MAGICAL MAJOR MEMORIES ON MERSEYSIDE – 1961

As golf oldest Major beckons at Royal Birkdale in Southport, Merseyside from July 20-23 we’re looking back at the unforgettable moments of drama that unfolded during the nine previous occasions the famous venue has hosted The Open. 

 

The King gets his wish

The second Open to played at royal birkdale again yielded a first-time winner, this time in the shape of the best golfer on the planet at that time, Arnold Palmer. This was the one he really wanted having already claimed two Masters titles and the US Open. He’d made his debut in the tournament the previous year at St Andrews and finished runner-up to Australia’s Ken Nagle, which only increased his determination to win.

The winds arrive

Relatively benign conditions prevailed on the Southport coast during the opening round but on day two 50mph winds blew the players off course. Palmer, despite calling a penalty on himself when the wind moved his ball – which nobody else had seen – carded the second-best round of the day with a 73. He delighted the galleries by defying the conditions and going on the attack, using a one iron to great effect, hitting low shots under the wind with enough backspin to hold on the soft greens.

Then came the rain

Then the rains came and the R&A threatened to abandon the tournament. But the golfing gods were kind the following day and the weather cleared up enough to finish the third and fourth rounds. With Palmer’s main rival, Gary Player, withdrawing due to a stomach bug, the American rallied to a one-stroke victory, with Dai Rees, again playing bridesmaid.

“I wanted this championship more than anything in my life,” said Palmer, who won The Open again the following year at Troon and went on to bag a total of seven Majors, “but anything you want real bad is awfully hard to get.”