The best 5 Opens at Royal Lytham & St. Annes

Royal Lytham & St. Annes has a history of identifying the

best player in golf.

Bobby Jones won the first of his three British Open titles in

1926. Seve Ballesteros won twice, the first one in 1979 which

proved to be a breakthrough for what became known as the ”Big

Five” in European golf. David Duval, the only player to replace

Tiger Woods at world No. 1 during a seven-year stretch, captured

his only major in 2001.

It also holds a pair of distinctions.

For one thing, it is the only links course in the Open rotation

in which the sea is not visible from the golf course. Over time,

homes have been built around three sides of Royal Lytham & St.

Annes, and a railway goes down the right side of the first, second,

third, seventh, eighth and ninth holes. Also, it is the only Open

where the claret jug has been awarded on Friday, Saturday, Sunday

and Monday.

Jones won the Open on Friday, back when so many club pros took

part that they had to be back at their regular jobs on the weekend.

Ballesteros won on Monday in 1988 when the final round was washed

out by rain.

The history is rich, as so many are at golf’s oldest

championship. Here are the best five at Royal Lytham & St.

Annes:

5. GARY PLAYER MAKES IT BIG

The Royal & Ancient decided in 1974 to do away with what had

been known as the ”small ball” used in the British Open. For the

first time, everyone used the American ball at 1.68 inches in

diameter. Gary Player, a small man with a big game, was at his best

at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The South African won the Masters in April, but this performance

was even stronger. There were only four rounds in the 60s all week,

and Player had two of them before the weekend to build a five-shot

lead over Peter Oosterhuis.

The only bump in his path was a 75 in the third round, though

that didn’t last long. Player began the final round with two

birdies and an eagle on the opening six holes to restore a big

margin, and he closed with a 70 for a four-shot victory and his

eighth major title.

Player was the only player to finish under par for the week, and

he joined Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor as the only men to win the

Open in three decades. He previously won in 1959 and 1968.

4. SEVE’S LAST STAND

Seve Ballesteros won his third Open – and what turned out to be

the last of his five majors – while becoming a peculiar footnote in

Open Championship history as the only man to capture the claret jug

on three days of the week.

Heavy rain that flooded Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1988

forced a Monday finish (he previously won the Open on Saturday in

1979 and on Sunday in 1984), though the leaderboard made it worth

the wait for thousands of spectators. The star power on the

leaderboard was as impressive as the golf that was played.

Ballesteros had to hold off Nick Price, Nick Faldo and an early,

brief charge by a young American named Fred Couples.

Price and Faldo were tied going into the final round, but

Ballesteros quickly made up the two-shot deficit as Faldo faltered.

The turning point again came on the 16th hole. Ballesteros drilled

a 1-iron into the fairway, and then followed with a 9-iron that

settled 3 inches from the cup for a birdie that broke the tie. He

closed with a 65, effectively clinching the win with a pitch that

stopped a foot from the cup.

3. JACKLIN WINS FOR THE HOME CROWD

It had been 18 years since a player from Great Britain and

Ireland had won the Open Championship, when Max Faulkner posed with

the claret jug at Royal Portrush, the only Open held in Northern

Ireland. To find the last English-born player to win an Open in

England, go back to 1938 with Reg Whitcombe at Royal St.

George’s.

Tony Jacklin became a national sporting hero at Royal Lytham

& St. Annes in 1969, and sparked a revival among British

youth.

Much like the performance of Bob Charles in 1963, Jacklin was

spectacular with the shortest club in the bag. He three-putted only

once in four days, and he never made worse than a bogey.

Charles was poised for a repeat at Lytham until a 75 in the

third round, with Jack taking charge with a 70 to build a two-shot

lead. Jacklin closed with a 72 for a two-shot win, and about the

only drama at the end was when the stampede of spectators following

up to the 18th green caused Jacklin’s shoe to come off.

In the gallery that week was a Scottish lad named Sandy Lyle. He

became the next British player with his name on the claret jug 16

years later.

2. BOBBY JONES WINS FIRST OPEN

Jones made his second appearance in the British Open at Royal

Lytham & St. Annes in 1926, and it proved to be the start of

greatness that year.

It was the first year the Open was spread over three days,

ending on a Friday. Jones was tied after two rounds, only to fall

two shots behind Al Watrous.

The final day was difficult even before he teed off. This was

the first year the Open charged admission, and when Jones left his

player’s badge in his hotel room, the man at the gate didn’t

recognize him and Jones had to pay seven shillings just to get on

the golf course. He was two shots behind with five holes remaining

and played them with four pars and a birdie to finish on 291 for a

two-shot win.

The turning point came on the 17th, where Jones hit a splendid

shot from 175 yards off a sandy lie in the rough. The shot is

commemorated by a plaque, one of two awarded in Open history. The

other belongs to Arnold Palmer at Royal Birkdale in 1961.

Jones returned home and won the U.S. Open at Scioto, making him

the first player to win the British Open and U.S. Open in the same

calendar year. He also was the first amateur to win the claret jug

since Harold Hilton in 1897.

1. THE CAR PARK CHAMPION

Seve Ballesteros not only won his first major championship in

1979 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, he launched the legend of his

charismatic game and ability to turn bad shots into birdies over

three thrill-seeking days.

He was eight shots behind after the first round before the

Spaniard clawed his way back until he was only two adrift of Hale

Irwin going into the final round. Ballesteros hit driver nine times

in the fourth round and only once found the fairway. No matter. He

recovered time after time, no shot more memorable than the 16th.

Ballesteros hit his tee shot into an overflow car park. Given

relief, his approach finished on the edge of the green, and he

holed a 30-footer for birdie.

Some referred to him as the ”Car Park Champion,” though they

knew better. This was a special talent.

Ballesteros closed with a 70 for a three-shot win over Ben

Crenshaw and Jack Nicklaus. In one of many lasting images, he

shared tears and hugs with his two brothers on the 18th green. He

was the first continental European to win the claret jug since

Arnaud Massy of France in 1907, and it was the first of majors from

the European era of the ”Big Five.” Bernhard Langer and Sandy

Lyle won majors in 1985, Nick Faldo in 1987 and Ian Woosnam in

1991.