Anniversaries add to British Open history on display

Reg Whitcombe etched himself into British Open history with his 1938 championship.
Reg Whitcombe etched himself into British Open history with his 1938 championship. ( Associated Press )

Sunday, July 14, 2013

— From Old Tom Morris and Willie Park Sr. to Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price to Padraig Harrington and Greg Norman, the Open Championship has seen plenty of big-name finishes in its history.

Here's a look at some of the anniversaries this year at the 142nd British Open, which starts this week at Muirfield golf links:

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150 years ago

1863: In its earliest years, the British Open was a two-man show between Old Tom Morris and Willie Park Sr., who won the inaugural Open by two shots. Morris won the next two years in convincing fashion, and then Park matched him with his second title in 1863 at Prestwick. Against the largest field yet — 14 players — Park built a four-shot lead with a 54 in the second round, and Old Tom couldn't catch him. Park won by two shots. This was the first Open with prize money — 10 British sterling shared among the eight professionals in the field.

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100 years ago

1913: J.H. Taylor won at Royal Liverpool for his fifth British Open to tie Harry Vardon and James Braid. Perhaps equally notable about this championship was it featured an American for the first time — John McDermott, who had won the previous two U.S. Open titles. He tied for fifth. Taylor was one shot behind Ted Ray at the halfway point. Taylor seized control on the final day in a gale force wind with a 77, and then closed with a 79. Ray had a one-shot lead after the first day and wound up eight shots behind, courtesy of an 81-84 second day in the wind.

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75 years ago

1938: The Whitcombe brothers had been part of the British Open for more than a decade, and it was Reg who broke through at Royal St. George's in wind so fierce that it toppled the exhibition tent. Older brother Ernest Whitcombe shared the lead after 18 holes. Reg Whitcombe was two shots behind going to the 36-hole final. He took the lead with a 75 in the third round, and his 78 was enough to hold off Jimmy Adams. His winning score of 295 was the highest in seven years.

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50 years ago

1963: Bob Charles became the first left-hander to win a major championship with his playoff win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Peter Thomson, going for a record-tying sixth British Open title, was one shot behind through 54 holes and closed with a 78. Jack Nicklaus still feels he let this one get away, driving into a bunker off the 18th tee and making bogey to finish one shot out of the playoff. Charles one-putted 11 greens in the 36-hole playoff and beat Phil Rodgers by eight shots. Charles took only 56 putts on the extra day. It was the last time an Open playoff was held over 36 holes.

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25 years ago

1988: Seve Ballesteros won his fifth and final major at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in a British Open loaded with star power. The Spaniard had to hold off Nick Price, Nick Faldo and Fred Couples in the final round, which was held on a Monday because of heavy rain. The defining shot came on the 16th hole when Ballesteros hit 1-iron to the fairway and a 9-iron to about 3 inches for birdie to break a tie. He closed with a 65. A player like no other accomplished something that will never be matched. He is the only player to win the Open on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

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10 years ago

2003: Ben Curtis, a PGA Tour rookie from Ohio who was unknown even by some Americans, turned in one of the biggest shockers in British Open history. He outlasted a world-class leaderboard at Royal St. George's that included Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Thomas Bjorn. Curtis was the first player since Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open to win the first major he played. He closed with a 69. The tournament appeared to be in Bjorn's hands until he took three shots to escape a pot bunker on the 16th hole. Curtis was No. 396, the lowest ranking of a major champion since the ranking began in 1986.

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5 years ago

2008: Padraig Harrington of Ireland became the first European in more than a century to capture the British Open in back-to-back years. He won at Royal Birkdale at the expense of Greg Norman, the 53-year-old Australian who was on his honeymoon with Chris Evert when he decided to play — and had a two-shot lead going into the final round. Norman closed with a 77. Harrington's final threat came from Ian Poulter, but the Irishman hit a pair of fairway metals into the par 5s that carried him to a 32 on the back nine in blustery conditions. He closed with a 69 and won by four shots. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.