GULLANE, Scotland — Some of the most significant moments in recent history of the British Open at Muirfield have come on the 17th hole.
Ernie Els recovered from a mini-collapse with a birdie that put him into a playoff he won in 2002. Jack Nicklaus took the outright lead in 1966 by reaching the par 5 in two shots for a birdie that carried him to his first claret jug. It's where Lee Trevino chipped in for par, which ultimately denied Nicklaus a shot at the third leg of the Grand Slam and demoralized Tony Jacklin.
But it's not just Muirfield.
The closing holes, with the exception of St. Andrews and newly configured Royal Liverpool, are so tough that Opens often are won with a par. It's the penultimate hole that has decided so many championships over the years. And because the 17th hole presents a birdie chance, it could become pivotal on Sunday.
Here are five key moments from the 17th hole in the British Open:
5. HARRINGTON'S 5-WOOD AT BIRKDALE
Nothing ever came easily for Padraig Harrington in his two Open titles, even though he won his second straight in 2008 at Royal Birkdale by four shots.
First, the Irishman had to rally past 53-year-old Greg Norman, which he did on the 12th hole when Norman missed a par putt. Then it was Ian Poulter making a late run and getting into the clubhouse at 7-over 287, which looked like it might be enough to at least force a playoff, given the wind-swept conditions off the Lancashire coast.
Harrington had a two-shot lead standing in the 17th fairway when he played a 5-wood that bounded onto the green and up the ridge to the back pin, finally settling some 4 feet away for an eagle that gave him a four-shot lead and wrapped up the title.
"It's one of the few times I think I've ever heard my caddie say, 'Good shot,' to me before the ball is finished," Harrington said.
4. PRICE'S PUTT AT TURNBERRY
Nick Price had reason to believe he wasn't meant to have his name on the claret jug. He lost a three-shot lead with six holes to play in 1982 at Royal Troon as Tom Watson won his fourth British Open. He finished one shot behind Seve Ballesteros in 1988 at Royal Lytham. And late Sunday afternoon at Turnberry in 1994, Price was two shots behind Jesper Parnevik and running out of holes.
He got some help from the Swede when Parnevik didn't bother looking at the scoreboard and, thinking he needed birdie on the 18th, attacked the flag and made bogey. Along with not knowing the score, Parnevik didn't interpret the cheer.
Behind him on the 17th, Price rolled a 50-foot eagle putt toward the hole, stomping his foot to urge it toward the cup, and galloping toward the hole when it dropped for an eagle. In a remarkable turnaround, Price went from a two-shot deficit to a one-shot lead, and he made par on the 18th to win the coveted jug.
3. LAWRIE AT CARNOUSTIE
|Fla Gulf Coast||60|
|William & Mary||75||FINAL|
|South Dakota St||71|
|Mount St Marys||75|
|(18) Oklahoma St||61||FINAL|
|(7) West Virginia||67|
|(2) Notre Dame||69|