With The 149th Open Championship well underway at Royal St. Georges, we take a trip down memory lane and rank our favourite recent editions of the historic championship.
From a final day procession in 2010, a monumental duel in 2016 and a come-from-behind victory by an American previously un-inspired by golf by the seaside, The Open has nearly always provided drama – but which one from years gone by will the 2021 edition most resemble?
10. Ernie prevails as Scott fades late (2012)
When Adam Scott birdied the 14th hole at Royal Lytham to move four shots clear at ten-under-par it seemed as if the engraver could begin etching the Aussie’s name on the famous Claret Jug. However, up ahead Ernie Els was birdieing the last to post a 7-under-par total, and Scott proceeded to bogey his closing four holes to agonisingly slip back into second place. Heartbreak for Scott, but he did bounce back the following year with victory at The Masters. Els picked up his fourth Major and second Open title.
9. Louis cruises home (2010)
Playing in only his ninth Major championship and having failed to previously make the cut in all bar one of them, Louis Oosthuizen waltzed to a comfortable seven-stroke victory at St Andrews for the lone Major win of his career so far. Rory McIlroy got off to a fast start in benign conditions, leading the way with a 9-under 63 with Oosthuizen two back and John Daly rolling back the years with a 66. The South African then took advantage of playing in the second group out on day two, posting a 67 while many in the afternoon (including McIlroy, who shot an 80) were blown out of contention. A third round 69 saw Oosthuizen lead by four and he was in no mood to let it slip as a closing 71 nudged him even further clear.
8. Rory takes advantage of two-tee start (2014)
For the first time in the 143 years of Open Championships, the tournament had a two-tee weekend start in threesomes after the R&A heeded weather warnings of potential thunderstorms ahead of the third round at Hoylake. All players who made the cut teed off on holes 1 and 10 between 9am and 11am and Rory McIlroy, the second round leader by four, took advantage, rolling in a late eagle putt to finish the day six clear, 30 minutes before heavy rain hit the Wirral course. McIlroy finished his round roughly three hours earlier than usual on a Saturday at The Open and the thunder and lightning which was forecast never materialised. “I was disappointed,” said Graeme McDowell. “Getting out in front of the leaders can often be an advantage.” The following day McIlroy eased to a wire-to-wire victory for his third Major title and would win again a month later, beating the darkness to clinch the US PGA at Valhalla.
7. Johnson downs Louis and Leishman (2015)
Zach Johnson joined exalted company as a winner at St Andrews and Augusta National with a play-off win over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman six years ago. Both Leishman and Johnson were three off the pace overnight but climbed the leaderboard with 66s to get to 15-under. Oosthuizen shared the lead with Jason Day and amateur Paul Dunne, and the South African posted a 3-under 69 to get secure his place in extra time. In the four hole aggregate play-off Leishman lost his way while Johnson birdied the first two holes to close the door and seal his second Major.
6. Clarke's date with destiny (2011)
After cutting a forlorn figure with a share of 66th at the previous week’s Scottish Open, Darren Clarke dug deep to win his first Open at the 20th attempt at Royal St Georges. Not many fancied the Ulsterman’s chances coming in and pre-tournament odds of 150/1 reflected that. However, after following a steady 68 with another, he found himself in a share of the lead at the half-way point. A third round 69 saw him open up a one-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson with Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson among the chasing pack. Then, on a dreary final day Clarke, 42, drew on all his experience to post an even-under 70 and win by three.
5. Spieth outlasts Kuchar on breathless afternoon (2017)
Never one to do it the easy way, Jordan Spieth picked up the third-leg of the career Grand Slam at Royal Birkdale with a rollercoaster ride of a final day. Spieth saw his three-shot overnight lead over Matt Kuchar evaporate after four holes and the pair were tied around the turn. Spieth then hit his drive on 13 so far off line there was a 20 minute delay while he and rules officials figured out the situation. He managed to escape with an unplayable lie, took a drop from the practice area and proceeded to make bogey when a double or worse looked the most likely outcome. Kuchar had the lead, but not for long as Spieth turned on the jets, picking up five shots from holes 14 - 17 to win by three.
4. Mickelson magic at Muirfield (2013)
After taking almost 20 years to be at peace with the variables of links golf, Phil Mickelson produce what he called ‘the best round of his career’ to win his fifth Major title at Muirfield. Starting the day five back, the American carded a 5-under 66 to win by three on a fast and fiery final day. Overnight leader Lee Westwood shot a 2-over 73 to fall back while Henrik Stenson fired a 70 to move into second place. A young Matt Fitzpatrick won the Low Amateur honours.
3. Molinari holds off Woods (2018)
Italy’s Francesco Molinari played the best golf of his career in 2018, winning three times in a devastating summer spell and later becoming the first player in history to win five from five at the Ryder Cup. His Open victory at Carnoustie was equally impressive. Starting the day three back from a trio of leaders (including defending champion Jordan Spieth) and one clear of playing partner Tiger Woods, Molinari posted a bogey-free 2-under par 69 to take the Claret Jug. Woods – chasing his first Major since 2008 - held the lead for a four-hole stretch but dropped three shots on holes 11 and 12 as the Italian stood firm to see off the pack.
2. Lowry steps up in iconic week (2019)
The significance of Northern Ireland hosting its first Open since 1951 was not lost on golf fans across the Emerald Isle, and after decades of political and religious turmoil in the interim, for the R&A to bring the most historic championship back to Royal Portrush was massive. For an Irishman in Shane Lowry to win it was the stuff of legend, and the fact he effectively put the tournament to bed on the Saturday which led to a relatively drama-free Sunday didn’t matter.
1. High Noon at Troon (2016)
An Open to rival the great Duel in the Sun of 1977 at Turnberry, the 2016 edition at Royal Troon saw Ryder Cup foes Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson go head to head – and they produced some of the best golf the tournament has ever witnessed as the Swede entered the history books as a first-time Major winner. Starting the final day one clear and ending it three ahead, Stenson tied Johnny Miller’s Major record score of 20-under-par with a sublime final round 63, capped off with a raking putt on the 18th. Mickelson’s excellent 65 saw him finish on 17-under, 11 clear of third-placed J.B. Holmes.
Read More: Ones to Watch at the 2021 Open Championship