BRITISH OPEN FIVE: The 5 best British Opens held at Muirfield

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , AP Golf Writer
  • Updated: July 15, 2013 - 3:10 AM

GULLANE, Scotland — St. Andrews is incomparable because of its history, but when it comes to links courses in the British Open rotation, Muirfield is looked upon as the purest and fairest of them all. What gets even less of an argument is the roll call of champions at Muirfield.

Muirfield has hosted golf's oldest championship 15 times. All but two of the winners — Ted Ray and Alf Perry — are in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and Ray probably should be there. He was a central figure in the great 1913 U.S. Open win by Francis Ouimet over Ray and Harry Vardon, both looked upon as British heavyweights.

So choosing the best Open at Muirfield is similar to choosing the best hole at Augusta National. You can't go wrong. You'll never be right.

Here is one list of the best five Opens at Muirfield:

5. JACK'S GRAND SLAM

Jack Nicklaus was stopped short of a calendar Grand Slam at Muirfield in 1972. Not to be overlooked was his first British Open title in 1966 that gave him the career Grand Slam at age 26. At the time, Nicklaus was the youngest of four players to win all four professional majors, and he achieved it in just 19 majors as a pro. Those records later were broken by Tiger Woods, who was 24 when he completed the Grand Slam in his 15th major as a pro.

Nicklaus had only one close call at the Open, when he finished one shot behind in 1963 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He took the 36-hole lead at Muirfield with a 70-67 start, only to follow with a 75 in the third round that left him two shots behind Phil Rodgers.

This was the first year the Open was held over four days. Rodgers faded to a 76. Dave Thomas of Wales closed with a 69, while Doug Sanders had a 70. Nicklaus regained the lead with a birdie on the par-5 17th, and then he two-putted for par from about 20 feet on the final hole for a 70 to win by one shot.

___

4. JAMES BRAID

James Braid, part of the "Great Triumvirate" along with Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor, arrived at Muirfield in similar context to Ernie Els this year. He not only was the defending champion after winning the previous year at St. Andrews, he won the Open when it was last held at Muirfield.

When the 1906 British Open returned to Muirfield for the fourth time, the championship was held over three days for the first time to accommodate a record 181-man field. Braid got the bad end of the draw, going out late in the opening two rounds. He shot 77 the first round, and the next day decided to kill time in the morning by playing a friendly foursomes game at a nearby course. He followed with a 76.

Still four shots behind going into the 36-hole final day, Braid had a 74 to close to within three shots of Taylor, and then closed with a 73 as Taylor and Vardon fell apart. Vardon four-putted the first green and shot 78. Taylor had an 80. Braid's score was progressively better each round, and he wrapped up his third Open title.

It was the third and final time that Braid, Vardon and Taylor finished 1-2-3 (not always in that order) at the Open.

___

3. THE BLACK KNIGHT'S FIRST MAJOR

No other golfer has traveled the world more than Gary Player of South Africa, and it was at Muirfield in 1959 that he first emerged as one of the game's greatest players. The Black Knight went on to complete the Grand Slam in six years, and it started with a claret jug that he thought he had thrown away.

Player opened with rounds of 75-71, making the cut with three shots to spare and trailing Fred Bullock by eight shots going into the final day. He worked his way up the leaderboard in the morning round with a 70, through that still left him four shots behind Bullock and Sam King.

Over the final 18 holes, the South African made a terrific charge. He needed only a par on the last hole, but Player drove into a bunker on the 18th and then three-putted for a double bogey. He thought that would cost him the Open. But as more scores were returned, no one could match his 284. He wound up winning by two shots over Bullock and Flory van Donck of Belgium.

The 90-man field only had three Americans, none of whom made the cut. A year later, Arnold Palmer made his Open debut.

___

2. LEE TREVINO'S WIN, TWO OTHERS' LOSSES

Lee Trevino won his second straight British Open in 1972 at Muirfield in a championship equally known for who didn't win.

Jack Nicklaus had his best chance at the calendar Grand Slam after winning the Masters and U.S. Open, and returning to the links course where he won his first British Open. But he had a sore neck in the early part of the week, and along with conservative play, he went into the final round six shots behind Trevino.

Nicklaus made a vintage charge and at one point was tied for the lead, but he missed a short birdie putt down the stretch and shot 66. The main challenge for Trevino came from Tony Jacklin, going for his third major. The turning point of the championship came on the par-5 17th hole.

Trevino was tied with Jacklin, his playing partner, and Nicklaus, who had finished on 5-under 279. Trevino chipped through the back of the green in four, and looked like he would make bogey at best. Jacklin had about 20 feet for birdie. Trevino chipped in for his par, and Jacklin three-putted for bogey. A par on the last gave Trevino the claret jug by one shot over Nicklaus.

Nicklaus never had another shot at the Grand Slam. It was more devastating to Jacklin, who never contended in another major.

___

1. REDEMPTION AND A MAJOR FOR FALDO

Nick Faldo was an emerging star for England, having won the Order of Merit and played on five Ryder Cup teams. But he didn't feel his game was good enough, and in a risky move, he rebuilt his swing under David Leadbetter and went some three years without winning.

It all started to come together with a win in Spain, and his game was equipped for a week of bad weather at Muirfield in 1987. The wind was so strong that four holes were shortened in the third round to give players a chance to reach the fairway. Paul Azinger had a 71 on Saturday for a one-shot lead over Faldo and David Frost. Faldo plodded his way through the last round making par after par. Like most of his majors, he needed some help at the end, and Azinger delivered.

The American had a one-shot lead when he took bogey on the 17th, and then found a bunker with his approach on the 18th and closed with another bogey for a 73. Faldo kept grinding away with pars, and his 4-footer on the last hole gave him an even-par 71 — a par on every hole.

It was his first major, the start of Faldo winning four of the next 13 majors and rising to No. 1 in the world.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
James Madison 6:00 PM
Ball State
SIU Edwardsville 6:00 PM
Campbell
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida State
Catawba 6:00 PM
George Mason
Ferrum 6:00 PM
High Point
Hampton 6:00 PM
Illinois
Gardner-Webb 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
Longwood 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Miss State
Tennessee 6:00 PM
NC State
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Robert Morris 6:00 PM
Toledo
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Wofford
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Barber-Scotia 6:00 PM
NC Central
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 19 1st Half 9:32
Campbell 14
Akron 3:30 PM
UCF
Richmond 3:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Montana 4:00 PM
Seattle
(7) Stanford 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Florida A&M 5:30 PM
Southern U
Oklahoma 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
Savannah State 5:30 PM
Auburn
Northern Colorado 6:00 PM
South Florida
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Siena 6:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Vermont 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
(1) South Carolina 6:00 PM
Hampton
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Texas Southern 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Northwestern 6:00 PM
UNLV
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
NC Central 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Drexel 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Cincinnati 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Alabama State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Morehead St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Kent State
American Univ 6:00 PM
Manhattan
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close