tom Watson hits a 2-iron from 213 yards -- "the best 2-iron of my life" -- to 15 feet. Two putts for a par gives him a one-stroke win, his fifth Open title, bettered only by Harry Vardon.

1991, Round 2: Mark Calcavecchia hands his clubs to the astonished bunker raker assigned to his group, Jim Paton. Why? "Because I hate 'em, basically," says the 1989 champion after a rough day in which he would shoot 79 and miss the cut. But what would he use tomorrow, he is asked? "The airplane," he replies.

1998, Round 4: Englishman Justin Rose, 17, drains a 45-yard wedge shot from the left rough for a birdie and joint fourth place, the best finish by an amateur in the Open in 45 years.