The Open Championship celebrated its 150th anniversary last week as it returned to the “birthplace of golf” at St Andrews, which saw Australian Cameron Smith shoot a final-round 64 to win the Claret Jug by one shot.
In addition to being the oldest golf tournament in the world, The Open also represents the final major tournament on the annual golf schedule.
With such a long and time-honored tradition, The Open has consistently attracted the world’s golfers each year, providing golf fans with some of the most thrilling, touching, and heartbreaking moments the sport has ever seen.
Here is a look at some of the most memorable moments from one of golf’s most prestigious events.
1. “The Duel in the Sun” – Jack Nicklaus vs Tom Watson
1977 – Turnberry, Scotland
The 1977 edition of The Open will long be remembered for a 36-hole pitched battle between two of the game’s all-time greats to decide the winner.
With 14 major titles, Jack Nicklaus had already established himself as the greatest player in the game, but found himself staring down a youthful Tom Watson playing some of the best golf of his life.
Knotted at -2 after two rounds, Nicklaus and Watson were paired together for the final two rounds, and put on a show.
The duo each shot 65 in the third round to remain tied entering the final round, and looked poised to maintain that torrid pace on Sunday.
Indeed, heading to the tee at 18, Nicklaus enjoyed a seven-stroke leader over his closest competitor, but remained one stroke back of Watson.
The Golden Bear overcame a shaky tee shot, reaching the green in two, and briefly seizing a share of top spot with a sensational long putt.
But it would not be enough to keep pace with Watson, who played the 18th flawlessly, putting the ball within three feet of the cup with a stellar approach shot before sealing the win with a birdie putt.
2. “Scrambling to Victory” – Seve Ballesteros
1979 – Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England
Seve Ballesteros enjoyed his first-ever major tournament victory at the Open in 1979, and the swashbuckling Spaniard laid claim to the Claret Jug in the most unorthodox of manners.
Stalled in second place on the leaderboard through the second and third rounds, Ballesteros saw his struggles with his driver carry over into Sunday.
However, words of advice from 1967 Open winner Roberto de Vincenzo convinced Seve to stick with the big club.
According to Seve, “Perhaps (de Vincenzo’s) most influential piece of advice was to insist I should hit the ball a long way with the driver: ‘When you’re teeing off, hit it hard, because the farther you hit the ball, the fewer problems you’ll have in the rough – you’ll be closer to the green.’
“On the surface this didn’t seem particularly insightful,” Ballesteros continued, “but its wisdom derived from the fact Roberto had seen what was the best strategy for me.”
Indeed, while Seve struggled with control throughout the day, missing off the tee on every hole after 12, he proved his ability as possibly the world’s best scrambler while successfully recovering from missed shot after missed shot.
This included a wayward ball off the 16th tee that land in a makeshift parking lot. Ballesteros would recover to birdie the 16th in memorable fashion on his way to victory by three strokes over Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw.
3. “Meltdown at Carnoustie” – Jean van de Velde
1999 – Carnoustie, Scotland
Few final round collapses will ever compare to Jean van de Velde’s meltdown during the final round of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie.
The Frenchman recovered from a slow start to the tournament by shooting a combined -4 over the second and third rounds, giving him a comfortable five-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s action.
Indeed, van de Velde turned in a steady start to the final round, and looked poised to raise the Claret Jug as he walked up to the 18th tee still holding a three-stroke lead over Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard.
But much to the surprise of fans in attendance and the TV broadcast crew covering the tournament, van de Velde elected to hit a driver off the tee, with disastrous results.
After his errant drive went far right, landing on the 17th hole, van de Velde once again made a questionable club selection. Instead of laying up in front of the green using a wedge, the ill-fated French star elected to attack the green using a two-iron. And once again, the results were disastrous, landing in knee-deep weeds after ricocheting off the grandstand and a rock.
Things went from bad to worse as van de Velde took a drop before finding the bunker. Eventually he would finish the hole with a triple bogey, forcing a three-way four-hole playoff, which he went on to lose by three strokes.
4. “Changing of the Guard” – Tiger Woods
2000 – St Andrews, Scotland
No list of memorable Open Championship moments would be complete without including Tiger Woods’ first ever win at St Andrews in 2000.
After making his professional debut at a major tournament just three years earlier, Tiger took the golf world by storm in 2000, following up a fifth-place finish at the Masters with victories in the US Open and PGA Championship.
However, Woods saved one his all-time incredible performances for the Open.
After finishing the first round trailing Ernie Els by one stroke, Woods took over in the second round, shooting a combined -11 over the second and third days of the tournament to take a six-stroke lead into Sunday.
But unlike Jean van de Velde just one year earlier, there would be no meltdown as Tiger put on a clinic on Sunday, shooting -3 to claim the win and his first Claret Jug by eight strokes.
Noted as the moment that he claimed the mantle from Jack Nicklaus as the world’s greatest golfer, Woods’ performance was otherworldly.
He managed to avoid hitting a single bunker during the tournament at St Andrews, while completing the career Grand Slam at the tender age of 24.
5. “Bittersweet Victory” – Tiger Woods
2006 – Royal Liverpool Golf Club, England
Golf fans around the world tune into The Open Championship each year to catch a glimpse of the world’s best golfers showing off their skills.
But for a large number of fans, one of the all-time most memorable moments at The Open had little to do with the exploits on the links, and everything to do for a son’s love of his father.
Tiger Woods arrived at Royal Liverpool for the 2006 Open Championship as the tournament’s defending champion, and proceeded to deliver yet another virtuoso performance.
After closing out the first round trailing by one stroke, Woods was one of three players to shoot a 65 in the second round to claim the lead, and eventually closed out the tournament with a narrow two-stroke victory over Chris DiMarco.
However, it proved to be a bittersweet victory for Tiger, who was still grieving the sudden death of his father Earl just two months earlier.
Overcome by emotion after sinking the final putt, Woods broke down in tears over his inability to share the victory with his Dad, and in that moment provided gold fans with one of the most memorable and heart wrenching moments in golf history.