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Open Championship – Top-10 Greatest Hits – #4

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With this year’s Open Championship denied to golf fans all around the world due to Coronavirus, it may be second best, but looking back at Opens past, and savouring some of the most significant single golf shots – good and bad – to have adorned the world’s most prestigious ‘Major’ in living memory might help ease – if not altogether eradicate – withdrawal symptoms and pangs of ‘Wish I was there,’ syndrome.

Great golf shots come in all shapes and sizes, from prodigious drives to eagle-making or par-saving putts, miraculous escapes from bunkers and bushes, the most audacious when the pressure is on and the chips are down, hence, context is everything.

So here’s a highly-subjective selection of Greatest Hits to remember and some Misses to forget – in the absence of real, live Open golf.

We started with some magic from the Big Easy, Ernie Els at Muirfield in 2002 and moved on to some Tiger Woods gold from Royal Liverpool in 2006. At number eight, we had Gene Sarazen sign off on his Open career with an unforgettable hole-in one while ‘The Duel in the Sun’ sits proudly at number 7. At number 6, we had a much more recent affair in Jordan Spieth’s ventures down the right of 13 en route to victory at Royal Birkdale in 2017 while at number five we had two memorable encounters with the wall on the infamous 11th at St Andrews, the Road Hole.

We’ll upload each hit daily until we get to number one. Let us know what you think.

 

#4 – 113th Open Championship, St Andrews, 14th – 18th July 1988

Opinions are – and to this day remain so – divided as to which of the trio of Seve Ballesteros Open Championships were the most memorable, whether it be his famous first Claret Jug, the so-called, ‘Car Park Champion’ at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979, his 1984 triumph at St. Andrews, the ‘Home of Golf’ or indeed his third and final Open win in 1988 back at Royal Lytham.

Indeed, not one of the three would be out of place in any Top-10 of Open Championship wins, but, for context, a sense of time and especially place – and for one of the most iconic moments in Open Championship history – his second Claret jug over the Old Course at St Andrews edges it in a close photo-finish.

The defending champion Tom Watson was hot favourite, keen to lift a third successive Claret Jug and a record-equaling sixth in all, and a first at the ‘Home of Golf,’ St Andrews, a place close to his heart.

But if anyone was going to rain on Watson’s parade, it was the swashbuckling Spaniard whose opening round 69 was two better than Watson’s one-under 71; Seve went one better in round two a fighting 68 matched by the defending champion, but a sparking 66 by the American to the Spaniard’s 70 gave Watson a two-stroke edge going into Sunday’s final round over the greatest stage of all, the Old Course at St Andrews.

And it was nip-and-tuck throughout a dramatic Sunday afternoon; level going into the 17th the infamous ‘Road Hole,’ Ballesteros took the lead when Watson bogeyed, and he holed-out for par, before the Spaniard, already with his foot figuratively on the throat of the American took matters into his own hands, courtesy of a typically fearless 15-foot putt for birdie on the 72nd hole.

A confident, well-struck putt, his ball seeming to stop, almost imperceptibly on the left edge of the cup before deciding to drop to tumultuous acclaim from the packed galleries surrounding the most famous piece of golfing real estate in the world.

But if the crowds were pumped-up – and they were – that was nothing compared to the new champion, cue one of the most memorable celebrations in golfing history; Seve could scarcely contain himself, a smile as wide as the 18th green itself.

Dressed in that iconic navy blue Slazenger sweater with pristine white golf shirt beneath, beaming smile and fist pumping with pure, unadulterated joy, a two-stroke victory over arch-rival Bernhard Langer and a crestfallen but typically magnanimous Watson, was, in what was, quite simply an exemplar of an Open with the icing on the cake, a narrow but unforgettable victory celebration by the late, great Severiano Ballesteros at the very peak of his powers, sport with a smile on its face.

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