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Our top 5 moments from The Open

With age, they say, comes experience; a lifetime of lessons learned and memories cherished.

No golf tournament can match The Open for ages. 'The oldest championship', after all, has been going since 1860.

That heritage brings with it a wealth of experience. The Open's highs and lows, its dramas and disasters, have flowed, like the finest of wines, across the centuries.

As we build up to the 149th Open, to be held at Royal St George's in Kent, it's time to relive five of the tournament's greatest moments of the past 50 years.

Image by golfdigest.com

DARREN CLARKE, 2011

"You know, bad times in golf are more frequent than the good times."

The words of Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke ring horribly true for all of us golfers. It's just that Clarke chose to use them after his shock Open victory at Royal St George's. Nobody ever doubted the guy's talent. He'd won more than 20 tournaments across the globe and had been an emotional force of nature at the 2006 Ryder Cup just weeks after the death of his wife, Heather. But his career seemed well past its prime five years later, only for the good times – the best of times – to roll with him across a remarkable week on the Kent coast.

Image by (left) newsletter.co.uk and (right) thopen.com

THE DUEL IN THE SUN, 1977

A drought-bleached Turnberry hosted one of the – if not the – greatest final rounds of any major championship when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson went toe-to-toe over 18 holes of pure golfing excellence. It was the younger man, Watson, who emerged victorious. But only after an 18th-hole birdie finally saw off his legendary opponent, who had sunk an incredible 35-yard putt to keep his own hopes alive all the way to the very last shot of a classic encounter. "I won this golf tournament," said Hubert Green, who finished third. "I don't know what game those other two guys were playing." Watson and Nicklaus finished, respectively, 11 and 10 shots clear of the field.

Image by tomwatson.com

GREG NORMAN, 1993

Back at Royal St George's, Greg Norman's second (and last) Open victory was the stuff of legend. The Aussie's ego was as big as his talent, which made some of his spectacular Masters meltdowns particularly hard for him to take. But there was no denying him at Sandwich as he shot a record-breaking final round 64 to clinch the title. Both that score, and his 267 total, stood as the best at the Open until Henrik Stenson set a new benchmark in 2016.

Images by thopen.com

JEAN VAN DE VELDE, 1999

And talking of meltdowns... We've all had a hole like it: way left off the tee, into the rough with the second and the water with the third. Drop. Fifth into a greenside bunker, splash out and then hole from six feet for a triple bogey seven. Except we haven't done it on the 72nd hole of the Open at Carnoustie when a six would have won us the tournament. And we've probably not waded into the water to consider (and then think better of) trying to play our submerged ball.

French golfer Jean van de Velde did all of this and will be remembered forever because of it. Pity the winner that year, Scotsman Paul Lawrie, who made up ten shots with a superb final round 66, earning him a spot in a three-way play-off which he then won in style. The iconic image from that year was not Lawrie lifting the claret jug, it was van de Velde taking off his shoes and socks to wade into the Barry Burn and immortality.

Image by GETTY

TIGER WOODS, 2000

67-66-67-69 – 269 (-19)

Just one year after van de Velde's mishap, Tiger Woods fared rather better on another Scottish course on his way to a first Open victory. Tiger in 2000 was a dominant beast, winning at St Andrews by eight shots having triumphed at the US Open earlier that year by an incredible 15 strokes. Woods' first bogey of the tournament came on the second hole in the third round and he managed to avoid all of the course's 112 bunkers over four rounds, a feat he brushed aside with an understated 'I got lucky a few times'. Rather less fortunate was Ernie Els, whose runner-up spot was his third straight second place at a major in 2000. But he would have his day.

Images by (left) Andrew Redington/Getty Images and (right) DAVID CANNON/ALLSPORT


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